Clemson's Trevor Lawrence: Targeting Hit vs. OSU 'Pissed' Him Off, Sparked Rally

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2019

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 28:  Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates his 34-yard touchdown pass to Travis Etienne (not pictured) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Shaun Wade's targeting penalty on Trevor Lawrence was a turning point in the Fiesta Bowl in more ways than one.

Wade was ejected in the second quarter following a helmet-to-helmet hit on the Clemson star. Lawrence revealed Monday that helped spark a turnaround for the Tigers that led to a 29-23 win over Ohio State, per ESPN's Heather Dinich:

"It was just, they hit me, and I was worried it was my collarbone for a second because I couldn't feel it up there around my shoulder and neck, and my arm just went numb. It was just a really bad stinger. And then I got kind of -- I was kind of pissed off because I knew they were over there thinking like, 'All right, we knocked him out.'"

The play was initially ruled as a sack on Lawrence, which would have set Clemson up with a fourth down and put the team in a punting situation. Officials reviewed the play and penalized Wade for targeting:

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Trevor Lawrence was slow to get up after this hit from Shaun Wade and Chase Young. Wade was called for targeting and ejected. #CFBPlayoff https://t.co/YXJIqTnUqY

While crediting that penalty as the sole reason for the result would be reductive, it represented a clear moment where the game changed.

Instead of punting, Clemson got a first down and scored five plays later to trim the deficit to nine points. Lawrence also made a quick return after it initially looked like he might have been seriously injured.

On the Tigers' next drive, the sophomore quarterback broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run that helped bring the reigning national champions to within two points heading into the half.

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In general, Clemson looked like a different team, with Lawrence saying he "had a different kind of edge when I got up." The star passer not only went 18-of-33 for 259 yards and two touchdowns but also finished as Clemson's leading rusher (16 carries, 107 yards, one touchdown).

The Tigers undoubtedly benefited from Ohio State being without one of its starting cornerbacks, but Lawrence's comments highlighted how the offense in particular seemed to attack the Buckeyes with a renewed sense of purpose following the targeting penalty.

Clemson still needed Nolan Turner to intercept a Justin Fields pass in the end zone with 37 seconds remaining to avoid a possible defeat.

As happy as head coach Dabo Swinney will be with how well his team closed out the Fiesta Bowl, he'll want to see a better start on Jan. 13 against LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship.