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With the Buckeyes averaging 8 TDs a game through the tournament, no one was expecting the Bears to throw the first knockout blow, but that’s exactly what they did. Abram Smith ran wild in the first quarter, breaking a 53 yarder on the first drive and then finishing the job from the 8, then after a CJ Stroud pick taking one 61 more to the house. By the end of the quarter Smith had 130 yards.
The Buckeyes kept pace in the second, with Stroud racking up more than 250 yard and 3 TDS in the quarter. Gerry Bohannan added a 4 yard pass to TE Ben Sims and added a FG for a 27-21 halftime lead.
The Buckeyes owned the third quarter, With Master Teague going in from a yard out twice. Baylor managed only a FG, and the final period ended with the Buckeyes holding a 35-30 lead. That fourth quarter was taken over by Buckeyes RB TeayVeon Henderson, who busted two long scores of his own to seal a 45-36 win for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State 49 Baylor 38
The tournament’s two surprises faced off for a spot in a title game literally no one thought either of them would ever sniff.
After a scoreless first quarter filled with penalties… 5 for ISU, 4 for the Tigers, and neither team notching a single first down… literally an entire quarter swapping three and outs… the Cyclones drew first blood.
Taking over at the Clemson 5 after the Tigers muffed a punt, Breece Hall hit the middle for a total of one yard and the Cyclones took a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers managed a first down on the next possession, but three straight incompletions ended the drive abruptly. The punt was blocked, and the next play Brock Purdy hit Tarique Milton on a 19 yard slant for a score… a TD that was called back due to a holding penalty. 2 hall runs for 3 yards and an incomplete pass and the Cyclones settled for another Andrew Mevis FG and a 6-0 lead.
It didn’t get better for the Tigers; D.J. was stripped as he was sacked on 2nd down, and the Cyclones started inside the Clemson 20 for the second time. This trip ended the same way as the first two drives: the Cyclones went no where and kicked a third FG.
The Teams swapped three and outs twice, and the Cyclones finally managed a drive… 11 plays, 75 yards…. And yet another FG. The first half ended with Iowa State holding that 12-0 lead.
Uiagalilei was about as bad as is possible in the first half, completing just 4 of 14 passes for 27 yards as the Tigers managed just 60 yards in total offense.
Will Shipley played hero again, breathing life into the Tigers when he took the 2nd half kick 71 yards, setting Clemson up at the 21. They went no where, but a FG got them on the board.
The defensive struggle continued through the third quarter, with the only points coming on a safety when the Tigers blocked an ISU punt through the end zone, sending the teams into the 4th quarter with an odd 12-5 score.
At that point, both defenses left the building.
The Cyclones started the onslaught… a 7 play, 70 yard drive, aided by two PI penalties, finally ended with Iowa State in the end zone. The PAT made it 19-5, and that momentum lasted exactly 21 seconds. That’s how long it took for a return to the 31 and a 69 yard explosive, Marshawn Lynch style burst, bringing the Tigers to within a touchdown. Purdy unleashed almost directly after, finding Xavier Hutchinson in stride for a 68 yard score. The PAT was wide left, and the Cyclones led 25-14.
This was where Uiagalilei, who at this point was 8 for 23 with just 61 yards, woke up. He took the Tigers down the field, hitting 8 straight passes before Will Shipley took it in from the 1. Shipley did the honors on the 2 point conversion as well, cutting the once comfortable lead to 25-22.
Purdy led another outstanding drive, taking the Cyclones 67 yards, but the drive stalled once more, and B.T. Potter’s 29 yard FG doinked off of the right upright.
DJ stayed hot, taking the Tigers to the Cyclones 8 before 3 straight runs led to a 4th and one from the 1. Clemson went for it, but didn’t come close as Shipley was wrapped up in the backfield.
ISU managed 2 first downs, but ended up having to punt the ball back to the Tigers, who took over at their own 31 with just over two minutes left.
Uiagalelei struck fast, continuing his magical 4th quarter. After a 6 yard run by Shipley, he hit an obscenely open Justyn Ross, who was easily 15 yards behind the D, to give the Tigers their first lead of the game at 29-25.
But Brock Purdy still had 94 seconds left, and with the season on the line and just one time out left, the Cyclones drove. Taking the short passes the D gave him, the Cyclones worked their way to the Tigers 11, where with just four seconds left ISU had one more chance.
The Tigers brought heat, blitzing both a safety and a corner, but didn’t get to Purdy. They did force him to roll, and his throw on the run into the endzone sailed a good 3 feet over the receivers’ head, sending Clemson to an unlikely spot in the title game.
Clemson 29 Iowa State 25