Ray Stein’s observations about Saturday’s game:


The game at hand


• Short-attention-span synopsis: Ohio State again looks like Charlie Brown, Clemson like Lucy Van Pelt once more snatching the ball away. Arrrgggh! Now the world knows why OSU lobbied so hard to be No. 1: OK, Boomer Sooner. The SEC arguably plays the best football; anyone willing to argue on behalf of their officials? First rule of Fight Club: Settling for field goals always comes back to haunt. If there were any doubt who is the Buckeyes’ soul, J.K. Dobbins provided the answer.


• Pregame buzz: The storylines before the Fiesta Bowl were more appropriate for “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!” than a college football game. Ohio State and Clemson both trying to plant the flag of disrespect? Gimme a break. Clemson entered the game having won a nation’s best 28 straight games, with OSU’s 19-game win streak ranking second nationally. Just offhand, one can think of a few dozen things more disrespectful than being ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in a four-team national playoff. But coaches, in their constant search for motivation, will try anything — though apparently stopping short of saying, “Shut up and play football.”


• Worth the trip? Well, that depends. In financial terms, of course not, especially when considering what the robber barons of the airline industry were charging for flights to Phoenix. As an Ohio State fan, probably not. After all, Buckeye Nation does not travel all over the country looking to give pats on the back for close calls. But sometimes that is the hand dealt. The Fiesta was a great game, sure, but OSU had its chances to qualify for the wildest imaginable national-championship game setting maybe ever and let it slip away.


• Spread the wealth? Improbable as it seems for those who watched Ohio State play all season, the Buckeyes were two-point underdogs against Clemson. Goodness, those oddsmakers looked silly early. And then they didn’t. And then they did again. And then they didn’t when the game ended.


• This week in vanity plates: O DA PAIN


Hey, what Day did say?


• What he said: “(I’m) disappointed, angry. (There were a) lot of plays in that game that didn’t go our way, for one reason or the other.”


• What it means: “Is that a tactful enough way to put it to avoid getting a fine for criticizing the officiating?”


They said it


• Your turn/the channel: My goodness but Kirk Herbstreit talks. A lot. Like after every play. Every single play. Even when teams are running up-tempo. And not just a few words. Dozens of words. Dozens and dozens sometimes. So many that you wonder if ESPN at the end of the day pays him by the word. Is Kirk Herbstreit rich because he talks so much? Because that would be a good gig for him. But it’s not good for people who want to watch a football game and not feel like they’re being buried under spoken words.


Numbers for dummies


2,046: Yards rushing this season by J.K. Dobbins to set an Ohio State rushing record, beating Eddie George’s 1995 total of 1,927. He had 174 on Saturday.


18-1: OSU’s record when Dobbins rushes for 100-plus yards


48: Consecutive games with a catch for OSU’s K.J. Hill, tying Gary Williams’ career record


36.2: Average point differential for Ohio State this season


35.9: Average point differential for Clemson


45-7: OSU’s record in road and neutral-site games since 2012


0-4: Ohio State’s all-time record against Clemson


On tap


Ohio State’s next game will be in 251 days — Sept. 5, 2020, against Bowling Green at Ohio Stadium. The pain of losing a semifinal might have dulled by then. In the meantime, however, there will be many eventful happenings with the Buckeyes and their football team. Key players and coaches will be moving on, and their replacements will have to be identified. There will be optimism, based on the way the program recruits and develops talent. But there will certainly be holes to fill — big holes, likely, at running back and defensive end and cornerback and receiver. And there will be a hole for the way the Buckeyes lost a game they should have won.


Tweethearts


Best responses to the game on Twitter:


@alchemistmuffin: WARNING: letting @jkdobbins22 run has serious consequences. Consider that a warning.


@StayAtHomeRyan: Come on Buckeyes!! Man I want this so bad. I’m so tired of Dabo and his “poor little me” shtick


@kfishercanton: Clemson can’t move the ball … the officials, however, are carving the Buckeyes up.


@JGray1221: Wade just got ejected bc he hit the sweetheart of college football


@WolfpackBuckeye: I want a game that ref calls and non-calls do not determine the outcome


@BakerNthe: Geez. Could @ReceDavis be any more of a southern ball kicker. You know he has a poster of Trevor Lawrence in his bedroom


@AbbyyyyMarie: I’m gonna need lots of wine and some hugs soon because of this game and I don’t even like wine


@docboogie: Damn. Didn’t think this was going to turn stressful.


@jjp5037: I heard the Clemsux players are going to change into Black and White stripes to match the rest of their offense in the first half.


@Deck12G: I've seen a lot of "roughing the punter" calls in my life… None where the guy called for it was upright and hit with a flying knee @WWE style.


@troehlig: Touchdown reception overruled BS. Targeting BS. Fumble returned for a touchdown BS. The Buckeyes are getting Nationally Hosed... Call it as you see it.


@TheLadyGeiger: Pardon me a moment, I need to go throw up.


@JohnnyOhio: I’ve seen videos of guys smashing their tv watching sports and always thought that was crazy … until this game and these calls


@JuddTemplin: @GovMikeDeWine needs to order the @OSHP to arrest these refs if they ever step foot in Ohio.


@Zeplus88: This one stings. A large part of me really wants to see as many pieces (juniors & eligible seniors) come back next season and take care of some unfinished business


Horseshoe haiku


Refs are taking heat


for loss, but Buckeyes surely


missed a few layups


rstein@dispatch.com