The Chick-fil-A Bowl may not be one of the elite BCS Bowls, but the 44-year old bowl in Atlanta, Ga. has become a premier battle ground for the ACC and SEC. This year No.14 Clemson and No.9 LSU took to the gridiron in what is always the highest attended non-BCS bowl game.
And on the strength of quarterback Tajh Boyd‘s arm, and kicker Chandler Catanzaro‘s foot, the Clemson Tigers shocked the LSU Tigers 25-24, and handed they Bayou Bengals their first loss to an ACC opponent since 1955.
Not many people gave Clemson a chance against the mighty LSU defense, coupled with the fact that it was the “inferior” ACC against the “vastly superior” SEC.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd took exception to both categorizations, as well as the 70-33 thumping that the Tigers took against West Virginia in last year’s Orange Bowl. Boyd wanted to make sure that the world knew that wasn’t Clemson football, and that the ACC Tigers could play on the same field with one of the elite teams in the SEC.
All Boyd did to back it up was pass for 339 yards and two touchdowns, and carry the ball 29 times for another 22 yards and a touchdown – oh, and was named the offensive MVP as well as the Chick-fil-A Bowl player of the game. Too bad he couldn’t really contribute to the victory, right?
The game was LSU’s for the taking heading late into the fourth quarter. The SEC Tigers had the ball with 2:47 left in the game and were seemingly in control. But LSU coach Les Miles inexplicably called three straight pass plays, and only managed eight yards, and was forced to punt the ball back to Clemson with just over a minute left in the game.
If LSU just runs the ball and gets one first down, they could have walked away with a victory in their back pocket, but once more Les Miles play-calling in a big game is going to come into question.
Clemson took the ball from their own 20 yard line, and drove the ball down the field converting on down after down including a huge 4th-and-16 that might have been the back-breaker for the LSU defense. Or as Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, “Fourth and 16 and my frickin’ quarterback mans up and makes plays…just awesome!”
As time expired, Chandler Catanzaro kicked the winning 37-yard field goal, and sent the Clemson players and coach Swinney into a frenzied celebration, while LSU players were seen collapsing on the field.
The game provided the usual incredible fan experience that it has become known for over the years, as well as an ultra-competitive game between two national powers. The win is a huge one not only for Clemson University, but also for the ACC who has been ridiculed and embattled for most of the season for a lack of competitiveness.