Dec. 29 (UPI) — After trailing at halftime for the first time in over a year, No. 3 Clemson rallied for a 29-23 win over No. 2 Ohio State in a thrilling Fiesta Bowl semifinal game Saturday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
The Tigers (14-0), searching for their third national title in the last four seasons, will play No. 1 LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 13 in New Orleans.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence directed a 4-play, 94-yard drive that was capped by running back Travis Etienne’s game-clinching catch-and-run from 34 yards out with 1:49 remaining. The sophomore signal-caller, who has never lost a college start, had 259 passing yards and three total touchdowns.
Lawrence connected with receiver Tee Higgins on the 2-point conversion, but it left plenty of time for Justin Fields and Ohio State to respond. The Buckeyes drove to Clemson’s 23-yard line, but Fields’ pass on second-and-7 was picked off by Nolan Turner with 37 seconds remaining.
Ohio State receiver Chris Olave believed Fields was scrambling to the left sideline and broke off his route, leading to the errant throw. Lawrence then took a knee and secured Clemson’s 29th consecutive victory and fourth trip to the CFP title game in five years.
The Buckeyes grabbed a 10-0 lead in the first quarter after Blake Haubeil’s 21-yard kick and a 68-yard touchdown run by J.K. Dobbins. Haubeil added two more short field goals to boost Ohio State’s advantage to 16-0 with 7:20 left before halftime.
Etienne scored on an 8-yard run to give Clemson its first points of the game late in the second quarter. After a quick three-and-out by the Buckeyes, the Tigers got the ball back with under two minutes left and Lawrence broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run to cut their deficit to 16-14 at halftime.
Clemson took a 21-16 lead midway through the third quarter when Etienne hauled in a pass from Lawrence and scored from 53 yards out. Early in the fourth quarter, Ohio State regained control after Fields found Olave on a 23-yard strike to make it 23-21.
That score set the stage for Lawrence’s late-game heroics, and the Buckeyes’ (13-1) 19-game winning streak came to an end.
Fields completed 30-of-46 passes for 320 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Dobbins finished with 18 carries for 174 yards and one rushing score, while adding six receptions for 47 yards.
Lawrence had 107 yards and one score on 16 carries. Etienne recorded 10 rushes for 36 yards and one score, and added three catches for 98 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Clemson will challenge LSU for the first time since the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl. Clemson won that meeting 25-24.