The Sugar Bowl national semifinal between No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State got off to a wild start, and things got extra spicy near the end of the second quarter as Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields was brutally speared in the back by Clemson linebacker James Skalski.
Fields stayed down for several minutes before heading to the sideline for one play. Replay officials reviewed the hit and confirmed that Skalski, the quarterback of the Tigers defense, committed a targeting penalty and was disqualified for the remainder of the game. Fields left for one play before coming back in and tossing a touchdown pass to Chris Olave to put the Buckeyes up 28-14.
Trainers continued to tend to Fields after the touchdown pass. When he came out for the following series, he was clearly favoring his midsection and appeared hesitant to take contact on runs and scrambles.
Skalski's absence is an enormous blow for the Tigers. He had 32 tackles coming into the game, and is responsible for getting the rest of the defense lined up from play-to-play. This incident comes one year after Skalski committed a targeting foul in the second half of the College Football Playoff National Championship against LSU. Coincidentally, that penalty also occurred in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
The coincidences don't stop there, however.
The Buckeyes and Tigers met in the national semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl last season, and a targeting foul played a big role in that one, too. Buckeyes defensive back Shaun Wade was flagged for a sack on Clemson's Trevor Lawrence late in the first half with the Buckeyes up 16-0. The Tigers, led by Lawrence, came back to get the 29-23 win in one of the most dramatic CFP games since its inception in 2014.