MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Ohio State Buckeyes are officially on a losing streak.
OSU lost its second straight game after winning 24 in a row over the last two seasons since Urban Meyer took over as head coach, falling to No. 12 Clemson (11-2, 7-1) in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl, 40-35.
Tiger quarterback, redshirt-senior Tajh Boyd, led a high-powered offense that amassed 576 total yards against the Buckeyes (12-2, 8-1) and the Clemson defense did enough down the stretch to win the game, turning junior quarterback Braxton Miller over twice in the game’s final three minutes.
“We’re not a championship-caliber defense right now, although we think about the last two games, we were in position to go win (those) games,” Meyer said following the loss. “Our defense certainly made some plays to help us go win a game.”
Boyd scored on the game’s first drive, running 48 yards up the middle for a touchdown. After Miller scored on a 33-yard run on OSU’s next possession, Boyd connected with junior wide receiver Sammy Watkins from 34 yards out.
“I don’t know all the receivers in the country, but I can’t imagine any better than that guy,” Meyer said of Watkins in a post game press conference.
Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier agreed, saying that Watkins “was just making plays.”
“We had to get leverage and was losing leverage, and he was just taking it up the sideline,” Shazier said following the loss. “It was getting guys out of position. If we had leverage, we could have shut him down a little bit more, but we just didn’t do it.”
Following a safety late in the first quarter, Boyd extended the lead to 20-9 after he found junior wide receiver Martavis Bryant on a three yard touchdown pass.
The Buckeyes quickly responded, as Miller threw a touchdown pass, and ran for another to give OSU a 22-20 lead at halftime.
The Buckeyes would score again on the first possession of the second half, when senior running back Carlos Hyde found the end zone from one-yard out to extend the lead to 29-20.
But a muffed punt by senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown later in the third quarter lit a spark that led Clemson to score twice before the fourth quarter began. Boyd hit Watkins and then Bryant again to make the score 34-29.
OSU came back once again, when Miller hit Hyde from 14 yards out, and after a two-point play failed, OSU lead 35-34.
But Boyd led the Tigers back down the field, hitting redshirt-sophomore tight end Stanton Seckinger from five yards out to give Clemson the lead for good.
“It’s playing for these guys. I’ve learned so much and grown so much as a person since I’ve been here. And I can’t think of a better way to give back to school than a victory in this game,” Boyd said following the victory. “It was a very impressive victory for this team, this university. Can’t wait to celebrate with the guys.”
Miller fumbled on OSU’s next drive, but the Buckeye offense was given another shot when redshirt-senior safety C.J. Barnett picked off Boyd with just under 1:30 left.
Miller, however, threw his second interception of the game two plays later, sealing the win for Clemson.
Watkins was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, as he finished with Orange Bowl records of 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Boyd was 31-40 passing for 378 yards and five touchdowns, also rushing for 127 yards for a touchdown.
“Tonight was just to go out there and have fun, go out with a bang, and get the 11-2 in back-to-back seasons and just finish off my legacy here and I definitely did that,” Watkins said about his performance during a post game press conference.
Miller finished with 234 passing yards and two touchdowns, while also scoring twice on the ground.
Looking ahead to next season, OSU is set to take on Navy Aug. 30 in Baltimore. For now, the loss will linger.
“Is this what we expect? No,” Meyer said, who lost his first BCS game of his career. “We expect top 10 defense at Ohio State, top 10 offense, and top 10 special teams, and I don’t believe we accomplished any of those.”
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