Despite playing with a hip pointer injury, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields wasn't going to make any excuses for why the Buckeyes lost 52-24 to Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night.
Fields was still on the mend from his injury sustained in the semifinal game against Clemson, but not hurt enough to keep him from competing for a title.
"At the end of the day I was able to play and we didn't get the job done," Fields said. "So I don't think my injury had an effect. I mean, of course I could've been healthier, but I was healthy enough, and I was able to be out there. We just weren't able to get the job done."
Fields sustained the injury when he took a helmet shot to his right side against Clemson that required extra padding around his midsection in the championship game against Alabama. After a phenomenal game against the Tigers, during which Fields completed 22 of 38 passes for 385 yards and six touchdowns, he completed only 17 of 33 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown against Alabama.
The Ohio State offense was held to 190 total yards in the first half, the first time Fields was held under 100 passing yards in a half since he joined Ohio State prior to the 2019 season. As good as Fields was against pressure in the game against Clemson, he completed only 4 of 12 passes for 78 yards against Alabama, and the Buckeyes couldn't garner any momentum against the Crimson Tide defense.
Fields didn't definitively say it was his last game in an Ohio State uniform, but ESPN's Todd McShay has Fields as a projected first-round pick in his latest mock draft for 2021.
The junior quarterback did hint, however, that this could be the last time he suits up for the Buckeyes.
"These last few years have been great, made a lot of friendships," Fields said. "Made a lot of brothers. I wanted a different outcome, but I'm going to miss everybody."
Fields transferred to Ohio State from Georgia and helped bridge the gap for new coach Ryan Day, when Dwayne Haskins left early for the NFL draft and Joe Burrow had already transferred the year prior. In his two seasons at Ohio State, Fields has lost only two games and helped lead the Buckeyes to two Big Ten championships and two College Football Playoff berths.
"Justin has been unbelievable. He's as competitively tough a player as I've been around," Day said. "For him to go out there and play today, really shows his toughness and how much he loves his brothers. He still took some shots on that hip and he was not 100% tonight.
"He was working through it and made some really good throws, made some gutsy plays, kept us in the game for a while. ... I'm going to miss him."
In addition to Fields, cornerback Shaun Wade is also projected as a first-round pick in McShay's mock draft. Wade turned down an opportunity to turn pro after the 2019 season and wanted to return to try to win a national championship after the team's heartbreaking loss against Clemson last season.
Despite losing in the title game, the uncertainty of the season in the fall, having the season canceled then restarted, Wade said he still thinks it was worth it to come back to play.
"I see myself growing as a man and just the team and all the young guys growing as a man," Wade said. "All the things we went through, the adversity. I'm happy I came back, I'm just glad we got here. I'm upset we didn't get the win, but I'm definitely happy I came back, and I'm just happy to be with this team and accomplish some big things with this team.
"I'm just proud of everybody."
Wade could technically take another season of eligibility with the NCAA granting every player an extra year because of COVID-19. There is the temptation to want to try again for a national championship, but his projected draft slot might be too much to pass up.
"I really can't say," Wade said. "I do want to come back and everything, it's upsetting that we got here and we didn't accomplish that goal. That's just been my goal to win a national championship and win big games like these, so I'll just go back with my parents, talk to them and go from there."