GLENDALE, Ariz. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney mentioned he is reading Urban Meyer’s book “Above the Line” on several occasions leading up to Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers’ defense played like it had a copy of Meyer’s playbook Saturday night.
Brent Venables’ unit dominated Ohio State’s offense for four quarters in Clemson’s 31-0 victory as Meyer’s offense was shut out for the first time in his head coaching career, which spans 194 games coached.
Ohio State had not been shut out since 1993, and the 31-point loss is the Buckeyes’ worst bowl loss in program history.
Swinney never imagined the Tigers would be able to shut out Ohio State.
“You’re just hoping to win thinking it will take an incredible effort to have an opportunity to win,” he said.
Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware was “a little” surprised by the shutout but said he felt confident entering the game.
His confidence went up a couple of series in.
“The first couple of series I knew we could go out there and dominate,” he said. “The past week our practices have been close to perfect. There’s been very few mistakes. We’ve been on top of everything.”
The Buckeyes entered the game ninth in scoring, averaging 43 points per game, and ninth in rushing with 258 yards per game, but finished with 215 total yards.
Clemson forced three turnovers, and held Ohio State’s rushing attack to 88 yards, with 64 of them coming on one play.
The Tigers’ defensive front owned the line of scrimmage, finishing with 11 tackles for loss and three sacks.
Freshman Clelin Ferrell had three tackles for loss, while senior Carlos Watkins added two.
Van Smith and Cordrea Tankersley each recorded interceptions for the Tigers, with Smith returning his 86 yards out of the end zone to set up a touchdown.
Tigers star quarterback Deshaun Watson continued his stellar play in big games, brushing off an early interception to pass for 259 yards and a touchdown against one of the best secondaries in the country.
The junior also rushed for 57 yards and two touchdowns, including a spectacular 33-yard run where he danced around Ohio State defenders before stepping out of bounds.
“If I throw a pick or make a mistake I’m not going to shy away and not just going to throw it. I’m going to take my chances, take my shots,” Watson said. “I just go out there and play ball and don’t worry about mistakes. The great ones make mistakes, too.”
WATKINS SETS RECORD
Watkins finished with two sacks, upping his season total to 10.5, which is a new Clemson record for a defensive tackle.
He finished with three tackles and two pass breakups, as he helped the Tigers return to the national title game after choosing to return for his senior season.
FLIPPING THE FIELD
Clemson punter Andy Teasdall averaged 41 yards per punt with three of his five landing inside the 20. He set a career long with a 67-yard punt and flipped field position just about every time he was called on.
“We kept them backed up for most of the night. Teasdall was awesome. That was the best game of his career,” Swinney said.
Clemson outscored Ohio State 10-0 in the first quarter to push its advantage to 176-27 in the first quarter this season. Clemson improved to 9-0 this season when scoring first.