Clemson LB James Skalski ejected from Sugar Bowl for targeting

Fields takes big hit, Skalski ejected for targeting (1:37)

Justin Fields takes off for a 12-yard run, takes a big hit from James Skalski and stays down before needing to be helped off. Skalski is ejected for targeting. (1:37)

NEW ORLEANS -- Clemson starting linebacker James Skalski was ejected from the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Friday for targeting on a hard hit to Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the second quarter.

Skalski went to tackle Fields and appeared to lower the crown of his helmet as he went to wrap up, hitting Fields hard in his side. The call was not made on the field, but instead went upstairs to the replay booth and was made there.

Fields stayed down for several minutes and missed a play before returning to throw a touchdown pass. Ohio State coach Ryan Day told ESPN's Maria Taylor that Fields didn't need to undergo X-rays during halftime.

Fields said after Ohio State's 49-28 win that he received two shots while in the injury tent immediately following the play and that his whole right side hurt, although he didn't yet have an official diagnosis.

"I wasn't really able to run. It would really hurt every time I threw the ball," he said. "So I would just, you know, not really worry about that during the play and just deal with the pain after the throw. Of course, when you're in the play and you're going through your reads and stuff like that and you're about to throw the ball, you're not worried about your side hurting. You're just playing football. But, of course, after each and every throw, my ribs hurt for sure."

The broadcast showed Skalski approaching Fields and the two hugging after the game.

"It wasn't anything intentional," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of the hit. "But, listen, the letter of the rule or technicalities of the rule, they're going to apply it. ... He was just trying to make a football play, and it's unfortunate."

Losing its leader, Skalski, was a huge blow to the Clemson defense. He was also ejected for targeting during last year's national championship game against LSU in the same stadium, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"He's one of the best players. It's like losing Trevor Lawrence. It was a tough play. It was a tough break," Swinney said.

ESPN's David M. Hale contributed to this report.