Shaun Wade did his best to focus on the present, mostly talking around questions about last year’s defeat to Clemson.
The Ohio State All-American cornerback and projected first-round pick had to watch the end of the first half and entirety of the second half from the locker room after his targeting penalty led to his ejection and flipped the momentum in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
“At the end of the day, it’s a team sport not a me sport,” he said Tuesday over Zoom.
But one of his coaches, defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, knows better.
“In many ways, I think the way that game [played out was] a big part of the reason Shaun came back,” Coombs said. “This game obviously means a lot to him. … There’s no question coming off the field [when he did] was very, very hard for him.”
With Ohio State up 16-0 late in the second quarter, Wade sacked Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence on third-and-5 near midfield. But after a review, targeting was called, giving the Tigers a first down. They would eventually score a touchdown. Clemson went on to prevail 29-23.
Wade would ultimately return for his senior season, after initially declaring for the NFL draft amid the Big Ten’s uncertainty about playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now he gets another crack at the Tigers in Friday night’s Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Wade said.
In a roundabout way, Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson owes his current job to Clemson. Had the Tigers not blanked Clemson 31-0 in the 2016 College Football Playoff semifinal, then-coach Urban Meyer may not have had to retool his offensive staff.
Wilson was coming off a six-year run as Indiana’s head coach and wound up joining the Buckeyes as the team’s offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.
“I’m just very fortunate, very grateful,” Wilson said. “Not wishing bad, ill luck or ill will on anyone, but the opportunity was allowed [for me] to be here.”
Clemson will be looking to end some ugly postseason history in the state of Louisiana. It is 0-4 all-time, losing to LSU in last year’s national championship game and falling to Alabama in the 2018 Sugar Bowl and playoff semifinal. It also dropped the 1985 Independence bowl to Minnesota and the 1959 Sugar Bowl to LSU.
“I’m 0-2. At this point I’m kind of tired of talking about what I’m going to do,” said Clemson running back Travis Etienne, a Jennings, La. native. “I’m just ready to get to that point and make it right.”
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