Sweet victory for Clemson, 40-35

MIAMI -In a classic Orange Bowl that went down to the wire, Clemson handed Ohio State its second straight loss, beating the Buckeyes, 40-35, as quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for five touchdown passes and rushed for another as Clemson riddled OSU’s defense for 577 yards.

It didn’t take Clemson long to light up the scoreboard as the Tigers -following a touchback on the opening kickoff -needed just six plays to take a 7-0 lead as Boyd kept the ball on a third down and 1 situation and scored on a 48-yard run with 12:50 left in the first quarter.

Ohio State didn’t panic. Instead, the Buckeyes went on a 75-yard scoring drive of their own. OSU needed 13 plays -including converting a fourth down and 2 on a 6-yard Jeff Heinerman run to keep the drive alive -to get into the end zone on a 33-yard run by Braxton Miller that tied the game at 7 with 5:44 still on the opening quarter clock.

Both teams had the ball once and both quarterbacks not only led their squads to touchdowns, but scored those touchdowns themselves on long runs.

Just to prove its first TD drive was no fluke, Clemson needed just 48 seconds to score on its second possession as Boyd hit Sammy Watkins on the first play for a 27-yard reception and then that duo teamed up three plays later for a 34-yard score and a 14-7 Tigers lead with 4:56 remaining in the opening stanza.

What started out as a track meet eventually slowed down. After Ohio State failed to respond to Clemson’s second quarter drive, Buckeye punter Cameron Johnston managed to pin the Tigers at their own 1. On first down, Boyd dropped back to pass, threw the ball away, and was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, giving the Buckeyes a safety that cut the lead to 14-9 at the 2:25 mark, the final score of a wild first quarter.

The second stanza was nearly as eventful. Midway through the quarter, Boyd and Watkins connected on a pair of passes that eventually led to Boyd hitting Martavis Bryant on a 3-yard TD pass. A missed extra point kick left the Tigers up 20-9 with 6:16 before intermission. For Ohio State, it was a good 6:16. First, Miller connected with Jeff Heuerman for a 57-yard TD that cut the lead to 20-15 just 3:39 before intermission. Ironically, OSU also missed its extra point kick, which was blocked.

Clemson managed to drive to the OSU 36 but turned the ball over on downs with 1:06 to go. Even with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on OSU, Miller managed to engineer a TD drive and score on a 3-yard run with 12 seconds left for a 22-20 Ohio State lead at halftime.

The third quarter began with an exchange of punts, then Ohio State went on an impressive 9-play, 87-yard drive capped by a 1-yard Carlos Hyde TD for a 29-20 lead. OSU had scored 20 points in a row and seemed to have all the momentum.

But Clemson regained that momentum when OSU fumbled a punt and Philly Brown recovered for the Tigers at the OSU 33. On third and seven, Boyd hit Watkins for a 30-yard score and it was 29-27 Buckeyes.

Three plays later, Miller was intercepted by Jayron Kearse at the OSU 38 and Boyd needed just four plays to put the Tigers back on top, 34-29, on a 3-yard TD pass to Bryant with 32 seconds left in the third quarter.

OSU didn’t panic. It methodically marched down the field on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 14-yard TD pass from Miller to Hyde for a 35-34 OSU lead. The Buckeyes went for a two-point conversion but failed to complete a pass.

Clemson responded in similar fashion with Boyd engineering a 13-play, 75-yard TD drive capped with a 5-yard scoring pass to Stanton Seckinger for a 40-35 Clemson lead with 6:16 to play.

OSU managed to move the ball to the Clemson 43, but the drive not inly stalled but Miller fumbled away the ball at the 3:12 mark. Just when things looked bleak for OSU, C.J. Barnett picked off a Boyd pass at the Clemson 48, giving the Buckeyes the ball with 1:27 to go.

But Miller returned the favor, with Clemson’s Stephone Anthony finally sealing the deal with an interception with 1:18 to go.