Boyd rallies Clemson to last-second win over LSU

ATLANTA -- Clemson had plenty of chances to fold.

And due to the team'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.

"This was a landmark win for our program," said Swinney, the Clemson coach. "This is a football team that got better all year long. Tonight we kind of grew up from some of the challenges that we had earlier in the year. You can't win a national championship until to you learn how to win games like this."

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.

LSU called timeout just before the final play, but Catanzaro, who had an extra point blocked in the first half, shook off the attempt to ice him and calmly drilled the winning kick. Catanzaro missed only one field goal on the season.

Boyd, a junior, completed 36 of 50 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns. Hopkins, another junior, hauled in 13 receptions for 191 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 after the fumble, LSU freshman running back Jeremy Hill patiently picked his way through the line before bursting into the clear for a 17-yard touchdown run. LSU led 7-0 just 55 seconds into the game.

"I told the guys that we were going to have to face some adversity. You don't play a team as good as LSU without facing adversity," Swinney said. "I had no idea it was going to come on the second play."

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.

Overshadowed by Boyd's heroics, the Clemson defense was outstanding. LSU converted only three of 13 third-down attempts and finished with only 219 yards. Clemson recorded six sacks.

"Offensive, we really just could not protect tonight, and that was really the mark of the game," LSU coach Les Miles said. "If we protect our passer a little bit, he hits some balls."

Clemson started the season with a 26-19 win over Auburn at the Georgia Dome, and the team's only losses came against Florida State and South Carolina. Swinney and innovative offensive coordinator Chad Morris likely 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, a junior, 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.

"I like our quarterback," Miles said. "He took it on the chin tonight, but I like our quarterback."

Mettenberger completed 14 of 23 passes for 120 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

"Speaking not only for myself, but also for the younger players on the offense, we made a lot of big steps this year, and our future is bright," Mettenberger said. "Now it's about showing up to campus and putting in the work."

Hill, one of the LSU youngsters expected to thrive next season, finished with 124 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

NOTES: Hopkins set the school's single-season record for receiving yards in the first quarter. He broke the mark Watkins set last season. Hopkins also caught a touchdown pass for the 10th straight game, an ACC record. ... Boyd was selected the Offensive Player of the Game. LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, who recorded 19 tackles, won Defensive Player of the Game honors. ... Clemson trailed at the half for the first time all season. ... The announced attendance was 68,027.