MIAMI GARDENS, FL - Clemson's Martavis Bryant catches a touchdown pass against Ohio State's Armani Reeves during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on Jan. 3, 2014. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
The Buckeyes’ defense was ripped to shreds and the offense repeated its uneven performance from the Big Ten championship game in a 40-35 loss to No. 12 Clemson.
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — For No. 7 Ohio State, it was deja vu all over again.
The Buckeyes’ defense was ripped to shreds and the offense repeated its uneven performance from the Big Ten championship game in a 40-35 loss to No. 12 Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl Friday night.
As in their loss to Michigan State, the Buckeyes fell behind and rallied back to take the lead but couldn’t hold it against an inspired underdog.
"It's going to sting for a while, probably a long while because we didn't finish," coach Urban Meyer said. "It was right there."
Braxton Miller threw for 234 yards and Carlos Hyde ran for 113 more for Ohio State (12-2), which led by nine in the second half but wound up losing its second straight game — after winning its previous 24 under Meyer. Corey Brown had 116 yards receiving for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State allowed 115 points in the season's final three games. The Buckeyes gave up exactly that many in the season's first six games.
"We're not a championship-caliber defense right now," Meyer said.
The Buckeyes had a 29-20 lead in the third quarter after Hyde picked up 31 yards on 4th-and-inches, then went airborne to break the plane of the goal line on the next play.
"I felt like the offense was starting to get clicking at that point," Hyde said. "I thought we could make it happen."
Then the mistakes started coming in bunches for Ohio State. A fumbled punt return and an interception led to two Clemson touchdown passes, putting the Tigers up entering the fourth.
An interception gave the Buckeyes the ball with 1:27 left near midfield, with Ohio State needing a touchdown to take the lead. But Miller — who was shaken up in the fourth quarter, saying afterward he had a cracked rib and a shoulder issue — was picked off two plays later, and the Tigers ran out the clock.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns, and wide receiver Sammy Watkins had a record-setting night with 16 catches for 227 yards.
After the game, Clemson's players lobbed oranges at their delirious fans, while coach Dabo Swinney lobbed a not-so-subtle jab at the Tigers' in-state rival.
"Hey, listen: Two years ago we got our butts kicked on this field,” Swinney said, referring to a 70-33 blowout by West Virginia. “And it has been a journey to get back. We're 22-4 since that night. And we are the first team from the state of South Carolina to ever win a BCS game."
Boyd finished with 505 all-purpose yards, outgaining Ohio State by 78 yards himself.
"It's a very special night," Boyd said. "Just the significance of this game, not for me particularly, not for this team particularly, but for this university ... I couldn't pick a better way to go out as a senior."
"What a legacy," Swinney said. "He put an exclamation point on it tonight."
Boyd's 5-yard pass to Stanton Seckinger with 6:16 remaining put the Tigers (11-2) ahead to stay, despite allowing 20 unanswered points in wasting an early 11-point lead. Watkins caught two scoring passes, plus became Clemson's career receptions leader and set an Orange Bowl record for yardage. Martavis Bryant caught two more TD passes for the Tigers, who posted consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time in school history.
Hyde caught a 14-yard scoring pass from Miller with 11:35 left, giving the Buckeyes a one-point lead, but Clemson and Boyd went on one last scoring march to give the Tigers their first BCS win.
Boyd's 3-yard touchdown pass to Bryant had Ohio State facing a 20-9 deficit, but two scores in a 3½-minute span gave the Buckeyes a 22-20 halftime lead. Clemson left Jeff Heuerman wide open down the middle for a 57-yard touchdown pass from Miller, making it a one-score game. And on a drive aided by a 15-yard penalty against Clemson's Darius Robinson, Miller ran in from 3 yards with 12 seconds left to give the Buckeyes their first lead.
But the game changed again, and in the end, Boyd and the Tigers were standing tall.
"It just means we're one step closer to our ultimate goal," Swinney said, "and that's to be the best in the country."