Urban Meyer is going to need a lot of pizza.
In an up-and-down game that had both sides' fanbases on the edge of their seats throughout, the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-2) fell, 40-35, to the No. 12 Clemson Tigers (11-2) in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made sure to make a not-so-subtle dig at South Carolina after the game.
With the superb quality of both offenses and a plethora of deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball for Clemson and OSU, it was no surprise that this game turned into a shootout. The purists may not have liked it, but watching the Tigers and Buckeyes score one touchdown after another made for a thrilling affair.
It was a fitting end to the collegiate career of Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd. Boyd, who is graduating, accounted for six total touchdowns in the game, five coming the way of the pass. Boyd's favorite target on Friday and this season, Sammy Watkins, is also expected to leave Clemson by making himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft.
Watkins, in particular, was fantastic all game. Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris did a great job of running a lot of screens that allowed Watkins to get the ball quickly and turn upfield.
Watkins had 16 receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Even Larry Fitzgerald was compelled to praise the wideout's performance.
This win was even bigger for Boyd, who struggled in big games against Florida State and South Carolina earlier this season. Despite some poor decision-making at the end of the game, the senior quarterback managed to have a strong performance, finishing 31-of-40 passing for 378 yards and two interceptions. He also had 127 yards on the ground.
Boyd had the first score of the game with this 48-yard touchdown run, which set the tone for what was to come.
That run helped Clemson jump out to a 20-9 lead in the second quarter.
Then the Tigers were nearly undone by their porous defense.
For example, look at Jeff Heuerman's 57-yard touchdown reception that got the Buckeyes back into the game and cut the deficit to five points, 20-15.
There wasn't a Tigers defender within 10 yards of him when he caught the ball, and from there, it was a rather easy path to the end zone.
Matt Hinton of Football Outsiders saw where there could've been some miscommunication.
There would be a similar defensive breakdown on Carlos Hyde's 14-yard touchdown pass that put Ohio State back on top, 35-34 in the fourth quarter.
Ironically, it was a defensive play that would ultimately seal the game for the Tigers.
Clemson was clinging to a 40-35 lead with a little over three minutes left in the game, and the Buckeyes were in Tigers territory. Then OSU QB Braxton Miller fumbled, giving the Tigers offense a chance to ice the game away.
Unfortunately, Boyd threw an interception to hand Ohio State one more chance to find the go-ahead score.
Yet, the Clemson defense answered the call once again, with Stephone Anthony picking off Miller to put the final nail in Ohio State's coffin.
Key Player Grades
Sammy Watkins, Clemson: A+
Sammy Watkins is going to the NFL, right? After a performance like this, he can't possibly feel staying in school for another year is going to help his draft stock.
Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller has Watkins as the No. 1 wide receiver on his board.
It's not hard to see why, as the junior wideout was the best player on the field on Friday night. He was a beast in the receiving game. Anytime Watkins touched the ball, it seemed like he had a chance to score.
And seriously, how do you defend this?
Tajh Boyd deserves plenty of credit, but it was Watkins who won the game for Clemson.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson: B+
Boyd very nearly threw this game away and cemented whatever negative narratives he's built during his time at Clemson. His interception in the fourth quarter could have been disastrous for the Tigers and his legacy at Clemson.
But the defense came through and saved Boyd's bacon.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State: B
Braxton Miller deserved better.
Time and again he was getting harassed in the pocket and hammered after the pass. By the end of the game, it was a shock he was able to walk.
Robert Flores of ESPN put it best.
Meyer praised his QB after the game, per Dieter Kurtenbach of the Sun Sentinel.
That interception at the end of the game was pretty bad, though. There was no excuse for making that pass.
But by that point in the game, though, Miller wasn't 100 percent, and it would be tough to lay blame for the entire game on him after he accounted for 269 total yards and combined for four touchdowns via the pass and on the ground.
Clemson is losing a lot of bodies to the NFL next season. It will be interesting to see how Swinney is able to rebound in 2014.
Miller is a junior and if he returns, expect the Buckeyes to be highly ranked entering the 2014 season as they look to rebound from this disappointing loss.
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