There was no “Clemsoning” on this night …
Staring down a fourth quarter deficit against a Top Ten opponent, Clemson University’s football team overcame costly penalties and late turnovers to earn a hard-fought 40-35 victory over Ohio State in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl – exorcising the demons of their 2012 blowout loss to West Virginia.
“Hey, listen: Two years ago we got our butts kicked all over this field,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after the game. “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.”
Not on this night …
Clemson and Ohio State engaged in a pitched battle of college football behemoths – with the Tigers (11-2, 7-1 ACC) rallying past the Buckeyes (12-2, 8-0 Big Ten) in a game that more than lived up to its advance billing.
In his final game in orange and white (unless he gets drafted by the Browns or Bengals), Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd completed 31 of 40 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 127 yards and another score – a 48-yard touchdown scamper on the Tigers opening drive of the game.
Boyd did throw a pair of interceptions, including a pick late in the fourth quarter that gave Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and the Buckeye offense a chance to drive for the go-ahead score. Clemson’s defense came through on the very next play, though – with linebacker Stephone Anthony intercepting Miller with just over a minute left to play.
Miller – who entered the year as a Heisman Trophy favorite – completed 16 of 24 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He picked up another two touchdowns on the ground, although he spent most of the game grimacing from the shots he took from a rejuvenated Clemson defense.
The Buckeyes – playing without their top defensive end (Noah Spence) and their best defensive back (Bradley Roby) – were shredded for 576 yards of total offense. They simply had no answer for Clemson’s passing attack, most notably All-American wide receiver Sammy Watkins- who set both school and Orange Bowl records with 227 receiving yards.
Watkins will forego his senior year at Clemson to enter the 2014 NFL draft – and based on his performance against Ohio State his stock is no doubt soaring right now.
Despite its poor defensive performance, Ohio State appeared to be taking over the game in the third quarter – jumping out to a 29-20 lead on running back Carlos Hyde’s leaping 1-yard touchdown with six minutes left in the third quarter.
The Buckeye defense forced a rare “three-and-out” on the next series, but that’s when disaster struck for Ohio State.
Wide receiver Philly Brown muffed a Bradley Pinion punt – and three plays later Boyd and Watkins made them pay with a 30-yard touchdown strike.
With its Orange Bowl victory, Clemson has now won 11 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The Tigers are also the only program in the country to beat a Top Ten BCS opponent in both the 2012 and 2013 postseason. Meanwhile Buckeyes’ coach Urban Meyer – who won his first 24 games at Ohio State – has now lost two in a row.
One bittersweet note? Clemson’s victory will likely help arch-rival South Carolina move up higher in the final Top 25 rankings. The Gamecocks (11-2, 6-2 SEC) – who have taken five straight games in this in-state rivalry – defeated Wisconsin earlier this week to secure their third consecutive 11-win season.