The Orange Bowl was billed as a battle of big-time quarterbacks, pitting Braxton Miller vs. Tajh Boyd. It certainly lived up to its billing as a shootout, as Clemson won a wild 40-35 contest that featured four lead changes and 1,003 combined yards. Miller finished with 269 total yards; Boyd had 497 in one of the best games of the postseason.
So, Ohio State finishes the season with consecutive losses after winning the first 24 games of Urban Meyer’s tenure.
BEST OF ORANGE BOWL
Best play: There were many great ones, too many to choose from. But I’m going with Sammy Watkins’ 30-yard scoring grab in the third quarter that cut Ohio State’s lead to 29-27. The play came on third down, as Watkins soared over his defender and snatched the ball out the air. Spectacular.
Best player: Sammy Watkins or Tajh Boyd? Take your choice. Watkins nabbed 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. The catches and yards were school single-game and Orange Bowl records. But Boyd has to be the choice. He hit 30-of-39 passes (77 percent) for 370 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, while rushing 20 times for a team-high 127 yards and a score.
Best moment: Braxton Miller took a vicious hit that drew a penalty after lofting a pass to a wide open Carlos Hyde, who walked into the end zone with a 14-yard scoring grab to give Ohio State a 35-34 lead with 11:35 left. That capped an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive that answered two Clemson scores that had given the Tigers the lead. Ohio State eventually relinquished the lead, but the play epitomized the toughness and grit Miller displayed all night.
Best stat: 15, penalties on Clemson. And they went for 144 yards. Add in two turnovers, and the Tigers had some issues. Still, they were able to overcome their mistakes and still claim the victory.
Offense: B. The attack got off to a slow start but slowly gained steam. Clemson committed to stopping the run, daring Braxton Miller to throw. And, for the most part, it worked. Miller hit 16-of-24 passes for 234 yards, but tossed two picks to go along with his two scoring passes. He also was limited to just 35 yards rushing on 18 carries (1.9 ypc) with two touchdowns.
Defense: F. The Buckeyes have struggled mightily to defend the pass all season. How bad has it been? OSU entered the game ranked 11th in the Big Ten vs. the pass (259.5 ypg). The bleeding continued tonight, as Ohio State allowed 576 yards with 370 coming through the air as Tajh Boyd completed 77 percent of his passes with five scoring strikes.
Special Teams: C. The Buckeyes executed a successful fake punt on their first drive of the game en route to scoring a touchdown. And OSU downed a punt on the 1-yard line in the first quarter, and the defense notched a safety on the next play. The Buckeyes had a second quarter PAT blocked and muffed a punt that led to a TD, which pulls this grade way down.
It was over when: Facing third-and-goal at the Ohio State 5-yard line, Tajh Boyd hit a wide open Stanton Seckinger for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed, but Clemson led, 40-35, with 6:16 left in the game. On Ohio State’s ensuing possession, Clemson sacked Braxton Miller, forced a fumble and recovered with 3:12 left. Ohio State picked off Boyd, but the Buckeyes gave it right back on a Miller interception—one of four Ohio State turnovers.
What worked: Carlos Hyde running. With Braxton Miller limited to 35 yards rushing on 18 carries (1.9 ypc), Hyde picked up the rushing slack with 25 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown after a slow first half. OSU finished with 193 yards rushing. Hyde also caught two passes for 39 yards and a score.
What didn’t work: Anything the defense tried. No doubt, an already-struggling unit was compromised, as Ohio State was without its top pass rusher in Noah Spence, who was suspended for the game, and its top cornerback in Bradley Roby, who was out with injury. No wonder Clemson finished with 576 yards.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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