Clemson edges LSU 25-24 on last-second FG
Les Miles took the less-traveled road.
Miles' late-game decision to call three straight passing plays for Louisiana State helped leave enough time for Clemson to stage a game-winning drive.
Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 14 Clemson a wild 25-24 win over No. 9 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Monday night.
Leading 24-22, LSU got the ball at its 39 with 2:43 remaining and threw three straight passes. Only one was complete in the three-and-out series that took only about 1 minute off the clock.
"We had to throw the football," Miles said.
"We were not running the football. They were in a position where they out-numbered us in the run."
Jeremy Hill had 12 carries for 124 yards with two touchdowns, but he did not have a carry in the fourth quarter.
"They made it tough for us by stacking eight or nine guys in the box," said Hill of Clemson's defense. "When you see that lineup you know it will be tough to get yards."
LSU's three passes allowed Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to save his timeouts.
"I had three timeouts," Swinney said. "If he runs it three times, I can call timeout, timeout, timeout.
"I think (Miles) was trying to win the game. I think he felt confident in the plays. I know he knew he needed to get a first down, because if he gets a first down I have to start burning timeouts."
Trailing 24-22, Clemson (11-2) took possession on its 20 with 1:39 remaining. Tajh Boyd completed a pass for 26 yards to DeAndre Hopkins on a fourth-and-16 play during the decisive 10-play drive.
Catanzaro's kick set off a wild celebration on the field and in the stands. Some players collapsed on the field in apparent disbelief while most of Clemson's orange jerseys met in a midfield circle.
Boyd completed 36 of 50 passes for 346 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He set career highs for attempts and completions while winning the game MVP award.
"Tajh Boyd was phenomenal," Miles said. "I did not expect the heroic, if you will, efforts that he had."
Clemson ran 100 plays — 50 passes and 50 runs. LSU's defense was drained at the end as several players struggled with cramping.
"It's a hard thing on the defense to play 100 plays," said defensive end Sam Montgomery. "I feel our defense has to do so much more to get it right."
Boyd said having 1:39 to stage the final drive "is like having 10, 15 minutes for us."
"When I saw that clock and that we had three timeouts I said 'Let's get it.'"
Clemson reached 11 wins for only the fourth time in school history and the first time since the 12-0 1981 team.
"You can't win 12 until you win 11," Swinney said. "You can't win a national championship until you learn how to win games like this.
"This was a landmark win."
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was sacked six times as he completed 14 of 23 passes for 120 yards with an interception.
"It's a tough thing to figure our pass protection was as poor as it was," Miles said. "That's the piece that needs fixing and frankly we've got some young players here we'll address and improve and make some strides going forward."
Hopkins, who had 13 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns, also had receptions for 7 and 13 yards in the final drive. LSU safety Greg Reid was flagged for pass interference while defending Hopkins.
LSU scored 10 points off Clemson's two lost fumbles, including one by Sammy Watkins on the second play of the game that set up Hill's first touchdown.
Hopkins scored on an 11-yard reception in the second quarter and a 12-yard grab in the fourth. LSU's Bennie Logan blocked Catanzaro's extra point attempt following Hopkins' first touchdown.
Clemson had a chance to tie it after Hopkins' second TD, but Boyd's pass for the 2-point conversion was incomplete.
Michael Ford had a 43-yard kickoff return for LSU to open the second half. On first down, Hill broke through the line for a 57-yard touchdown run. His 12th rushing touchdown broke Dalton Hilliard's LSU record for a freshman set in 1982.
Clemson lost Watkins to a right ankle injury on his early fumble. X-rays were negative.
Clemson already was without backup receiver Martavis Bryant, who was suspended for the game for failing to meet academic requirements.
Clemson's second costly fumble came midway through the third quarter. Running back Andre Ellington ran for 8 yards but lost the ball when hit by Montgomery. Reid recovered the fumble at the Clemson 29, setting up Drew Alleman's 20-yard field goal.