|by David Hood|
Thirty-two years after defeating Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl, the Tigers once again emerged victorious in the Orange Bowl, claiming a thrilling 40-35 win over Ohio St. at Sun Life Stadium late Friday night.
Sammy Watkins caught an Orange Bowl record 16 passes for 227 yards and Stephone Anthony’s late interception of Ohio St. quarterback Braxton Miller brought out a cascade of oranges from the stands, giving the Clemson program its first BCS win.
Boyd rushed for a career-high 127 yards and completed 31-of-40 passes for 378 yards.
The Tigers led 40-35 and stopped an Ohio St. with just over three minutes remaining, but quarterback Tajh Boyd’s pass was intercepted and returned to the Clemson 48-yard line with 1:27 remaining on the game clock.
However, Anthony stepped in front of Miller’s second pass of the drive, falling down at the Clemson 39-yard line, sealing the Clemson victory.
The Tigers won the toss and elected to receive, and it took just six plays for them to dent the scoreboard. A couple of running plays and a swing passed netted a first down, and two more quick plays had the Tigers just over midfield facing a 3rd-and-1. Boyd went with the keeper and raced almost untouched into the endzone for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The 49-yard run was the longest of his career, breaking the record of 27 yards het set against Auburn in 2012.
The Clemson defense stopped Ohio St. on the ensuing possession, getting the stop when Vic Beasley sacked Miller on third down. However, Beasley made a gesture that drew a flag, keeping the drive alive. The Buckeyes then converted on a fake punt on fourth down and used a 33-yard run by Miller to tie the score at seven midway through the first quarter.
It didn’t take the Tigers long to answer, using just four plays to cover 75 yards. The drive started with a 27-yard pass to Watkins and ended with a 34-yard scoring to Watkins, giving the Tigers a 14-7 lead at the 4:56 mark of the first quarter.
The Tigers finally got a stop on defense, but the Buckeye punt was downed inside the Clemson one-yard line and on the first play Boyd was called for intentional grounding. The result of the play was a safety for Ohio St. and a 14-9 Clemson lead.
The next two Clemson drives ended with a punt and an interception, but Clemson’s defense continued to hold the Buckeyes in check, and the Tigers finally got back on the scoreboard with just over six minutes left in the half. Boyd hit Martavis Bryant on a big third down play in Buckeye territory, then threw a perfect fade to Bryant in the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point was missed and Clemson led 20-9.
The Buckeyes needed just five plays to score, Miller hitting a wide open Jeff Heuerman on a 57-yard scoring strike. The extra point was missed, and Clemson led 20-15 late in the first half.
The Tigers drove into Ohio St. territory late in the first half, and went for the first down on 4th-and-5 at the Buckeye 40-yard line. McDowell was pulled down short of the first down, but a late hit was called on Ohio St. However, the hit was ruled after the play, and Ohio St. took over on downs. The Buckeyes made the Tigers pay with a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining for a 22-20 lead at the break.
The Buckeyes then put together a long drive on the second drive of the second half, scoring on one-yard run by Carlos Hyde, to lead 29-20.
The Tigers were forced to punt on the ensuing possession – another penalty short-circuited the drive – but luck finally favored the Tigers when the punt was muffed by Ohio St. returner Corey Brown. The ball was recovered by Robert Smith on the Buckeye 33-yard line.
Three plays later, Boyd hit a leaping Watkins in the end zone to complete a 30-yard scoring play, and the Buckeyes led 29-27 with 2:47 remaining in the third quarter.
The Clemson defense finally turned in a big play on the next drive, and it was the freshman from Florida who made it happen. Miller rolled out of the pocket on third down, and threw the ball up for grabs as he was flushed by Spencer Shuey. Jayron Kearse intercepted the pass at the Buckeye 38, setting up yet another Clemson score.
Five plays later, Boyd hit Bryant on another fade, in the same corner and for three yards, to give Clemson a 34-29 lead late in the third quarter. Bryant was pushed on the play, tipped the ball in the air and caught the ball as he fell out of bounds for the score.
The Buckeyes took advantage of Clemson mistakes to score on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Miller to Hyde, but the two-point conversion attempt was no good, and the Ohio St. led 35-34 at the 11:35 mark of the final quarter.
The Tigers took the ensuing kickoff and drove down to the Ohio St. one, but a two rushing plays by Boyd were stopped short, setting up a 3rd-and-goal from the one. However, right tackle Isaiah Battle was called for a false start, moving the Tigers back to the six. Boyd took the snap and rolled right, the threw back to the left to a wide-open Stanton Seckinger for the touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt was no good, and Clemson led 40-35 with just over six minutes remaining, setting up the wild finish.
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David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org