GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cornerback Shaun Wade was penalized for targeting late in the second quarter of the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson, a sequence that cost Ohio State one of the best players in its secondary for the remainder of a 29-23 loss Saturday night.
Officials determined the penalty after a replay review of his sack of quarterback Trevor Lawrence with five minutes left in the second quarter. On third-and-5 at midfield, Wade charged into the backfield, looking to end the Tigers’ potential scoring drive.
As Wade approached Lawrence, he leaned forward to level a hit, and Lawrence dipped as if to absorb some of the contact, but their movements led to a helmet-to-helmet hit. When Lawrence was down on the field after the play, officials were prompted to look at the hit and determined that Wade had led with the crown of his helmet, triggering the targeting call and automatic ejection.
"This was a crown-of-the-helmet targeting foul," said Ken Williamson, the referee for the Fiesta Bowl, according to a pool report. "So it did eliminate a lot of other factors. Initial contact was with the crown of the helmet. Then he wrapped up for the tackle. So at that point, targeting was properly called."
Throughout the season, Wade had been one of the Buckeyes’ best defensive backs. He had been limited by injury in the Big Ten championship game and missed the regular-season finale against Michigan because of an abdominal strain.
After Wade left the field, Clemson was awarded a first down at Ohio State’s 30-yard line. Five plays later, the Tigers reached the end zone for the first time when running back Travis Etienne caught a pitch from Lawrence, stiff-armed Buckeyes safety Jordan Fuller and cut through several defenders for an 8-yard touchdown run.
The score and the extra point put the Tigers behind 16-7, and was seen as a turning point in the game.
"It shifted momentum," safety Jordan Fuller said, "but at the end of the day, we had a chance to win regardless of that."
Dobbins sets Ohio State record
When running back J.K. Dobbins crisscrossed the field on a 64-yard run on the final play of the first quarter, it was a long-enough carry that he set Ohio State’s season rushing record, previously held by Eddie George.
During his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 1995, George rushed for 1,927 yards.
Dobbins had cracked a 68-yard touchdown run earlier in the first quarter. After the record-setting carry, George wrote Dobbins a congratulatory tweet. The effort came while Dobbins was later hobbled by an ankle injury, prompting him to have his left foot heavily taped.
Later in the fourth quarter, Dobbins surpassed 2,000 yards for the season on a 6-yard run as the first player in school history eclipse that mark.
With 174 rushing yards against the Tigers, he finished the season with a total of 2,003.
Fields wears bulkier brace
Quarterback Justin Fields wore a bulkier brace over his left knee against Clemson.
Earlier in the week, Fields had expressed a preference to wear a smaller knee brace that was less restrictive and afforded him more mobility as he shifted around in the pocket and scrambled.
But in practices open to reporters, he continued to wear the larger brace that he first wore at Michigan after aggravating a sprained ligament in his knee, and then wore in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin the following week.
When asked Thursday about how the larger brace might affect him, Fields said: "It's just there for safety reasons."
He ran 14 times against Clemson for only 13 yards. Four days before the Fiesta Bowl, Fields had reported that his knee was 80-85 percent healed.
Asked how his knee felt throughout the game on Saturday night, Fields said, "I felt pretty good going into the game. There really wasn't any pain in my knee, but it was just the knee brace actually being there."
Fields first suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee on his final play of a win over Penn State on Nov. 23. Against the Badgers in the conference title game, coach Ryan Day said he opted against calling designed runs for Fields.