Two very good teams treated us to the offensive explosion we all expected, as Sammy Watkins and a bruised and battered Braxton Miller sparred in what was an exciting Orange Bowl with more than 1,000 total yards of offense. Watkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd set yardage records for the game, as the Clemson Tigers outlasted the Ohio State Buckeyes, 40-35.
Clemson moved up the field slowly at the start of their first drive, but Boyd took the ball up the middle for 49 yards, speeding past the Ohio State defense to take the 7-0 lead.
The Buckeyes nearly had their first drive stopped twice, as they were unable to convert on two third downs, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Clemson and a successful fake punt allowed Ohio State to move down the field. Miller tied it up, taking the snap down the left side, running by the defense, using a perfect hesitation and bursting into the end zone for the 33-yard touchdown. The run tied the game at 7-7.
On Clemson's ensuing drive, Boyd found Watkins behind the defense for an easy 34-yard touchdown, taking the lead back at 14-7. The Buckeyes were able to pin the Tigers at their own one on the next drive, and their defense came through in a big way on the next play. Clemson called a play-action pass out of the shotgun, leaving Ohio State way too much time to get into the backfield. Boyd threw the ball away in the face of pressure and was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety.
Midway through the second quarter, the Tigers struck again. Boyd found Martavis Bryant on a beautiful pass near the corner of the end zone. The receiver beat his man and brought the ball down, making it 20-9.
Ohio State was able to strike back, overcoming some poor offensive line play to break through with another big play, This time, Miller found a wide open Jeff Heuerman over the middle for a 57-yard touchdown, making the score 20-15 after a second straight missed PAT. After holding Clemson, Ohio State was able to get the ball back and drive thanks to some costly penalties. Miller ran up the middle for a short keeper score, giving the Buckeyes the lead at 22-20 just before the half.
Ohio State strengthened its advantage midway through the third quarter on the legs of Carlos Hyde and the flags of the officials. Two more Clemson penalties helped the Buckeyes move downfield, and Hyde broke through with a 31-yard run, breaking multiple tackles and taking it to the 1-yard line. On the next play, he dove over the pile, making it 29-20.
The Tigers came right back at them; Boyd capped a long drive with a play-action rollout, heaving the ball towards Watkins in the end zone. The junior leapt above the Ohio State defender, hauling in the catch and cutting the Buckeyes' lead to 29-27.
Clemson picked off Miller and saw momentum roar back to the Tigers. At the end of the ensuing drive, Boyd found Bryant in the corner of the end zone, giving Clemson the 34-29 lead.
The Buckeyes drove on the next drive, with Miller and Hyde leading the way once again. Miller found his running back for a 25-yard gain down the left side, and two plays later the two connected again for a 13-yard score on a wheel route. The two-point conversion was no good, and Ohio State led 35-34.
Clemson came right back with an incredible drive of their own, and the Tigers were able to score near the goal line after being stuffed by the Ohio State defense. Boyd stepped out of bounds with the ball on the 2-yard line after a quick run, and Ohio State stopped Clemson at the goal-line twice in a row, before a false start penalty gave them more room to work with. Boyd found Stanton Seckinger wide open on the left side, and the failed two-point conversion made it 40-35.
Miller, who was playing in obvious pain, tried to lead Ohio State down the field on the next drive but turned the ball over after getting rocked by the TIgers' pass rush.
Clemson had an opportunity to seal it, but on third down with less than 90 seconds to play, Boyd threw an interception to give Ohio State one last shot. Two plays later, Miller threw his pass right over the middle to Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony, sealing the win. Anthony appeared to bobble the ball during the process of the catch, leading some to question whether or not he had full possession. The play was not reviewed, and Clemson kneeled on the ball to win it.
Box Score Hero: Watkins. 16 receptions for 227 yards (an Orange Bowl and Clemson record) and two touchdowns. Boyd also set an Orange Bowl record with 486 total yards.
Rankings Ramifications: Ohio State came into the game ranked No. 7, while Clemson was ranked No. 12. The Tigers will likely move into the top ten, while the Buckeyes could see themselves out of it.
But Did They Cover? Ohio State was a 3-point favorite, so they did not.