It will be indecorous for the quarterback of an aspiring championship staff to stroll off the sphere at halftime, so Justin Fields did what he might to muster a jog. Every step delivered a jolt, however he continued, as a result of 20 minutes of relaxation beckoned from the Ohio State locker room irrespective of how a lot ache the journey would possibly include.

There had been six minutes left within the first half of the Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinal between the Buckeyes and Clemson when Fields dashed previous the road of scrimmage towards the first-down marker. He almost made it, however as an alternative was felled by an unplanned encounter with the highest of linebacker James Skalski’s orange helmet. It seared into his proper rib cage, all however leaving a paw brand tattooed on his torso.

Skalski, appropriately, was flagged for focusing on and ejected from his second consecutive CFP sport.

Fields remained inclined on the turf longer than the operating time of “The English Affected person.” His continued involvement on this sport appeared no extra promising after he bought to his toes, nor after he returned following a single play on the sideline, nor after he instantly threw a scorching landing move to present his staff a two-score lead, nor after he bought a congratulatory shoulder slap from sophomore wideout Garrett Wilson. As a result of the distress attributable to every of those actions screamed by means of his facemask.

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A pair hours later, Fields had amassed 385 passing yards and 6 touchdowns, incomes a date within the CFP nationwide championship sport in opposition to No. 1 Alabama on Jan. 11. He had thrown landing passes of 56 yards to Chris Olave and 45 yards to Jameson Williams. He managed to stay round lengthy sufficient to simply accept the victory-formation snaps that concluded OSU’s 49-28 victory, and even to share a celebratory body-bump as the ultimate seconds lapsed.

“That hit actually took a toll on me,” Fields informed ESPN afterward. “My ribs have been killing me just about all sport. However what pushed me by means of was the love for my brothers. I might do something for these guys.”

Early on this season, Fields was thought-about a robust Heisman Trophy candidate and a lock to be the second quarterback chosen within the 2021 NFL Draft, behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. However then Indiana occurred. The Northwestern sport within the Large Ten title sport was much more of a disappointment. The Heisman slipped out of attain and the draft analysts started discovering flaws.

Fields remained targeted on what mattered. And if you happen to don’t suppose what mattered on today was victory in opposition to Clemson and development to the CFP last, you then didn’t see him combat by means of huge discomfort as an alternative of opting out of the second half.

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Coach Ryan Day mentioned he requested Fields whether or not he might proceed following that hit. In line with Day, Fields’ response was, “‘I don’t have a alternative. I’ve to.’ We had to determine what he might and couldn’t do for some time. He couldn’t do every thing. However what a troublesome and gutsy efficiency.”

Day acknowledged, although, that Fields was bothered by how he carried out even in profitable the Large Ten championship. He was solely 12 of 27 for 114 yards and two interceptions. “Lots of people have been speaking poorly about him as a QB,” Day informed reporters. “And that bothered him.” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay mentioned he thought Fields was getting caught too usually on his major receiver. Dane Brugler of The Athletic talked about on Twitter points with Fields’ “inside clock.”

Towards Clemson, Fields was like a Patek Philippe.

He threw solely six incomplete passes in 28 makes an attempt. He averaged 5.three yards on his eight dashing makes an attempt. They weren’t taking part in in opposition to the identical protection however, whereas sharing the sphere with the presumptive No. 1 NFL choose, Fields blew Lawrence away together with his efficiency. His Clemson counterpart was 33 of 48 for 400 yards of empty energy, throwing one interception and fumbling thrice.

“I ready for this sport like I by no means ready earlier than,” Fields mentioned. “I believe that confirmed on the sphere.

“I undoubtedly had an edge for this sport, making ready for this sport in follow.”

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Fields mentioned he didn”t have a prognosis for what occurred to his midsection following Skalski’s hit. “It’s just about my entire proper torso that’s tousled,” he mentioned. He informed reporters he “took a shot or two” within the medical tent after which endeavored to proceed.

Every throw from that time on, and there have been 15 extra earlier than the clock expired, concluded with a touch of agony. It didn’t matter if he was tossing it 10 yards or firing a bomb 50 yards to the top zone: Each harm. “I might simply not fear about that throughout the play and simply fear concerning the ache after the throw,” Fields mentioned.

“One thing like that’s anticipated coming from a man like him,” All-America guard Wyatt Davis informed reporters. “He is an awesome chief, an awesome teammate, and I’m glad I can name him my brother. He took some pictures at the moment, and particularly on that one, I had little doubt if he might, he would proceed.”

Clemson had held Notre Dame to 263 complete yards within the ACC championship sport. The Buckeyes almost tripled that, with Fields accounting for greater than 400 himself.

“My physique’s fairly beat up proper now, however I’m glad. My teammates are glad. And it is a feeling like no different,” Fields mentioned. “That’s what pushed me. I used to be simply considering all of the issues we sacrificed as a staff, and that’s actually what bought me by means of the entire sport.”

Victory is the best of painkillers.