Win or lose, every week there are a handful of Ohio State players who stood out above the rest.
Following the tradition of the helmet stickers that dates back to the days of Woody Hayes, Lettermen Row shares out our version of the award every Sunday morning for the best performers on offense, defense and special teams for the Buckeyes.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t supposed to end like this for Ohio State.
Not this team. Not in State Farm Stadium again. Not to this opponent, Clemson, who seems to be the only program still spearing the Buckeyes in the side.
And it certainly wasn’t supposed to end like this for sophomore quarterback Justin Fields, who heroically lifted Ohio State’s ceiling for the season with his incredible play and bevy of Heisman moments along the way. The transfer signal-caller did everything he could throughout the Fiesta Bowl to give the Buckeyes a commanding lead early and will them back from a deficit late.
Fields threw the ball 46 times Saturday night, completing 30 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown. But the two interceptions, including one on the final drive that ended the hope of an Ohio State comeback, will stick with him for the rest of his life.
“It was the look we wanted,” Fields said. “Then Chris [Olave], it was basically just a miscommunication. So that happens in life, and you really can’t do anything about it now. Just have to move on.”
Moving on won’t be easy. The Buckeyes will replace a lot for next season’s offense — including a handful of wide receivers and likely lead back J.K. Dobbins. But Fields will return after throwing 41 touchdowns this season to just three interceptions.
With more performances like the one he had in a losing effort of the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes will likely find themselves in a similar spot next season in the College Football Playoff. And if Fields improves, the outcome might change next time.
Lettermen Row is handing out Buckeye Leaves after Ohio State’s crushing season-ending loss to Clemson. Fields wasn’t alone with his great performance.
QB Justin Fields
Justin Fields will likely take some heat for the two second-half interceptions, but the Buckeyes wouldn’t have been in position to win at the end of the Fiesta Bowl if not for the sophomore signal caller. His ability to extend drives and make plays with his arm and his legs certainly put Ohio State in a winnable spot with less than a minute remaining. The Heisman Trophy finalist didn’t make the final play to win the game, but Fields had an incredible season, and it was capped off with another huge performance that helped the Buckeyes in every way.
DB Shaun Wade
Wade earned a Buckeye leaf because of what he means to the Ohio State defense. In the first half when Wade was still in the game, Clemson had no points and averaged 4.3 yards per play, according to ESPN Stats and Info. After Wade was ejected, Clemson had all 29 points and averaged 8.4 yards per play. If anyone needed more evidence to prove what Wade meant to the defense all season, the Michigan game was a starting point. The Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson was all the proof anyone could need. Now, Wade has a decision to make. His sack-turned-targeting call could be the last of his Ohio State career. Or it could be motivational fuel for a dominant 2020 as a leader of the Silver Bullets.
P Drue Chrisman
Chrisman has struggled for much of the season and hasn’t been the same punter he was a year ago, but that wasn’t the case against Clemson. The Ohio State punter kicked six times and averaged 45.3 yards per punt, including three punts of more than 50 yards and two inside the 6-yard-line. Both kicks inside the Clemson 6-yard-line resulted in Tigers touchdowns, but Chrisman couldn’t control that. He flipped field position multiple times in a big game he was needed in. His performance earned him a Buckeye leaf.