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Fiesta Bowl Live Blog: Clemson vs. OSU

Buckeyes, Tigers seek berth opposite LSU in national championship game

No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Clemson kick off the second College Football Playoff semifinal at 8:10 p.m. in State Farm Stadium.

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The Buckeyes (13-0) and Tigers (13-0) carry the nation's two longest winning streaks into the Fiesta Bowl in a rematch of their 2016 Playoff semifinal, which Clemson won, 31-0.

The winner will face LSU (14-0), which used seven touchdown passes from Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow in the first half of its Peach Bowl blowout of Oklahoma.

That moves LSU into the Jan. 13 CFP National Championship Game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where the Tigers defeated Ohio State in the 20087 BCS title game, 38-24.

If Ohio State would defeat Clemson, the Buckeyes would be facing their former teammate in Burrow, who transferred to LSU after losing a spring practice battle for the starting quarterback job at OSU in April of 2018.

Clemson is playing in the College Football Playoff for the fifth straight season, which is the longest current streak in Division I.

"That experience you can't pay for," OSU co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "That to me, the confidence and belief and all that...let's face it, they've earned it. Bottom line, they've earned it."

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence would be the first quarterback in the Playoff era to win back-to-back national championships and the first with consecutive titles since Alabama's A.J. McCarron in 2011 and 2012.

Lawrence was the first freshman to win since Jameis Winston of Florida State in 2013, and the first true freshman since Oklahoma's Jamiele Holloway in 1985.

Besides McCaron, the only other quarterbacks to win consecutive championships in the last 50 years are Nebraska's Tommie Frazier (1994, 95) and Jerry Taggie (1970, 71).

Lawrence has thrown three or more touchdowns in each of Clemson's last eight games after throwing five interceptions and only five touchdown passes in his first three games.

With some critics, Lawrence never shook the narrative he was having a disappointing season.

"I look back and see the things I’ve gotten better at this year," Lawrence said. "There were a lot of plays last year that were good plays. But this year, I’ve been a lot more effective.

"The way the story was written last year, no one really expected much of me as a freshman. I couldn’t really do anything wrong. This year, everything has been critiqued and nit-picked. It’s a different narrative, but I think I’ve been playing a lot better this year."

Lawrence enters the Fiesta Bowl having thrown 29 touchdown passes against only three interceptions in his last 10 games.

That's slightly ahead of Case Keenum's NCAA single-season record ratio, but it doesn't stand out because of Lawrence's start and because Ohio State's Justin Fields has obliterated it with his 40 touchdown passes and only one interception.

Fields leads an offense that ranks first nationally in scoring, first downs per game, third down offense and red zone defense, while finishing among the Top 5 in eight additional categories, including scoring defense (2nd), rushing (5th), total offense (5th) and total defense (2nd).

OSU's per-game total offense average (535.6), passing yards (5,100), passing yards per game (373.0), touchdown passes (51), completions (396) and total plays (1,131) all established Big Ten single-season records.

Here we go...teams are on the field.

Not the greatest sign for OSU. Justin Fields said Tuesday he would wear the soft brace on his knee, but he isn't. He's in the bigger, bulkier lineman's brace.

Buckeyes start at the 25 and K.J. Hill gains 9 on first downplus. That jump starts the drive, that grows off a 16-yard catch by Chris Olave and a leaping, 22-yard grab by Garrett Wilson to the Clemson 5.

The Tigers stiffen from there and deny a third-down pass into the end zone to Olave. That forces Blake Haubeil's 21-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead at 12:03 of the first quarter.

Clemson has to feel good about that result, but not good about how it handled Ohio State's tempo. If not for the replay review, Ohio State might have scored six there. That delay gave the Tigers time to breath.

Lawrence brings his team right back with a strike to Tee Higgins over the middle that gets Clemson moving, but the Tigers stall at the OSU 32. That forces B.T. Potter's 49-yard field goal attempt that goes wide right.

Keep your eye on this...Travis Etienne took a big shot from Jeff Okudah and Tee Higgins looked shaken up when he went down hard on the right sideline. Big losses for Clemson in they're dinged up.

Etienne didn't carry after the first play of that drive.

On the first snap after Potter's miss, J.K. Dobbins cuts behind a blocks from Jonah Jackson and Thayer Munford that collapse Clemson's defensive line to the right, freeing a path to a 68-yard touchdown run and 10-0 OSU lead.

Clemson converts third-and-10 to get into Buckeye territory, but the drive stalls when Tyreke Smith knocks down a third-down throw to Amari Rodgers.

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Ohio State will start at its own 9-yard line with 6:05 left in the first quarter.

K.J. Hill rescues a third-and-14 dilemma from the 4 with a great move that frees him for 15 yards. Fields nearly throws a Pick-6 on second down and gets sacked on third down, so the Tigers will take over at their 47.

The Buckeyes hold and get the ball back at their 28.

J.K. Dobbins goes back to work on third-and-2, weaving around the near right side and speeding 64 yards on the last play of the first quarter to set OSU up at the Clemson 8-yard line.

That breakaway gives Dobbins, who came into the game with 1,829 rushing yards, the OSU single-season rushing record previously owned by Eddie George.

George's mark of 1,927 came in his Heisman Trophy season of 1995.

OSU nearly scores after that, but Dobbins can't maintain control falling to the ground with a touchdown catch from the 5 and that forces Haubeil's 22-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead.

Reminder...Clemson gets the ball to start the second half, so OSU wants to be two scores clear at the break.

Buckeyes can get to work on that right now, after holding Etienne short on a third-and-two carry. Shocked Clemson didn't go for that. Really taking a big risk. Haven't stopped OSU yet.

Ohio State starts moving from inside its own 20. A pass interference penalty precedes a 24-yard catch by Austin Mack against tight coverage to the 45.

After powering for 3 yards on a sneak to another first down, Fields eludes the blitz and runs 21 yards to the Clemson 23.

Dobbins drops a potential touchdown pass on a second-down screen, forcing Haubeil's 33-yard field goal that pushes the lead to 16-0 with 7:20 left in the half.

The Buckeyes are dominating, but Clemson is just one score from getting back into it. Although, its defense can't stop OSU, so maybe Fields and the offense would just answer if the Tigers score.

That's not happening on this possession, though. Shaun Wade blitzes and sacks Lawrence at the 47 and the Clemson quarterback is down, getting medical attention.

Wade gets ejected for targeting and that sustains the Clemson drive. Lawrence is out, however, and Chase Brice is in at quarterback.

Amir Riep replaces Wade and, on second down, Lawrence returns and goes right at him deep. That results in pass interference and a Clemson first down at the OSU 16.

Etienne makes a great effort on third-and-two from the 7, avoiding Jordan Fuller and Malik Harrison to knife into the end zone and get Clemson within 16-7 with 2:45 left in the half.

Ohio State gets conservative and comes up short of a first down when Dobbins gets stopped on third-and-one. That gives Clemson 1:55 to get closer, knowing it will get the ball to start the third quarter.

Lawrence converts a third-and-10 with a throw to Ross, then breaks OSU's heart with a 67-yard run on a quarterback draw. He broke free up the middle, juked safety Josh Proctor and and safety Jordan Fuller, then outran Barron Browning to the end zone to get Clemson within 16-14 with 1:10 left in the half.

And here we go with the second half...

Higgins returned with the Tigers' first series in the third quarter and drew a pass interference call on Damon Arnette, but then dropped a third-down throw that would have kept the chains moving.

Clemson tracked the ensuing punt and downed it at the 3-yard line, where OSU began its first possession of the second half.

Dobbins went down on the first snap, re-injuring the left ankle he tweaked late in the half. He headed off, but OSU kept moving, with Fields hitting K.J. Hill for 22 yards.

The drive stalled near midfield, however, and Drue Chrisman returned the favor by pinning Clemson at its 1-yard line.

The Tigers escaped that deep dilemma a bit, but on third-and-6 from the 15, Lawrence threw incomplete deep.

OSU, however, tried to block the punt and Cameron Brown roughed Will Spiers to incur a 15-yard penalty that brought the Tigers' offense back onto the field.

A 17-yard run from Lyn-J Dixon infused his team with some momentum, then Ettiene stepped through trouble with a short swing pass and turned on the afterburners for a 53-yard touchdown that handed Clemson its first lead, 21-16, at 7:54 of the third quarter.

J.K. Dobbins returned with the Ohio State offense, and the Buckeyes immediately flirted with danger. Fields throw to the right sideline nearly resulted in an Pick-6 interception, but instead fell harmlessly incomplete.

Instead, it was the OSU defense that nearly made a scoring play.

Lawrence's completion to Justyn Ross at the 5-minute mark of the third quarter appeared to break the Buckeyes' way when Jeff Okudah stripped the ball away.

Jordan Fuller picked it up and picked his way through traffic to score, but a lengthy replay overturned the fumble and changed it to an incompletion.

Even so, the Buckeyes eventually did get the go-ahead touchdown with 11:46 left, going for the end zone on fourth-and-one from the 23.

Chris Olave hauled in the pass from Fields to put the Buckeyes in front, 23-21.

Ohio State came up short in an attempt to keep possession with 3:54 to play and elected to punt from the Clemson 39 on fourth-and-4.

The Tigers took possession at the 6-yard line with 3:07 and two timeouts, needing a field goal to take the lead.