GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Though the Ohio State-Clemson College Football Playoff semifinal at the Playstation Fiesta Bowl looked like it might be a blowout early, the two teams ended up providing the epic showdown many expected going into Saturday. Here is a quick look at the key plays that shaped Clemson's exhilarating 29-23 win.
J.K. Dobbins' wild first half
Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins owned the early part of the game, and it appeared as if he would run unchecked. Dobbins had 141 yards rushing in the first quarter, the most in a single quarter in a playoff semifinal or final. His 68-yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty, racing right up the middle and turning on the super speed for the score. Dobbins broke Eddie George's school record for most rushing yards in a season. George rushed for 1,927 yards in 1995.
Day 'angry' over Ohio State's missed opportunities
Ryan Day expresses his disappointment over Ohio State's loss to Clemson in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, admitting chances were missed at key points in the game.
Ohio State jumped out to a 16-0 lead, but it could have been much larger if not for several missed red zone opportunities. The Buckeyes completely dominated Clemson in the first quarter and a half, outcoaching and outplaying the Tigers. But the Clemson defense came up big on three drives inside the 20, holding Ohio State to field goals all three times. On two of those drives, Ohio State got inside the 10 but failed to score touchdowns.
Turning point No. 1 -- the targeting call
Clemson had nothing going offensively, but that all changed after a controversial targeting call against Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade. On third-and-5 at the Ohio State 45, Wade lowered his head and led with the crown of his helmet to sack Trevor Lawrence. The targeting call was made upon review by the replay booth, and Wade was ejected. Clemson running back Travis Etienne ended up scoring on an 8-yard run to get Clemson back in the game.
Was that Lamar Jackson or Trevor Lawrence?
The play that really galvanized Clemson happened on its next possession. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has spoken at length about Lawrence's ability to make game-changing plays with his legs. We all saw why when Lawrence tucked the ball and got through the defense, outrunning everyone for a 67-yard touchdown. Believe it or not, that was longer than any quarterback run in a playoff semifinal or final. Longer than any run Deshaun Watson had at Clemson. Longer than Lawrence's best rushing performance in an entire game.
Etienne bolts to the house on TD from Lawrence
Trevor Lawrence flips a pass to Travis Etienne, who finds a seam and motors to the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown.
Etienne has the moves
Ohio State gave Clemson an opportunity to take the lead after a roughing the kicker call in the third quarter at the Clemson 15. Etienne took a short pass from Lawrence and ran 53 yards for the score. At this point, Clemson had outscored Ohio State 21-0 since the targeting penalty.
Ohio State fumble return for a touchdown -- until it's not
Lawrence threw a third-down pass to Justyn Ross with 4:53 to go in the third quarter. Cornerback Jeff Okudah stripped the ball, and Jordan Fuller picked it up and returned it for an apparent touchdown to give the Buckeyes the lead. But replay review overturned the fumble call on the field, ruling the pass incomplete.
Fourth-down gamble pays off
Trailing 21-16 early in the fourth quarter, Ohio State coach Ryan Day faced a crucial decision: Go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Clemson 23 or kick a field goal to inch closer on the scoreboard. Day decided to go for it, and he made a call for the ages. Justin Fields lofted a beautiful pass for wide receiver Chris Olave, who was wide open in the end zone on a clear mismatch against Clemson safety Nolan Turner. Olave easily brought in the ball for the go-ahead 23-yard touchdown.
Etienne strikes again
Just when it appeared Ohio State would shut the door on Clemson, Lawrence and Etienne decided they would have something to say about that. With 2:55 left in the game, Lawrence coolly delivered one completion after another, driving the Tigers down to the Ohio State 34 (thanks in large part to a great run after catch by Amari Rodgers on the previous play). That is when Lawrence once again found Etienne with a short pass. Etienne outraced the Ohio State defense for the 34-yard score with 1:49 remaining.
Turner picks off Fields to seal Clemson's trip to title game
Justin Fields is picked off in the end zone by Nolan Turner, sealing a trip to the CFP title game for Clemson.
One final Ohio State mistake
The Buckeyes were clearly not deterred when they got the ball back, marching straight down to the Clemson 23 with 43 seconds left. On second-and-7, Fields dropped back to pass and threw into the end zone in what appeared to be a miscommunication with Olave, who cut back in the opposite direction of Fields' pass. Clemson's Turner was waiting alone in the end zone for the interception to seal the game.