Clemson rallies past LSU to capture Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Clemson had plenty of chances to fold.

With Clemson’s recent big-game struggles, a lot of folks thought Dabo Swinney’s Tigers ultimately would.

They didn’t.

Tajh Boyd had a career night in what is expected to be his final collegiate game, leading two fourth-quarter scoring drives and setting up Chandler Catanzaro’s 37-yard field goal as time expired to give Clemson a 25-24 win over LSU on Monday in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

LSU, which didn’t trail until the final play, led 24-13 midway through the fourth quarter.

A Catanzaro field goal sliced the deficit to eight early in the fourth quarter.

Clemson (11-2) subsequently mounted a drive highlighted by a 25-yard hook-and-lateral to Andre Ellington. A 12-yard touchdown pass from Boyd to DeAndre Hopkins cut LSU’s lead to 24-22 with 2:47 to go. Boyd was pressured on the ensuing two-point conversion, and his pass fell incomplete.

The Clemson defense forced a punt, and Clemson took over on its own 20-yard line with less than two minutes to play. Boyd completed five passes on the winning drive, including a 26-yard strike to Hopkins on fourth-and-16.

Boyd, a junior, completed 35 of 49 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns. Hopkins, another junior, hauled in 13 receptions for 190 yards and two scores.

The ACC has won three of the last four Chick-fil-A Bowls over the SEC.

Clemson got off to a horrible start. LSU (10-3) recovered a Sammy Watkins fumble on Clemson’s second play of the game. Watkins hurt his right ankle on the play and had to be helped off the field before being carted back to the locker room. X-rays on the ankle were negative, but Watkins did not return.

Two plays later, Jeremy Hill patiently picked his way through the line before bursting into the clear for a 17-yard touchdown run. LSU led 7-0 after 55 seconds.

After what happened to Clemson in its previous bowl game — an embarrassing 70-33 loss to West Virginia in last January’s Orange Bowl — Swinney’s team had to be hoping a rerun wouldn’t ensue.

However, Clemson didn’t flinch, and it answered LSU’s early score with a 74-yard scoring drive, capped by an 11-yard touchdown run by Boyd.

Zach Mettenberger’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry early in the second quarter put the LSU back in front.

Boyd hooked up with Hopkins for an 11-yard scoring pass late in the second quarter. The ensuing extra point was blocked, allowing LSU to hold onto a 14-13 lead at halftime.

Clemson started the season with a 26-19 win over Auburn at the Georgia Dome. Clemson’s regular-season losses came against Florida State and South Carolina. Swinney and innovative offensive coordinator Chad Morris will have to develop a new quarterback, but Clemson has recruited well and will be expected to contend in the ACC again next season.

LSU began the season as one of the favorites to win the national championship. Star corner Tyrann Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010, was booted off the team before the season, and LSU lost its two biggest games of the season to Florida and Alabama.

Mettenberger will be expected to improve in the offseason, and LSU has enough returning and incoming talent to be considered among the national-championship favorites for 2013.

Mettenberger, a junior, completed 14 of 23 passes for 109 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Hill finished with 125 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

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