Ohio State junior midfielder Justin Fields (1) triumphantly walks off the pitch following the Ohio State-Northwestern Top Ten championship game on December 19. Ohio State won 22-10. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor
Clemson is the only team to beat Justin Fields since he arrived in Columbus, and despite battling the Tigers last season, the junior midfielder is looking forward to a chance to get back into play.
Fields had the first double interception game of his career at the 2019 Fiesta Bowl against Clemson. Since that defeat, Fields has had two similar matches in 2020, but the confidence of the Georgian player and his team has not wavered ahead of a match expected since time ended in Arizona.
“That game hurt us a lot last year, so that’s our motivation during the offseason – just to get a chance to play against those guys again and get this chance,” Fields said Monday. “We are very happy to be on the same stage as them and to have another chance to play with those people.”
Fields’ final pitch of the 2019 season found defender Clemson’s hand who put the game on for the Tigers.
The two Fields interceptions in that game were paired with 320 yards of passing and touchdown. The second-year midfielder, who sustained a knee injury in the last four games of 2019, was limited to 13 yards running.
“I think he left the pitch wanting another shot and now he has another shot. He wasn’t the only man who felt that way. “There are lots of other people on our team who feel that way,” head coach Ryan Day said Monday. “You never thought you’d make it back here to play this game. And it’s a very strange journey to get here, but here we are. “
Navigating the tumultuous offseason, Fields’ initial response to semi-final weakness came in the form of 13 touchdowns without a roll through three games in 2020.
However, his highly efficient start was met with Fields’ first game of three interceptions against Indiana and the Big Ten Championship where Fields failed to find the end zone for the first time as the Buckeye followed a pair of interceptions.
Despite the hardships, Fields says he sees mistakes as opportunities for growth.
“I felt like everything happened for a reason, so I thought what happened to the game and I didn’t play as well as I wanted, maybe God sent me the message that I need to do more, work harder, so that’s how I am ‘I’m see it, “said Fields.” For this match, I have prepared myself. I have not been ready like this all season. ”
Fields will enter the game with four more interceptions and only six more games to be played than the last time Clemson played him, but Tigers defense coordinator Brent Venables said Fields was similar to his player a year ago.
“He’s a great player,” Venables said Monday. “Can do everything. Can run. Can throw with precision. Run with strength and play with great calm. He’s a great leader, very natural. Have extraordinary skills. An extraordinary presence in the pocket. And he is, without question, their leader in offense, so it all goes through him. “
Entering the game, junior center Josh Myers will once again snap the ball at Fields – something he has done for all but one Fields start at Ohio State.
Tasked with protecting Fields within the lines, Myers has recognized the responsibility and hope that weighs on Fields.
“There’s no doubt a lot of pressure on Justin’s shoulders in a match like this, but to be honest, there’s a lot of pressure on Justin’s shoulders every game,” Myers said Monday. “I honestly believe Justin is someone who was built to handle that pressure, so I think he will do well, obviously.”
Even with the responsibilities of playing midfield along with the expectations that come with being a high caliber player, Day says Fields shouldn’t put up striking numbers against Clemson.
On the other hand, Day said the priority should remain on what has been the focus of the season: finding a way to win.
“But now, there is only one goal, winning the game. It doesn’t matter if you win 6-3. It doesn’t matter if you win 52‑51. Just win the game. “Said Day. “I think it has to be an approach, not going to beat the team by 28 points, whether we’re going to throw 500 yards and be in the Heisman trophy spectacle or whatever. This wins the match. If you win the game, you move on. That’s what’s important. “