MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — For the second time in three years, Clemson fell apart at the Orange Bowl. Only this time, the Tigers found a way to recover.
And thanks to Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and plenty of others, the end result was Clemson’s biggest win in a generation.
Boyd threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns, Watkins had a record-setting night with 16 catches for 227 yards, and No. 12 Clemson rallied to beat No. 7 Ohio State 40-35 on Friday for the school’s first Orange Bowl win in 32 years.
“We are Orange Bowl champs again,” Clemson coach Dabo 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.”
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Boyd’s 5-yard pass to Stanton Seckinger with 6:16 remaining put the Tigers (11-2) ahead to stay on a night when they allowed 20 unanswered points in wasting an early 11-point lead. Watkins caught two scoring passes, plus became Clemson’s career receptions leader and set an Orange Bowl record for yardage.
Martavis Bryant caught two more TD passes for the Tigers, who posted consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time in school history.
“It takes teams to win,” Swinney said. “And listen, we made enough mistakes to probably lose the game tonight. But we kept picking each other up. Our defense was awesome.”
Braxton Miller threw for 234 yards and Carlos Hyde ran for 113 more for Ohio State (12-2), which led 29-20 in the second half but wound up losing its second straight game — after having won each of its previous 24 under coach Urban Meyer, whose record in Bowl Championship Series games fell to 4-1. Corey Brown had 116 yards receiving for the Buckeyes.
Miller was intercepted twice in the final 3:12, dooming the Buckeyes. Boyd threw an interception to give Ohio State the ball back, but Miller was picked again — Stephone Anthony made the play for the Tigers — and Clemson ran out the clock.
“It’s going to sting for a while, probably a long while because we didn’t finish,” Meyer said. “It was right there.”
In the end, Boyd was standing tallest.
“What a legacy,” Swinney said. “He put an exclamation point on it tonight.”