Atlanta, GA – Chandler Catanzaro hit a 37-yard field goal as time expired as the No. 14 Clemson Tigers took a thrilling 25-24 win over the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Tajh Boyd guided Clemson (11-2) to three scoring drives in the fourth quarter, including a 10-play, 60 yard drive with 1:39 left in the game. He went 36- for-50 with 346 yards and two scores in the contest and also had a score on the ground.
DeAndre Hopkins had both touchdown catches and gained 191 yards on 13 catches, including a 26-yard reception on 4th-and-16 on the game-winning drive as Clemson moved to 17-18 in bowl matchups.
"This is a football team that got better all year long," said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. "Tonight we kind of grew up from some of the challenges we've had earlier in the year. I'm just so proud of them."
Jeremy Hill had touchdown runs in the first minute of the first and third quarter and totaled 124 yards on 12 carries for LSU (10-3), which has lost its past two postseason games, falling to Alabama in the BCS Title game last season.
Zach Mettenberger was 14-for-23 for 120 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss for LSU, which fell to 22-21-1 in postseason contests.
"On our side of the ball, frankly, our football team played so well on defense," said LSU head coach Les Miles. "Offensively we couldn't protect our passer. When you can't protect your passer, then it becomes very difficult to run because, frankly, there's an extra man in the box because you're not throwing the ball."
The fourth quarter began with Clemson getting the ball back and trailing by 11, but Boyd converted one third down with a 2-yard run and a pass interference call to LSU on 3rd-and-6 again moved the chains. The drive stalled at the 8, but Catanzaro hit a 26-yard field goal to make it a 24-16 game with 9:26 to play.
Holding LSU to a three-and-out, Clemson got the ball back at its own 23 and converted one third down on a Boyd run and another on a delay of game call to LSU. On yet another third down, Clemson got the ball into the red zone when Brandon Ford made a 20-yard catch. Two plays later, Boyd found Hopkins in the back of the end zone from 12 yards out.
Clemson had an extra point attempt in the second quarter blocked so the team went for the 2-point conversion, but Boyd's pass attempt fell short and the team trailed by two points with 2:47 to play and all three timeouts.
Yet again, the Clemson defense came up big as LSU was held to a three-and-out, including two straight incompletions, to get the ball back at its 20.
Two straight incompletions and a 6-yard sack saw the team quickly face a 4th- and-16. After calling timeout, Boyd lofted a pass through the middle that fell into the hands of Hopkins for a 26-yard gain and a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, a pass interference call moved the ball across midfield.
After a timeout, Hopkins caught another pass for 13-yard and Adam Humphries followed that with a 9-yard catch down to the 17. After Boyd lined the ball up, Clemson called timeout with two seconds showing and the ball at the 20.
Following a timeout from LSU, Catanzaro drilled the ball down the middle for the thrilling victory.
The game began poorly for Clemson as Sammy Watkins was drilled in the backfield while receiving a handoff and fumbled the ball, which LSU recovered at the Clemson 23. Two plays later, Hill took a pitchout to the right, moved around a defender and got into the end zone on a 17-yard score for a 7-0 lead 55 seconds in.
Clemson answered with an 11-play, 75-yard march that Boyd capped on an 11-yard run to tie the contest with 9:46 showing on the first quarter clock.
The score stayed that way until the second quarter when Mettenberger threw a fade pass into the left corner of the end zone and Jarvis Landry came up with the leaping 6-yard catch for a 14-7 lead with 13:12 to play in the half.
After an exchange of punts, Clemson was able to find the end zone on an 8- play, 70-yard drive. Hopkins caught a pass for 31 yards earlier in the drive and capped the march with an 11-yard catch in the middle of the end zone. The extra point was blocked by Bennie Logan, though, and it was a 14-13 game with 5:43 left in the half.
LSU's first play from scrimmage of the second half saw Hill take a handoff up the middle, stiff-arm one defender and raced down the right side for a 57-yard score and a 21-13 lead just 17 seconds in.
Drew Alleman added a 20-yard field goal with 4:49 to play in the third after LSU recovered an Andre Ellington fumble at the Clemson 29.
LSU played in this bowl in 2008 and beat Georgia Tech ... Clemson lost in this bowl in 2007 to Auburn ... Watkins suffered a right ankle injury on the fumble and was taken to the locker room. X-rays were negative and he was on the sideline for the second half using crutches ... Clemson controlled the ball for 36:21, gained 32 first downs and totaled 445 yards of offense ... LSU gained just 219 yards, had just nine first downs and was 3-of-13 on third down conversions ... LSU had won the previous two meetings with Clemson.