Top-10 Dabo wins: Tigers turn Miller and the Buckeyes into hurtin' buckaroos


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Braxton Miller was hit early and often by the Tigers
Braxton Miller was hit early and often by the Tigers

A decade (plus some) of Dabo Swinney has produced some of the Clemson’s program biggest wins, two National Championships, four appearances in the College Football Playoff, and the ascension of the brand into one of the nation’s most recognizable.

It has also seen the program turned into one of the nation’s top two programs and arguably the nation’s top program at this point.

Swinney is 116-30 (.795) in 11 seasons (10 full seasons) at Clemson, including a 69-16 mark (.812) in ACC regular-season games at Clemson. Swinney is also 5-1 (.833) in ACC Championship Games and 9-5 (.643) in bowl games. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Swinney was just 19-15 in his first 34 games as head coach. Since then, he’s 97-15 (.866 winning percentage).

We decided to take a look at the 10 biggest wins during the Swinney era – biggest from a perspective of what the win meant to the program and on the national stage. We will take a look at the ten we’ve chosen over the next few weeks, and feel free to disagree with us. David Hood, Brandon Rink, and Nikki Hood also disagreed on the ten and where each game should rank.

Yesterday we took a look at No. 10, Clemson’s win over Auburn in 2011.

Today we take a look at No. 9.

CLEMSON 40, OHIO ST. 35 IN FEDEX ORANGE BOWL, JAN 4., 2014

Why it made the list

Before there was a College Football Playoff, we had the BCS Era. In the last ever season with the BCS format in place, Clemson picked up its first ever BCS Bowl win with a dramatic, come-from-behind victory over the Buckeyes.

Ohio St. entered the game with a 12-1 record, their only blemish a loss to Michigan St. in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes entered that game looking to beat the Spartans and head to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl to play for the National Championship.

The Buckeyes were led by quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, and even though Ohio St. was just a three-point favorite most of the nation looked at Ohio St. as a lock to win the game.

The Tigers were 10-2 and coming off a 31-17 loss to South Carolina in the annual rivalry game, their fifth consecutive loss in the series. Clemson’s previous trip to the Orange Bowl was the blowout loss to West Virginia and wanted to exorcise those demons.

Tajh Boyd led the Tigers attack all night long as he went 31-40 passing for 378 yards and five touchdowns. Boyd also contributed in the running game, leading all rushers with 127 yards on 20 carries. Sammy Watkins put on a sensational (and record-breaking) performance as well, catching 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and simply could not be contained despite the best efforts of the defensive secondary for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes had great performances themselves, with a courageous effort from Miller (16-24, 234 yards for two touchdowns and also rushing for 35 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns) and Hyde attaining one final 100-yard game with 25 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. Multiple turnovers in the final minutes of the game would doom Ohio State, despite leading 29-20 at one point late in the third quarter.

Clemson led 20-9 in the first half then saw Ohio St. score 20 straight to take a 29-20 lead. Clemson went back in front at 34-29 at the end of the third quarter, but Ohio St. would answer with a touchdown of its own to go ahead 35-34.

Clemson eventually scored the go-ahead touchdown with 6:14 remaining and clutch defensive plays enabled the Tigers to hang on for the win.

"We are Orange Bowl champs again," Swinney said. "Hey, listen: Two years ago we got our butts kicked on this field. And it has been a journey to get back. We're 22-4 since that night. And we are the first team from the state of South Carolina to ever win a BCS game."

Yes, the game is known for analyst Matt Millen calling Miller a “hurtin’ buckaroo” after taking too many shots from the Clemson defense. However, it was a BCS win and gave the Tigers wins over LSU and Ohio St. in consecutive bowl seasons.

Clemson was a program on the rise.

Player of the game

By the numbers, this one's pretty simple.

In his final game as a Tiger, Boyd tallied 505 all-purpose yards, which out-gained the entire Buckeyes offense by 78 yards.

Boyd scored the first of his six total touchdowns on the night by bursting through the line for a 48-yard run on Clemson's opening drive. He rushed for a career-high 127 yards on 20 rushing attempts.

Boyd connected with top target Watkins 16 times for 227 yards and two touchdowns - both of 30 yards or more - and then found tight end Stanton Seckinger for the go-ahead score on third-and-goal more than halfway through the fourth quarter.

"What a legacy," Swinney told reporters of Boyd postgame. "He put an exclamation point on it tonight." (Brandon Rink)

Play of the Game

Clemson’s defense forced four turnovers in the final 20 minutes of the game, but it was the last that bailed quarterback Tajh Boyd out of a jam.

With just over three minutes to play Bashaud Breeland hit Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller popping the ball loose that was picked up by Spencer Shuey giving the Tigers the ball with 3:07 to run off the clock.

On third down and 1:33 remaining in the game, Boyd tried to complete a pass over the middle to Stanton Seckinger but it was picked off giving the Buckeyes new life as they trailed 40-35 with 1:27 to play.

Two plays later, linebacker Stephone Anthony picked off an overthrown pass sealing Clemson’s first BCS victory.

“I just felt like we got turnovers and got stops when we needed them and got huge plays in the game that turned it around for us and sealed it up,” Anthony said.

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