MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. – Justin Fields and the prolific Ohio State offense, fresh from piling up 639 yards in a semifinal victory over Clemson, couldn't find the same groove against Alabama on Monday night.
Fields, who passed for 385 yards and six touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl, had some outstanding moments against Alabama, but not enough to make a difference. The Crimson Tide built up a big lead by halftime and a smothering pass rush kept the Buckeyes offense in check on the way to a 52-24 Alabama victory.
"What these guys have learned, what our staff has learned, what our program has learned has been incredible for our culture," Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. "What we experienced tonight is motivation for when we come back next season."
Ohio State running back Trey Sermon, who electrified the Buckeyes' ground game in the three previous games, was lost to an injury during the first series, and the team's best offensive lineman, Wyatt Davis, was banged up late in the first half.
Master Teague III took over for Sermon and had touchdown runs of 8 and 4 yards, but Ohio State moved away from the run game in the second half. The Buckeyes (7-1) had only 147 rushing yards, with Fields getting 67 of them.
Playing from behind for three quarters, Fields completed 17 of 33 passes for 194 yards. Meanwhile, the Ohio State defense couldn't stop Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and keep Alabama out of the end zone.
"I don't know if I've seen one better than that," Day said of Smith.
Fields, who is projected as a first-round draft pick, will be remembered for his leadership in an unpredictable season disrupted at every turn by the pandemic.
The Big Ten suspended the season in August, reinstating it a month later following a campaign led by Fields and others. Amid COVID-19 outbreaks that took key players out of the lineup, the Buckeyes won all five games they played.
"This has been a long, long road. Guys have been away from their families," Day said. "Proud of our guys."