Tigers battle past No. 7 LSU 25-24

Eight three-and-outs, six sacks, Tajh Boyd, Nuk Hopkins, Chandler Catanzaro help claim Clemson claim 11th victory

Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl at the Georgie Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl at the Georgie Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

ATLANTA - The Clemson Tigers have had some unforgettable years.

Now they have a New Year’s Eve they’ll never forget.

Chandler Catanzaro split the uprights on a 37-yard field goal as time expired to lift No. 14 Clemson (11-2) to a stunning 25-24 victory over LSU on Monday in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Trailing by two points with 99 seconds to play and 80 yards to travel in the Georgia Dome, Dabo Swinney’s team moved all the way to the LSU 20, leaving the game in the hands (and right foot) of Catanzaro.

The junior sidewinder delivered in the ultimate pressure situation, helping his team record just the fourth 11-victory season in school history and sending LSU (10-3) down to a shocking setback.

“It was unbelievable,” Catanzaro said. “I have to thank the team for setting me up. It seemed like that last drive was meant to be. I was confident out there. I’ve kicked a game-winner before and I just went out there and kicked it.”

Swinney was obviously proud of his kicker but there was plenty of pride to spread around.

"I'm just so excited for our team and our program,” Swinney said. “It's been 31 years since we've won 11 games at Clemson. It's been a steady process. And tonight these guys fought every play. They fought for every patch of grass. They overcame adversity. They played with a lot of love and toughness, and a desire to win. They played with a commitment that is uncommon.”

This was not the expected SEC beatdown of an outmanned ACC foe by any stretch of the imagination; for much of the night Clemson gave as good as it got in a physical and often chippy battle. In fact Brent Venables’ defense turned in a tour de force performance, finishing with a season-high eight sacks.

Rashard Hall had eight solo tackles for the victors while Spender Shuey was in on seven.

Clemson 25 LSU 24 wrap-up

Death Valley bowl goes to Clemson

But two fumbles that led to 10 LSU points, a blocked extra point and the running of freshman sensation Jeremy Hill (124 yards, two touchdowns) seemed to be enough to lift Les Miles’ No. 9 squad to a victory and an 11-2 record.

Swinney and company had other ideas.

Clemson scored with 2:47 remaining in the game when Offensive MVP Tajh Boyd connected with DeAndre Hopkins on a 12-yard aerial that closed the gap with the Bayou Bengals to 24-22.

But the try for two failed, leaving the Palmetto State-based Tigers two points shy of possibly sending this one to overtime.

Another good defensive stand forced a punt, though, giving Clemson the ball one more time.

“(Having) 1:39 is like 10-15 minutes for us,” Boyd said. “When I saw the clock and saw that we had three timeouts I said, ‘Let’s get it.’ It didn’t look promising after the first few plays but it became a special moment.”

Hopkins kept the drive alive with a 26-yard catch on a fourth-and-16 play from the Clemson 14, and the ACC Tigers rode that momentum all the way to victory.

Boyd was 36-50-0 for 346 yards and two TDs while Hopkins caught 13 balls for 191 yards and reeled in both of Boyd’s scoring throws.

“Boyd was phenomenal,” Miles said. “We delivered a lot of clean hits against him and he still was able to continue to play so well.”

While LSU’s first touchdown of the game took 55 seconds, its first of the second half came just 17 seconds into the frame.

A 43-yard kickoff return by Michael Ford helped Miles’ Tigers set up shop at their 43, and one handoff later they were on the board again when Hill cut loose for a 47-yard touchdown at 13:52 of the third.

It was the 12th TD of the year for the true freshman, breaking Dalton Hilliard’s record of 11 as a first-year Bengal, and it provided a bit of separation for LSU at 21-13.

Drew Alleman provided a bit more at the third quarter’s 4:49 juncture, making it a two-score game when his 20-yard field kicked LSU to a 24-13 edge.

With 9:26 remaining in both team’s seasons Catanzaro cracked a 26-yard goal to pull Clemson to with 24-16.

The contest couldn’t have started any worse for Clemson.

Sammy Watkins fumbled on the second play from scrimmage, suffering a game-ending ankle injury in the process and giving the ball to LSU at the 23.

“After Sammy got hurt on the second play we had to do a lot of cutting and pasting of our game plan,” CU offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “We had a lot of it planned around him.”

It took just two snaps and two carries by Eric Hill to put the SEC representatives on the board, with Hill rambling 17-yards for a score at 14:05 of the first to put the Bayou Bengals in front.

The Palmetto State-based Tigers, however, answered the bell - and they answered it quickly.

Marching 75 yards in 11 plays and sparked by Boyd’s 4-for-4 passing and running, Clemson marched all the way to the Bayou Bengals’ 11. From there Boyd did the heavy lifting himself, spinning loose at the line of scrimmage and racing across the stripe for a TD at 9:46 of the first.

Catanzaro kicked true, knotting the score at 7-all.

That’s how the score stood through the first quarter but LSU regained the advantage less than two minutes into the second stanza.

Traveling 65 yards in eight plays – and aided by a roughing the passer penalty – Les Miles’ crew advanced to the Clemson 6.

From there Zach Mettenberger decided to test the skies, hitting Jarvis Landry for a touchdown strike as the sophomore wideout clutched the ball and fell backward into the back corner of the end zone.

The kick made it a 14-7 game with 13:13 showing on the second quarter clock.

With 5:43 to go before the bands took the field, it was a 1-point game.

Starting at their own 30 and running eight plays, Swinney’s Tigers chipped away at the LSU defense and finally cracked it on a thread-the-needle hookup between Boyd and Hopkins that resulted in an 11-yard touchdown.

Win next best to national title

None

The extra point was not automatic, though; LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan blocked Catanzaro’s attempt at the single to help Miles’ crew stay in front at 14-13 and snap the kicker’s streak of 56-consecutive PATs.

And when the horn sounded to end 30 minutes of play, Clemson was staring at a halftime deficit for the first time all season.

“Before the game, (Swinney) talked about how we would face adversity,” Boyd said. “Getting the win would be all about how we responded to it.”

At the end of the night, Catanzaro responded in the best way possible.

© 2012 OrangeAndWhite.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 12

Tiger79 writes:

We watched with pride as the Tigers grew up before our eyes on National TV. They played with purpose and intensity, like the rest of the Tiger Nation I am counting down the days until next season because they showed everyone a glimpse of what is coming next year. Congrats to the team and coaches and enjoy a fantastic victory.

porkchop writes:

100 plays on offense, double LSU's total yards, 32 first downs to LSU's 9 first downs...and a 1(one) point win.
Defense stepped up, offense did not score well and 2 fumbles gave LSU 10 almost free points. But a win is a win!!! Good finish, 11 wins and should help with recruiting and getting ready for Georgia Bulldogs in 2013.

pmoulton121 writes:

SO what was it they said about him not being an nfl qb well tonight he showed it. Great win boys you have man tiger nation proud. PAWsome win guys!!!! Best way to bring in the new year beating an top sec team.

pmoulton121 writes:

in response to sennmanthetigerfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Couldnt have said it better. Im new to this and at first i just read and seen a lot of so called tiger fans questioning and doubting the team. Glad your a true fan like me happy new year everyone go tigers!!!

jarheadtiger writes:

Great game guys! Tajh and many others played with toughness and stuck to it. Game plan, while I wasnt crazy about a few things I saw, who knows how much losing Watkins so early impacted the plan? They battled back from what could have been game breaking plays, and the defense played tougher than all season and I hope means they are getting it. Most of all, Mr Malliciah Goodman, you showed what you could do when you signed there years ago. Way to end your career as a Tiger young man, God Bless and wish you and the rest of the seniors the best.

TigerNE writes:

in response to porkchop:

100 plays on offense, double LSU's total yards, 32 first downs to LSU's 9 first downs...and a 1(one) point win.
Defense stepped up, offense did not score well and 2 fumbles gave LSU 10 almost free points. But a win is a win!!! Good finish, 11 wins and should help with recruiting and getting ready for Georgia Bulldogs in 2013.

I'm with porkchop on this one. Although we managed to show our offensive depth against a highly ranked SEC defense, it only counts if you score. Thanks go to Venables and our defense for giving the offensive so many opportunities to finally pull it out.

cuGIZ82 writes:

in response to Tiger79:

We watched with pride as the Tigers grew up before our eyes on National TV. They played with purpose and intensity, like the rest of the Tiger Nation I am counting down the days until next season because they showed everyone a glimpse of what is coming next year. Congrats to the team and coaches and enjoy a fantastic victory.

I second that...

drunkninja18 writes:

Congrats Tigers on the win! You showed the world and us fans what you can do on national tv!

Now let's beat the Bulldogs in our season opener; dem Gamecocks in the finale; win the ACC Championship; win the national title!

DoobieJ writes:

in response to TigerNE:

I'm with porkchop on this one. Although we managed to show our offensive depth against a highly ranked SEC defense, it only counts if you score. Thanks go to Venables and our defense for giving the offensive so many opportunities to finally pull it out.

Have to disagree with you there TigerNE -- "it only counts if you score". It only counts if you score more points than your opponent. The offense left some points on the field but scored enough to get the win. You don't score 40 and 50 points against a defense like LSU - especially when they have weeks to prepare for your offensive. I am with you and Porkchop on the props for Clemson's defense for sure. It was awesome watching the defense play physical and competitive for a complete game and to see the young defensive players show some real progress with Venables’ scheme. This was one of the best football games I have watched Clemson play in several years and hope we see this again all of next season. Next SEC target - Georgia. GO TIGERS!!

TrevorT writes:

Ladies & Gentlemen, Dabo and the Tigers are coming through. Will all haters please take one step to the left!
All the true fans could feel this one coming. Never been prouder of my Tigers. Truly a thing of beauty! I have a list of everyone who should be eating some serious crow in the coming days. Hope you are all man enough to show up.
Now it's time to settle in for the longest eight months of my life. GOOOO TIGERS! MAKE IT HAPPEN IT IN 2013!

ManTiger writes:

Great Game Tigers! If we had played like this we would be stomped to those cooters too.
I really don't think anybody saw this win coming. A big difference between hoping and knowing. Our defense really improved over the long break and the offense played like they did in many other wins. Also Morris really mixed the play calling up this time--unlike the cooter game in my opinion

Bigboots writes:

Great game.
Execution of a game plan like we haven't seen in a big game for a long time.
Both sides of the ball playing with focus and intensity. Humphries stepping up. Same for Boyd and Hopkins. RBs ran hard, threw some blocks.
Defense did a great job. Same for the O-line.
Great way to finish the game and the season.

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features