ATLANTA — Tajh Boyd got what every quarterback wants in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Monday, and he made good on it to lead No. 14 Clemson to a 25-24 win over No. 8 LSU.
After a 12-yard touchdown pass and failed two-point conversion brought Clemson (11-2) to within two of favored LSU (10-3), the Tigers’ defense held strong and gave Boyd the ball back. Thanks to some curious playcalling by LSU head coach Les Miles, Clemson had 1:39 and all its timeouts to work with when it got the ball back for one more drive.
Boyd and receiver DeAndre Hopkins didn’t disappoint the orange-clad crowd in Atlanta, leading Clemson from its own 20 to the LSU 20 to set up a 37-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro as time expired to win the game.
The pass-and-catch duo was phenomenal for the Palmetto State version of the Tigers, as Hopkins caught 13 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns on the night. That was an even bigger contribution considering what Clemson lost on the game’s opening drive.
On the second play of the game, Sammy Watkins injured his ankle and fumbled the ball to set up LSU’s first score of the night, a 17-yard run by Jeremy Hill. Watkins, the explosive playmaker who was an All-American a year ago as a true freshman, didn’t return. Hill, on the other hand, was LSU’s offensive leader, giving his team 124 yards and two scores, the other a 57-yarder on the first play from scrimmage of the second half.
LSU scored in the first two minutes of each of the first three quarters, to be exact, but it was what Clemson did in the final two minutes of the last quarter that decided the game.
The final drive capped a career night for Boyd, the game’s offensive outstanding player. He set career highs in attempts and completions in a 36-of-50 performance that included 346 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 22 yards and another score.
The Clemson defense also responded well to the primetime stage, limiting LSU to 219 yards compared to Clemson’s 445 yards of total offense. The defensive effort was due in large part to the pressure Clemson was able to get on LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, who started off hot and completed all of his passes on LSU’s second scoring drive that ended with a 6-yard strike to Jarvis Landry to give LSU a 14-7 lead.
In all, Clemson sacked Mettenberger six times, three of which came from senior Malliciah Goodman.
The Clemson defense also got an interception from freshman Travis Blanks to quash another LSU drive.
The bowl win marked Clemson’s first victory in three tries over another ranked opponent this season and first bowl win since a 21-13 win over Kentucky in the 2009 Music City Bowl. It was also the team’s first-ever win over LSU.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
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