Posted January 04, 2014

Clemson proves it belongs on national stage with Orange Bowl win over Ohio State

Clemson Tigers, Dabo Swinney, Ohio State, Orange Bowl, Urban Meyer
The Tajh Boyd (right) to Sammie Watkins (left) connection helped Dabo Swinney and Clemson earn their first BCS win. (Chris Trotman)

The Tajh Boyd (right) to Sammy Watkins (left) connection helped Dabo Swinney and Clemson earn their first BCS win. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – They clutched the oranges high above their heads, cheering as they shook their fists back and forth. A few moments after the end of Friday’s Orange Bowl, Clemson players lined the top of a stage in front of thousands of Tigers fans who refused to leave their seats at Sun Life Stadium.

The players were armed with handfuls of oranges and weren’t afraid to launch them sporadically into the crowd. Even head coach Dabo Swinney, grinning from ear to ear, got into the mix by grabbing an occasional orange from the top of the Orange Bowl trophy and hurling it into the stands. Fans treated the fruit like guitar picks handed down from rock stars.

Only two seasons ago, on this same field and in this same stadium, Clemson’s growth under Swinney had seemingly stalled. But the Tigers’ thrilling 40-35 win over Ohio State in Friday’s Orange Bowl proved Clemson’s last trip to Miami was an aberration. These Tigers belong on a national stage, and they showed it by upending a Buckeyes squad that had won 24 of its last 25 contests. For that reason, they weren’t afraid to celebrate.

“Two years ago, it was probably unthinkable for a lot of people, when I sat at this same podium after the butt-whippin’ we took, that we would be 22-4 since that night,” Swinney said. “We talked at that last trip about how it wouldn’t be 30 years before we got back. Well, we got back.”

Clemson’s last trip to the Orange Bowl resulted in a 70-33 throttling at the hands of West Virginia on Jan. 4, 2012. Swinney spoke many times this week about the negativity surrounding the program after that embarrassing outcome. But the two-year turnaround came full-circle Friday night, when senior quarterback Tajh Boyd closed his record-setting career in spectacular fashion and gave Clemson its first-ever BCS victory.

Boyd completed 31-of-40 passes and accounted for 505 total yards of offense – second-most all-time to Florida’s Tim Tebow in a BCS game – and five touchdowns. His favorite target on the night, junior receiver Sammy Watkins, earned Orange Bowl MVP with a bowl-record 227 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The duo became too much for the Buckeyes to handle as coach Urban Meyer’s crew lost consecutive games for the first time in the coach’s tenure.

Boyd, Watkins and the Tigers looked to be facing another Orange Bowl letdown early in the fourth quarter, when Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller threw his second passing touchdown of the day to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the game. The teams had traded scores all night in a back-and-forth contest of top-15 offenses that lived up to its billing. Staring at the end of his career, Boyd gathered his offense and responded in kind by driving 75 yards in 13 plays and capping the series with a five-yard touchdown pass to Stanton Seckinger. That score gave Clemson a 40-35 lead with just over five minutes to play.

But no lead was safe in a game in which both teams combined for 1,003 yards of offense, only 29 shy of the bowl record. Miller and the Buckeyes’ offense marched into Clemson territory eyeing the go-ahead score, but Bashaud Breeland sacked Miller and forced a fumble, which Clemson linebacker Spencer Shuey recovered. The Tigers hoped to run the clock out from there. Ohio State had other plans, however, and they intercepted Boyd on a long third down to get one final shot at the end zone.

But the Tigers’ defense stepped up again. Two plays later, linebacker Stephone Anthony picked off Miller with just over a minute remaining in the game. The Clemson sideline erupted, two years of agony lifting off the players’ shoulders. “We got turnovers,” Anthony said, “and we got stops when we needed ‘em.”

Swinney said this roster, especially Boyd, tailback Roderick McDowell and a host of other seniors, took on the challenge when they were needed most Friday.

“They just responded,” the coach said. “They didn’t pout. They didn’t put their head down. They went out and found a way to get another win.”

On one sideline, the Buckeyes watched as Clemson players celebrated atop the Orange Bowl stage. Ohio State players ended the night with notions of unfinished business lingering around the program. The Buckeyes had won 24 straight games in Meyer’s two seasons before the team’s loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game last month. In 2012, an undefeated Ohio State team was ineligible for a shot at a BCS title because of NCAA sanctions. The roster came up short again this season, except this time they closed the year with a losing streak.

The Buckeyes will lose Hyde and other seniors, and it’s likely Miller, junior linebacker Ryan Shazier and other key players could depart early, as well. Meyer said the Orange Bowl was an unfortunate ending to defining class of players at Ohio State.

“It’s going to sting for a while, probably a long while,” Meyer said, “because we just didn’t finish and it was right there to finish.”

Clemson didn’t finish with a national championship, but in a sense, Swinney and the Tigers did what just what they’d set out to do. The memories of their last Orange Bowl appearance gradually faded away as Swinney’s players danced atop the stage on Friday night. No more was this a program that can’t remain relevant on a national level. This group of players, according to Boyd, was entirely different from the youthful roster that left Miami as losers after the 2011 season.

“Obviously it was a disappointing and disheartening loss,” Boyd said of the game against West Virginia. “But it’s something that you’ll never forget. During that season, we were a very young team. We didn’t understand success and what came with it.

“For us, it was all about the transition and continuing to move forward year in and year out. You’ve seen the accumulation of what we are now, a driven team who knows how to win games.”

The growing legacy of Swinney as a coach coincided with the culminating legacy of a senior quarterback who finished as the winningest passer in Clemson history. Boyd didn’t cap his career with a crystal ball, but he helped build the Tigers’ program into exactly what Swinney envisioned when he recruited the quarterback.

“I sat at [Boyd’s] house, at his kitchen table in Virginia,” Swinney said. “Jim Tressel was in the back yard, and Mike Belotti was in the front yard waiting for me to leave. I said, ‘Tajh, if you’ll believe in me, we will change Clemson’ …All these seniors, they changed Clemson.”

Boyd wouldn’t have had it any other way. “I couldn’t pick a better way to go out as a senior,” he said.

Boyd might be leaving, as will others who played integral roles in fulfilling Swinney’s promise. But they’re leaving Clemson in better shape than they found it. Not long ago the notion of this Tigers squad handling itself against a Big Ten powerhouse like Ohio State would be laughable on a national level. Now Clemson is one of at least two ACC teams – BCS title-bound Florida State being the other – that’s competing with the nation’s big boys year in and year out.

At the end of the Tigers’ celebration on the field on Friday, the Clemson players joined in a loud chant with the thousands of remaining fans in Sun Life Stadium: “C-L-E-M-S-O-N.” The team and its fans weren’t celebrating a national title, which was the original goal when the Tigers entered the season as a preseason top-10 team. But they’re getting close, and that’s all Swinney could ask for.

“We didn’t quite get to the top of the mountain like we wanted, but we can see it,” the coach said. “Tonight, we took another step forward.”

62 comments
Richard--Ramirez
Richard--Ramirez

For OSU it was Championship or bust, this game was meaningless.


Sad thing is they could have beat Mich St 9 out of 10 times and you know they probably would have beat FSU.

JEPD
JEPD

Actually, EVERYbody's in trouble after C harlie Strong's had a couple years at Texas.  His defenses were HUGE in the development of Florida and SC into serious powers, and look what he did with Louville.  I just hate to see such a gentleman and champion subjected to the bigotry and politics of the Texas overseers.  Austin will be a refreshing thing for him, though.

JEPD
JEPD

The only overrated SEC teams were Alabama and ATM.  Georgia lost so much to injuries after the SC game it hardly figures into the argument.  SC beat three of the big bowl winners: Missouri, UCF and Clemson, then took down Wisconsin in its own bowl, but ended up only the number 4 bowl choice from the SEC.  OK was great against Alabama, but I don't see any proof the SEC as a whole was overrated.  In fact, it's Auburn who got away with murder twice that should annoy people, but that's not a matter of ratings.  They won the games.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

My Lord, even the ACC is better than the notorious B1G.

BobRayTalbot
BobRayTalbot

Wow, this really tells you where the Big 10 is right now.  Clemson was manhandled by FSU and beaten soundly by South Carolina.  Now, they turn around and beat Ohio State?  

Listening
Listening

What a let down for OSU.  I guess the cupcake schedule is starting to show it may not be the best way to go.  OSU almost lost to Mich.  MICH!!!!!  Come on...  Then MSU handles them.  Clemson won their first EVER BCS Bowl game.  Oh well.  Braxton????  Not so much.........

bees31ballard
bees31ballard

Hey Clemson nation. Big Stage huh...  Did you forget your other big stages this season. FSU blowout, South Carolina manhandling. Oh, I guess those two 1-AA wins count for the 11 win season.  Congrats on beating in a close game a way over rated as usual Big 10 team.. OSU is not even a top 15 team and neither is Clemson, so no wonder the game was close..  Big Deal..

drbcool
drbcool

Oops - Clemson plays in the ACC. Oh well, I'm still glad OSU lost.

drbcool
drbcool

What was it the OSU player said? "We'll wipe the floor with either one of them." He was talking about Auburn or Alabama -- they would beat either one. But a lower-ranked SEC team? Well, that's a different story. It was a well-deserved loss.

espnrefugee0218
espnrefugee0218

hey so what did anyone in these bowl games actually win? Doritos or something?  5th loser? whaa what does it all mean ...congrats you are the beef o brady little ceaser capital one dild0  bowl champion  

good riddance bcs 

DavidLoeb
DavidLoeb

P.S. Everybody blamed Luke Fickell but OSU's offense in the fourth quarter was horrendous. What was it 2or 3 INT's. By the way OSU's undefeated record when nobody cared is looking pretty lame.....


DavidLoeb
DavidLoeb

0-2 in big games under Urbane Meyer. So much for the big game hunter.....LOL


WilyCoyoteSuperGenius
WilyCoyoteSuperGenius

What was proved was that Ohio and the Big Ten are both over rated - as usual.

ianlinross
ianlinross

How the heck did Swinney and Clemson beat the Wizard? I don't understand, both Saban and Meyer lose bowl games. Heck these guys are supposed to be Crystal Magnates?

lavudyar
lavudyar

Fun game! Yes, I'm disappointed my Buckeyes lost. Yes, Fickell needs to shoulder the lion's share of the blame, he really needs to go. But the most egregious error of all last night was Urban leaving Miller in the game. Braxton has an absolute cannon, and he badly underthrew both Heuerman and Brown when they were wide open, as well as shorting quite a few other passes. It was obvious he was hurt, and hurt enough to really affect his play. KG should have played the 2nd half.


That said, hats off to Clemson, they took what they were given and came away with the win.

mightymac63
mightymac63

Being a long time Buckeyes fan here.. It's time for Urban Meyer to fire once for all his DC/Luke Fickell. Giving up over 1600 yards in the last three games, and having one of the worst pass defenses in the country, is well deserving of a pink slip. Granted they were missing Roby, Bryant and Spence on the defense, but there is talent on the defense. Just bad coaching by Fickell. 


And why did Meyer keep Miller in the game? Braxton looked hurt will all the shots he was taking. And that pick with 90 seconds left in the game showed he was in pain. 


Congrads to Clemson on a good game. Watkins is a beast of a WR. That catch he made was Megatron style. 

OwenCaterwall3
OwenCaterwall3

Every team is built to compete in its conference. Over sized offensive linemen and strong running games win Big 10 titles in November. Out side in the cold. 

SEC teams don't face the same conditions and their teams are built accordingly. And the bowl games are played in their comfort zone. 

I don't know the numbers but I suspect the Big 10 is well represented int the NFL, certainly the presence of Brady, Breese, Wilson, Cousins,Pryor, and Orton, all starting last week suggest that the Big 10 is doing something right. That's 19% of the league.

btcvsolo
btcvsolo

Arguably the best bowl so far...a very well fought game & OSU has nothing to be ashamed about.


(OK....so maybe the QB threw an inconvenient interception at the end there, but his playing through obvious pain gives him a pass; so to speak...) Nice job by Clemson....

perfectappledave
perfectappledave

I'm a Big 10 fan but sadly everything said here is true except for MSU. Defense wins titles and the Spartans have an awesome D.

dandogwood
dandogwood

Dabbo dubbed Urban but Ohio needs a defensive coordinator badly.

mkd09
mkd09

All 24-0 gets you is bragging rights as the best team in the state of Ohio. Big10 is now 2-5 in bowls this year... And people say the SEC is overhyped. Probably no better than fourth best conference in college football. With a playoff system next year it is very likely the Big 10 won't see a national title contender for a long time...

jlindley007
jlindley007

@BobRayTalbotI totally agree. The BIG sucks. They suck! There fans are dilusional. The conference sucks.

jlindley007
jlindley007

@ListeningOSU will be ranked #3 in the nation in 6 months so it is a sorry system! BIG sucks

Listening
Listening

@drbcool  

"We'll wipe the floor with them".  

Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!  Classic  but wait is this the same team that swore they should be in the national championship game????? 

Jpaddo81
Jpaddo81

Lol we're the Scrubbin' Bubbles Toilet Bowl Champions! Yeah!....unfortunately all these crazy bowls aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

ChiefG
ChiefG

@DavidLoeb   One player threw those INTs and fumbled. How does the entire Offense get the blame? Moron.  And Fickels defense is exactly why they lost and should have lost more games this past season.

SandHills
SandHills

@ianlinross 


Except comparing Stoops at OU to "Yaba Dabo Doo" Swinney is almost as bad as comparing George Clooney to Tiny Tim as a matinee idol...

lavudyar
lavudyar

Oh, and Watkins is a MONSTER. Even if we'd had Roby on the field, I don't see how to stop that guy!

tprice8558
tprice8558

@OwenCaterwall3 What does Clemson's win over an overrated Ohio have to do with the SEC? Clemson plays in the 2nd weakest conference in the USA (ACC).

DavidandTracyAgee
DavidandTracyAgee

@OwenCaterwall3Did you hit your head?  Clemson is from the ACC.  As for the offensive lineman issue...  Alabama and Stanford are probably the 2 biggest examples of massive offensive lineman and power running over the last few years (Bama seemed to move more to the pass this  year) - they are from the SEC and PAC respectively.  In fact, until 2 years ago there was more Power Running in the SEC than the Big 10.  Most teams are built with winning their conference championship and ultimately the  NC in mind.  Where does the Big 10 play its conference championship???  Indoors.  Where is the Conferences biggest bowl tie???  sunny California.  Where are all the NC games played???  Excellent conditions.  Are you saying Big 10 teams aren't trying to win their conference or NC or are you saying they just aren't well put together?  I am confused. 


*You can google NFL players by college and conference affiliation.  The Big 10 and Ohio State are indeed well represented.  Check it out, the results might surprise you.

SandHills
SandHills

@OwenCaterwall3 


We are about to see in this weekend's NFL playoff games why Bowl games are not played in "Yankee-land" in Dec/Jan.


To say that Big 10 is built to beat only other Big 10 teams - and fall woefully short in bowl games against other conferences - sort of admits why they should not even be relevant any longer in the National Championship picture.

DavidandTracyAgee
DavidandTracyAgee

@btcvsoloI can't remember a season with so many exciting regular season, conference championships and bowl games.  It has been a great year for college football.  Teams like Auburn, Duke really have caused a great deal of excitement as they have come back to prominence from their various depths.  Our favorite sport seems to be thriving right now.

SandHills
SandHills

@mkd09 


The problem is the hype....all it will take is one Big 10 team on any given year to run like a hot knife through butter in it's Big 10 schedule and the hype will take care of the rest and guarantee at least one of those 4 playoff spots.  The problem will be that a better SEC team (or Big 12, PAC 12, or even ACC) will get left out because it lost a game in a tougher conference. 


With one game left to play one can say that one semi-final has been played (OK and Bama, does anyone really think Michigan State or Stanford could play either of them?) - but a 4 team playoff would have left  the Sooners out in favor of Sparty.  And IF Auburn beats FSU, then the same could be said about the ACC as the Big Ten - playing in an easier conference has it's advantages, especially given an extra boost of hype.  Again, take Clemson - it hasn't even been the best in the state of S.C. for the last five years - and it's coach is already hyping his team as NC material.


Those poor Gamecocks.  They beat Clemson, Central Florida, and Mizzou - all won their bowl games, two of them BCS bowls.  But because they play in a tougher conference it is harder to run the table when even an improving Tennessee team can jump up and bite you on any given Saturday. 

DavidLoeb
DavidLoeb

@ChiefG@DavidLoebWhen that player is the QB and no one could protect him yeah I would blame the offense. Least you spelled moron correctly. Your missing the point OSU was overrated. Second best in big Ten, period....


SandHills
SandHills

@tprice8558 @OwenCaterwall3 


....well maybe because Clem's son  hasn't beaten it's in-state rival in the last 5 years, which just happens to be an SEC team?


 But overall, Owen Caterwall didn't make any cognitive point at all in his post...

tmadz
tmadz

@SandHills @OwenCaterwall3 I would think that Michigan State, and Nebraska would disagree with you. With the exception of Michigan, who are still weak, the games were all very competitive.


I would say that the SEC wasn't the behemoth they were portrayed as. The ACC, BIG12, PAC12  also did pretty well. A mixed bag for everyone. Maybe more parity than everyone thought.

tennsc
tennsc

@SandHills@mkd09I love how all of the USC fans constantly talk crap about the ACC, yet the banner for their ONLY football conference championship is from 1969 when they were in the ACC. If the ACC sucks so much then you should be ashamed and take the banner down. 

USC fans constantly talk about how tough their SEC schedule is, so let's look at it: a loss to georgia (8-5), a loss to Tennessee(5-7, 2-6 in conference), a win against (Kentucky 2-10 including 0 conference wins and a loss agaiinst Western Kentucky), a win against Florida (4-8 including a home loss against Georgia Southern who had zero passing yards), a win against Arkansas (3-9, 0-8 in conference), and  Miss St (7-6, 3-5 in conference).

So of the USC conference wins 5 came against opponents with a combined W-L record of 8 wins and 32 losses. The combined records of those same opponents was 21 Wins and 40 losses. Of their 6 conference wins, they beat one team with a winning record - Missouri and one that was .500 - Vanderbilt. 

So they did beat Clemson for the 5th year in a row, but to continue to boast about how tough the SEC is, is playing games with the records. Kentucky, Florida, and Miss State were horrible. You lost to a Tennessee team you should have beaten. I wish you guys would just win your conference and then a national championship so you would quit crying about how tough your schedule is. Carolina can't with their conference so they talk about how tough their schedule is.


hfuhruhurr
hfuhruhurr

@SandHills @tprice8558 @OwenCaterwall3 "cognitive point?"  What are you talking about?!  Check *your* first sentence...it has a lame pun; you used the wrong "its"; and you ended your statement with a question mark.  Are you Ron Burgundy?

DanMcDermott
DanMcDermott

@Twen15 @SandHills Murray is the SEC's all-time leader in both passing TDs and yards.  Go ahead and think he and Martinez are equals.

Twen15
Twen15

@SandHillsits not as if Nebraska was playing with their starting QB either. Wisconsin looked very good until they lost their starting QB whose backup proceeded to turn it over 3 times in 4 drives.

SandHills
SandHills

@tmadz @SandHills @OwenCaterwall3 


Next year starts off pretty good with Sparty traveling out to play the Ducks in Eugene - an early test to see if a Big 10 powerhouse victory over Stanford was not a fluke.  Oh, and Nebraska beating a beat up - and Murray-less QB - Georgia ain't exactly leaving any SEC shaking in their boots either.


But I suppose those 2 bowl wins has to be some consolation for all those other bowls where the Big 10 true relevancy was demonstrated - heck, the Big 10 can't even beat a team from that small Palmetto state (and that Michigan helmet is still rolling somewhere).