Clemson was the butt of the joke after last year’s Orange Bowl.
“West Virginia just scored again.”
That’s what happens when your defense gives up a bowl record 70 points on national television. But in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU nearly one year later, it was Clemson that just scored again. To win. Chandler Catanzaro made a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 14 Clemson a 25-24 victory over No. 9 LSU.
Happy New Year, indeed.
The game-winning opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without a 10-play, 60-yard drive led by quarterback Tajh Boyd with just 1:39 remaining in the game. Facing a 4th-and-16, Boyd connected, as he had 10 times before, with receiver DeAndre Hopkins for 26 yards and a crucial first down. Clemson was given a little bit of help from a pass interference call on LSU safety Eric Reid in the middle of the drive, but that game-winning drive was all Boyd.
There’s no question that the redshirt junior quarterback was the MVP of the game with 339 yards passing and two touchdowns. Boyd also “rushed” 29 times for 22 yards, but as the numbers suggest, Boyd was getting hit in the backfield more than he was running for positive yards. Really, Boyd was getting crushed all night by LSU’s blitzing. He kept getting up each time.
Clemson was able to run 100 plays (to LSU’s 48) for 437 yards, 96 of which came without star wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The sophomore suffered a right leg injury on just the second play of the game and did not return. Hopkins picked up the slack, like he’s done all year, and finished the game with 13 receptions for 190 yards and on the receiving end of both of Boyd’s passing touchdowns.
The dramatic win — and this was easily the best bowl game of the postseason so far — gives Clemson 11 on the season. It also gives the ACC a huge statement victory over the SEC. There’s no way to explain around it and this was no fluke. Clemson ran twice as many plays as LSU with Hopkins out and LSU knocking Boyd senseless. Clemson showed guts.
Or, as Les Miles puts it, “chest.”
So the Tigers (of Clemson) can enjoy their offseason and bask in the joy of an outstanding win over a great opponent. After the embarrassment of last year’s Orange Bowl, they’ve earned it.