In front of a sellout crowd of 71,279 at University of Phoenix Stadium, No. 2 Clemson dominated No. 3 Ohio State in all phases of the game, earning a trip to its second consecutive national championship with a 31-0 win over the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the 46th Annual PlayStation® Fiesta Bowl.
The Tigers held the Buckeyes to just 215 yards and nine first downs, while recording 11 tackles for loss and three sacks.
On the first Clemson drive of the game, quarterback Deshaun Watson threw the first of two interceptions, but the Buckeyes were unable to capitalize, as kicker Tyler Durbin missed a season long 47-yard field goal. Greg Huegel opened the scoring for the Tigers on the following drive by connecting on a 45-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Durbin missed his second field goal of the game one drive later, and Watson drove his team down the field before scoring a one-yard touchdown and extending the Clemson lead to 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, OSU safety Malik Hooker picked off Watson for the second time, recording his seventh interception of the season. The Buckeyes were unable to move the ball on the ensuing drive, and the Tigers answered right back with an eight play, 83-yard touchdown drive. Watson recorded a season-long 33-yard run before finding running back C.J. Fuller on a wheel route for a 30-yard touchdown and putting the Tigers up 17-0 heading into the break.
Clemson continued its defensive control in the second half, forcing a fumble and two interceptions from Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett. Barrett finished the game with a season-low minus-two yards rushing and threw for 127 yards on 19-33 passing.
Watson rushed for his second touchdown of the game in the second half on a seven-yard scamper up the middle to put the Tigers up 24-0, before running back Wayne Gallman wrapped up the scoring with a seven-yard touchdown run of his own.
The shutout was the Buckeyes’ first since 1993 and head coach Urban Meyer’s first of his head coaching career. OSU H-back Curtis Samuel led the Buckeye offense in rushing and receiving yards, finishing with 110 yards from scrimmage.
Watson earned offensive player of the game, going 23-36 for 259 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions passing, as well as 57 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Wide receiver Mike Williams had a game-high 96 yards receiving on six catches.
Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell was a terror for the Buckeye offense, finishing the game with three tackles for loss and one sack en route to earning defensive player of the game.
It was the Tigers’ first appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, while Ohio State dropped to 4-3 all-time in the game’s history.