Miami, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins put Clemson's embarrassing performance in the 2012 Orange Bowl behind them with a record- setting display at Sun Life Stadium on Friday.
Boyd accounted for six touchdowns and 505 yards of offense and Watkins caught 16 passes for 227 yards and two scores as the 12th-ranked Tigers vanquished No. 7 Ohio State, 40-35, in an Orange Bowl of epic proportions.
"I have my hat off to our offensive lines and coaches to put me in the position to make plays. I have definitely been blessed with great players and great coaches over the past two years," Watkins said.
A shootout that featured over 1,000 yards of offense was decided by the defense in the closing sequence, as Clemson forced Braxton Miller into two turnovers in the final 3:12 to secure the program's first BCS bowl victory.
Two years ago, the Tigers (11-2) were involved in a 70-33 beatdown at the hands of West Virginia on this same field, but a Stephone Anthony interception in Clemson territory with 1:18 remaining put that forgettable memory in the rearview mirror.
Miller suffered through several big hits throughout the game but still accounted for four touchdowns, two through the air and two on the ground. The junior quarterback finished with 234 yards on 18-of-26 passing but threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
The heartbreaking defeat was the first for Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer in five BCS bowl appearances and denied Ohio State (12-2), which was one win away from playing in the national title game, from a record-setting sixth BCS victory. It was also the first time Ohio State lost a game when scoring at least 35 points.
The Buckeyes had won 24 consecutive games before losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game and had the Tigers on the ropes Friday before four second-half turnovers ended their season on a sour note.
Carlos Hyde carried the ball 25 times for Ohio State and gained 113 yards, 31 coming on a 4th-and-1 play late in the third quarter that set up the bruising tailback's 1-yard leap into the end zone for a 29-20 Ohio State lead.
Ohio State gave the momentum right back to Clemson, however, with two giveaways in the final five minutes of the third quarter.
After Corey "Philly" Brown muffed at the OSU 33-yard line, Boyd threw into double coverage for Watkins, who jumped over Ohio State cornerback Armani Reeves and plucked the ball out of the air for a 30-yard touchdown to get the Tigers back in the game.
Miller, rushed out of the pocket while trying to avoid a big hit that came anyway, was picked off by Jayron Kearse on the ensuing possession, and Martavis Bryant came down with a juggling 3-yard touchdown catch in the left corner of the end zone shortly thereafter to help Clemson retake the lead.
There were two more lead changes in the fourth quarter, both coming on similar plays. Miller withstood another punishing blow just as he released a 14-yard lob to an open Hyde for a go-ahead score with 11:35 on the clock. Miller was not on the field for the two-point conversion because of the hit, and Kenny Guiton's pass was batted down to keep it a 35-34 game in the Buckeyes' favor.
Clemson responded with a 13-play, 75-yard march that ended in Boyd's fifth touchdown pass. After getting stuffed on two tries inside the 2-yard line, Boyd rolled to his right and threw across the field to an uncovered Stanton Seckinger, who leaked out of his tight end position unnoticed and waltzed in for the deciding 5-yard score with 6:16 to go. A trick two-point conversion, on a pass from Watkins to Boyd, was tipped away at the last moment.
Miller lost a fumble near midfield after getting decleated by Bashaud Breeland, but the Buckeyes miraculously got the ball back with 1:27 remaining after poorly thrown ball by Boyd was intercepted by C.J. Barnett at the Clemson 48-yard line.
Ohio State came up short, though, when Miller underthrew his intended receiver two plays later, as Anthony made a leaping game-sealing interception to secure Clemson's first Orange Bowl win in 32 years.
Both quarterbacks showed what they could do with their legs on their respective opening possessions.
Boyd ran untouched up the middle for a 48-yard touchdown 2:50 into the game, and Miller stutter-stepped down the sideline for a 33-yard score to cap a 13- play, 75-yard drive that was extended with a questionable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Clemson as well as a successful fake punt near midfield.
Watkins ran past the Ohio State secondary on the ensuing possession and hauled in Boyd's 34-yard scoring strike to put Clemson back in front, but Boyd was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone the next time the Tigers had the ball, resulting in a safety.
Clemson stayed ahead by forcing three consecutive three-and-outs and extended its lead when Bryant caught a 3-yard jump ball in the end zone over Reeves with 6:16 remaining in the half.
The extra point, however, hit off the upright, and Ohio State finally moved the chains when Miller and Brown connected for an 18-yard gain on 3rd-and-12. On the next snap, Jeff Heuerman was left wide open down the middle of the field, and Miller found him for a 57-yard touchdown.
Again, the extra point failed, but Ohio State got the ball back with 1:09 left in the half after forcing a turnover on downs by mere inches. Miller took the Buckeyes 64 yards in five plays, capping it with a 2-yard touchdown run himself to send Ohio State in the locker room with a 22-20 advantage.
"We knew we were getting the ball in the second half. We gave up some yards, but we created some plays. If you ask me how I felt at halftime I would have told you I felt fantastic. I knew we were in for a great bowl game here," said Meyer.