NEW ORLEANS — A wicked hit on Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl briefly sent the Buckeyes’ junior to the sidelines, caused the ejection of Clemson’s defensive captain for targeting and prolonged a drive that eventually ended with a touchdown to give OSU a commanding 28-14 lead in the national semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
Scrambling to reach a first down on a long third-down try, Fields was hit in the ribs by Clemson senior linebacker James Skalski and laid on the turf for a minute before being walked off the field by OSU’s medical staff.
Skalski led with his helmet, officials ruled, and was ejected. He will miss the rest of the game.
According to NCAA rules, any hit in which the defender leads with the crown of his helmet is targeting regardless of where contact occurs.
Fields missed one play before returning to throw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Olave, his third scoring toss of the first half. He later went to the medical tent on the sideline, but returned to the field on the next possession.
The loss is a huge one for Clemson’s defense, which had already been wobbled by the Buckeyes’ explosive offense and now will go forward without Skalski, who also was ejected from last season’s national championship game loss for the same reason and had to sit out the first half of this season’s opener at Wake Forest.
He also missed significant time during the regular season due to injury before returning for the ACC championship game and keying the Tigers’ win against Notre Dame.
With five minutes left in the first half, OSU had gained 314 yards of total offense and 13 first downs. Clemson took an early 7-0 lead before the Buckeyes began to take control.