The Clemson Tigers lost the heart of their defense during Friday’s College Football Playoff semifinal when linebacker James Skalski got ejected for a second-quarter targeting foul after hitting Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
Skalski was in the open field and lowered his helmet to initiate contact with Fields, who was on the turf for a while after taking the massive shot. Upon review, Skalski was ruled out for the rest of the Sugar Bowl.
WATCH: James Skalski crushes Justin Fields, leading to ejection
Pro Football Focus (via video by Chris Hummer) posted the footage of Skalski’s massive hit on Fields:
It was really a tough call to make. On one hand, Skalski is an invaluable leader to the Tigers defense and holding him out for the remainder of such a key game disrupts the competitive balance. However, based on what the officials were looking at, there’s at least an argument to be made Skalski’s ejection was justified.
To Fields’ credit, he sat out for one play, came back in the game, and promptly threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave, putting the Buckeyes up 28-14. It was the third scoring toss for the Ohio State signal-caller, boosting his numbers to 12-of-13 passing for 172 yards. Fields ran for 53 yards on six carries to that point, too, and amazingly remained in action.
Fans react to James Skalski getting ejected for Justin Fields hit
Not everyone thought Skalski’s ejection was justified despite the viciousness of the collision. In fact, media members and fans alike sided with Clemson for the most part, even though Fields undeniably got rocked.