MIAMI GARDENS, FL – The Ohio State Buckeyes fell just short of their goal on Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium, suffering a 52-24 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide.
On the first play of the game, things took a bad turn for Ohio State as running back Trey Sermon suffered a collarbone injury and had to go to the hospital. However, with the Buckeyes, it’s a no-excuse mentality as head coach Ryan Day described it after the game when asked about the early loss of Sermon.
“Nobody feels sorry for you, you’ve got to push forward. That’s kind of been the theme of the season.”
Things rolled downhill quickly from there, as the first drive ended in a three-and-out. Alabama’s offense then dragged out a 78-yard, 12 play drive, eating 5:32 off the clock as running back Najee Harris took it in to cap off the drive for the Tide.
Ohio State came out on their second possession and drove straight down the field for a score as backup running back Master Teague III got things rolling with a 6-yard carry. Quarterback Justin Fields would connect with tight end Jeremy Ruckert over the middle for 36 yards to get the Buckeyes into scoring position. Teague III capped off the drive with an eight-yard rushing touchdown.
Alabama came back out throwing strikes with three first downs on their first four plays from scrimmage. Ohio State’s inability to cover Heisman Trophy winner wide receiver DeVonta Smith early on, opened the flood gates. Smith’s first of the three receiving touchdowns capped off Alabama’s second drive.
The Buckeyes third offensive possession stalled out quickly. However, they would turn the “tide” so to speak, on the defensive front. Linebacker Baron Browning was able to get to Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and force a fumble that he recovered. This setup Ohio State in fantastic field position at the Crimson Tide 19-yard line.
It was a moment that was much needed after the time of possession was heavily in favor of the Crimson Tide, 11:12 to 6:54 from Ohio State. Teague III would again take it into the endzone for the Buckeyes, as they tied things up at 14.
Alabama would make up for the mistake and score on their next three possessions. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes would only muster a field goal on their final four drives of the first half, something that Day knew they couldn’t do if they wanted to win this game.
“On offense, we couldn’t go score-for-score and we lost control of it,” said Day. He later continued by saying, “there’s a feeling if you don’t score, then you’re gonna get down and the pressure mounts.”
By the end of the first half, the Crimson Tide were rolling and the Buckeyes had a 35-17 mountain to climb once the second half got underway. The pressure on Fields had led to a dismal 90 yards through the air. Their ground attack wasn’t much more effective either, with only 100 yards on the ground.
Normally, 100 first-half yards on the ground would be a great stat-line. However, this wasn’t a normal game. Alabama had blown the doors off with their aerial attack. Smith had a CFP title game record of 12 receptions, for 215 yards and three touchdowns. The fact is that Ohio State had no answer on how to stop him.
Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade summed this fact after the game. “Really, they just gave him the ball in open space, and he made plays. He’s a great player, and they had a great scheme. They just made plays. I heard Justin say the same thing. They just came and outplayed us today.”
In the second half, Smith was injured on the second play from scrimmage with a dislocated finger. He wasn’t able to return to the game, but the damage was already done.
The Buckeyes were able to hold the Crimson Tide to just a field goal as the second half got underway. Though only a field goal was made, Alabama methodically ate away at the clock, wearing down the Buckeyes defense with a 16 play 75-yard drive that took 7:08 off the clock.
When the Buckeyes started their first drive of the second half, there was just 7:47 left in the third quarter. Adding to the Ohio State defensive misery was a quick strike by their offense, as Fields took only three plays to get the ball into the endzone, lasting one minute and two seconds. His 20-yard touchdown connection with wide receiver Garrett Wilson to trim the deficit to just 14.
However, Alabama’s next drive was yet another 75-yard drive. This one lasted three minutes and 53-seconds, over the course of eight plays. This time they punched it into the endzone as Jones connected with wide receiver Slade Bolden on a quick pass to the left, and Bolden dove into the endzone to put the Tide up 45-24 with 2:52 left in the third.
In a comparable difference between the first and second half, Ohio State had just four total second half possessions, while in the first half, they had eight. Their second and third possession of the half resulted in turnovers on downs.
The second possession was a real dagger, turning it over to the Crimson Tide at their own 43-yard line, after Teague was stuffed in the backfield for a two-yard loss on a 4th and 1.
Alabama took the turnover and turned it into a touchdown in just six plays, taking a 52-24 lead with 13:15 left in the game. The Buckeyes third possession of the half had two plays that looked to be touchdowns, but after replays, it was clear that these two touchdowns were incomplete passes caught out of bounds inches from the endzone.
The Buckeyes would punt away their final possession after Fields took two big hits on the three-and-out drive. The final whistle blew, and the confetti rained down on the Crimson Tide as Ohio State looked on in disappointment.
However, in a season that almost didn’t happen, the truth is they have nothing to be ashamed of. The 2020-21 Ohio State Buckeyes fought through adversity, canceled games, COVID-19 swells in the program. They dominated a Clemson team in the Sugar Bowl that doubted them, even going as far as suggesting the Buckeyes didn’t belong in the Playoff.
They proved them wrong, and they fought through one of the most challenging seasons in the history of college football. They are Big Ten Champions, Sugar Bowl Champions, and the National Runner-up in FBS.
Ohio State junior linebacker Tuf Borland might have summed the season up best during post-game after the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship. So, I leave you with his words to close out the Buckeyes season.
“In August we didn’t even have a season, so I think being here is a great accomplishment. Obviously. We’re all competitors. We all would love to have won a National Championship, and that’s why we’re here. We were here to compete for and ultimately win a National Championship. But no one is hanging their heads. We’re going to learn from this experience, and I think the guys that come back next year will grow from it and be better from it.”