It would be indecent for the quarterback of an aspiring championship team to leave the field at halftime, so Justin Fields did what he could to put together a jog. Each step caused a jolt, but it continued as 20 minutes of rest awaited from the Ohio State locker room, no matter how much pain the trip might contain.
Six minutes remained in the first half of the college football playoff semi-final between the Buckeyes and Clemson when Fields crossed the line of scrimmage towards first base. He almost pulled it off, but was brought down by an unexpected encounter with the orange helmet of linebacker James Skalski. He burned in his right rib cage, almost leaving a paw logo tattooed on his chest.
Skalski, rightly, has been flagged for targeting and Ejected from his second consecutive match at the CFP.
Fields remained prone to the turf longer than “The English Patient” run time. His continued involvement in this game no longer looked promising after he stood up, neither after returning from just one play on the sideline, nor after immediately throwing a scorching touchdown pass to give his team a lead of two points, nor after he received a congratulatory shoulder slap from Garrett Wilson. Because the misery caused by each of these activities was screaming through his mask.
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Hours later, Fields had accumulated 385 passing yards and six touchdowns, winning a date in the CFP National Championship game against No.1 Alabama on Jan.11. He threw touchdown passes of 56 yards to Chris Olave and 45 yards to Jameson. Williams. He managed to stick around long enough to come to terms with the winning squad clichés that wrapped up OSU’s 49-28 victory, and even shared a celebratory body-bump as the final seconds rolled by.
“This blow really cost me,” Fields told ESPN afterwards. “My ribs were killing me pretty much the entire game. But what pushed me through was love for my brothers. I would do anything for these guys.”
At the start of this season, Fields was seen as a strong Heisman Trophy contender and a lock to be the second quarterback picked in the 2021 NFL Draft, behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. But then Indiana came along. The Northwest game in the Big Ten title game was even more of a disappointment. The Heisman slipped out of reach, and project analysts began to find flaws.
Fields stayed focused on what mattered. And if you don’t think that what mattered that day was winning over Clemson and advancing to the CFP Finals, then you haven’t seen him fight with enormous discomfort instead of withdraw from the second period.
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Coach Ryan Day said he asked Fields if he could continue to follow that shot. According to Day, Fields’ response was, “” I have no choice. I have to do it. “We had to figure out what he could and couldn’t do for a while. He couldn’t do it all. But what a tough and courageous performance.”
Day admitted, however, that Fields was hampered by his performance even winning the Big Ten Championship. He was just 12 of 27 for 114 yards and two interceptions. “A lot of people spoke badly of him as a QB,” Day told reporters. “And it bothered him.” ESPN Project Analyst Todd McShay said he believes Fields gets stuck on his primary receiver too often. Athletic’s Dane Brugler mentioned on Twitter issues with Fields’ “internal clock”.
Against Clemson, Fields was like a Patek Philippe.
He threw just six incomplete passes in 28 attempts. He averaged 5.3 yards on his eight run attempts. They weren’t playing against the same defense but, while sharing the field with the alleged NFL No.1 pick, Fields blew Lawrence away with his performance. His counterpart Clemson was 33 of 48 for 400 empty calorie yards, throwing an interception and groping three times.
“I prepared for this game like I had never prepared before,” said Fields. “I think it showed on the pitch.
“I definitely had an advantage for this game, preparing for this game in training.”
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Fields said he did not have a diagnosis for what happened to his midsection after Skalski’s shot. “It’s pretty much my entire right torso that’s messed up,” he said. He told reporters he “took a hit or two” in the medical tent. then strove to continue.
Every throw from that point on, and there were 15 more before the timer expired, ended with a dash of agony. It didn’t matter if he threw it 10 yards or fired a bomb 50 yards from the end zone: both injured. “I wouldn’t worry about that during the game and just worry about the pain after the throw,” Fields said.
“Something like that is expected to come from a guy like him,” All America goalie Wyatt Davis told reporters. “He’s a great leader, a great teammate, and I’m happy to be able to call him my brother. He took a few shots today, and especially on that one, I had no doubt he could, he would continue. “
Clemson had held Notre Dame to 263 total yards in the CCA Championship game. The Buckeyes nearly tripled that, with Fields counting for over 400 people.
“My body is pretty battered right now, but I’m happy. My teammates are happy. And it’s a feeling like no other,” said Fields. “That’s what pushed me. I was just thinking about all the things we’ve sacrificed as a team, and that’s really what got me through the whole game.”
Victory is the greatest pain reliever.