ATLANTA — Ohio State was leading Georgia 35-24 in Saturday night’s College Football Playoff semifinal in the Peach Bowl when star sophomore receiver Marvin Harrison, Jr. took a blow to the head in the end zone in the third quarter.
The play resulted in a targeting penalty that was going to give the Buckeyes a first-and-goal from the 3-yard line with 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Instead, the replay officials determined that there was no targeting. Yet Harrison was still left on the ground feeling the effects of the shots to the head.
The trainers came out as Harrison spent a couple of minutes on the ground. It was quickly determined that he needed to be put into concussion protocol, which essentially ended his night.
The drive ended with a field goal, giving OSU a 38-24 lead, but leaving them without their best playmaker on the night.
To that point, Harrison had caught five passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Without Harrison, the Buckeyes scored just three points in the fourth quarter, and were outscored 18-3 as the Bulldogs went on to a heartbreaking 42-41 win.
“To say that losing Marv didn’t have an impact on the game, it absolutely did,” Buckeye head coach Ryan Day said.
And as for the overturn on the targeting call?
“I was told that it was not targeting, that he didn’t take a shot to the head, which is hard — I didn’t see it, so I don’t know,” Day said. “But to get a concussion and not get hit in the head, I’d have to see the replay. And they said that it happened after he got hit, but I’d have to take a look at the video. I wasn’t able to see the replay.”
Anybody watching the game would agree that the game turned when Harrison left the game. The Bulldogs’ main answer for Harrison was simply to double cover him with a cornerback and a safety, and hope that worked out well enough to keep the chains from moving.
After the game, a clearly disappointed Harrison spoke with a handful of reporters in the Ohio State locker room.
“I think I felt good enough to go back into the game,” he said, while adding several times that he respected the decision of the medical staff because they were just looking out for his well-being.
As for Harrison’s thoughts on the overturned targeting call?
“I don’t know. That’s really not my call,” he said. “That’s the ref’s decision and I’ll live with that.”
Standing on the sideline in the fourth quarter of this game was the last place Harrison wanted to be. He fought to get back on the field, but it just wasn’t going to happen. And that hurt more than any hit he took on Saturday.
“It hurt bad,” he said of being medically benched. “Fourth quarter? College football playoffs? A chance to go to the national championship? I wish I could be out there for my teammates and do what I could to help.”