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December 31, 2012With an opportunity for an 11-win season and potential top-five national finish LSU will have to endure another offseason of discontent.
No. 14 Clemson overcame a double-digit second half deficit, scoring on three successive drives with place-kicker Chandler Catanzaro kicking a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the game for a 25-24 victory Monday over LSU in the 45th Annual Chick-fil-A Bowl in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
It was the second straight season LSU (10-3) concluded its season with a bowl loss but compared to the Tigers' 21-0 defeat in last January's BCS national championship game to Alabama this latest setback will be more painful.
LSU held leads of 14-7 and 24-13 - the latter coming on Drew Alleman's 20-yard field goal with 4:49 showing in the third quarter.
"I liked our chances when we took the ball over," LSU football coach Les Miles said. "Get a couple of first downs, run the clock, the game is over."
However, Clemson (11-2) outscored LSU 12-0 in the fourth quarter, cashing in on three scoring drives of 63, 77 and 60 yards to hold a distinct advantage in total yards of 437 to 208.
Clemson needed 10 plays to score the game-winning points, including a key fourth-and-16 from quarterback Tajh Boyd to DeAndre Hopkins for 26 yards with just over a minute remaining.
Boyd, who completed 35 of 49 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns, went 5-of-7 on his team's final drive for 58 yards, marching his team from their own 20 to LSU's 20 following a three-yard loss to set up Catanzaro's final effort in the middle of the field.
Following timeouts from Clemson to stop the clock with two seconds and again from LSU to possibly freeze the kicker, Catanzaro - who had an extra point blocked in the second quarter - calmly drilled the game-winner and left LSU stunned with disbelief at the turn of events.
LSU was outgained 169-1 in the fourth quarter and didn't record a first down and wound up with three consecutive three-and-outs.
On their final offensive series the Tigers completed an 8-yard pass from Zach Mettenberger to Kadron Boone on first down and inexplicably threw two straight incompletions, enabling Clemson to save all three of its timeouts and take 1:39 into their final drive.
LSU's season-low 219 yards included 125 yards on 12 carries from freshman Jeremy Hill, who scored on runs of 17 and 57 yards.
Mettenberger finished 14 of 23 for 109 yards with a TD and interception with Jarvis Landry leading the way with 4 catches for 37 yards and the score.
Mettenberger was also sacked a season-high six times with Malliciah Goodman leading Clemson with three.
"I can't blame Zach," Miles said. "I thought Zach played really, really hard but frankly, he was under duress from the first series on. We had a nice (game) plan, but couldn't execute it because we couldn't protect our quarterback."
Hill's long scoring run came on LSU's first offensive play of the third quarter for a 21-13 lead and Alleman's field goal was set up by Eric Reid's fumble recovery at the 29-yard line after defensive end Sam Montgomery stripped Clemson's Andre Ellington.
Boyd, who may have enhanced his NFL draft status as a junior, accounted for 64 plays that covered 368 yards and 3 TDs.
Clemson snapped off an astounding 100 plays that resulted in 36 minutes of time of possession compared to LSU's 48 plays and 23 minutes of possession time.
"Our defense played their butts off," Miles said. "There are young men that are spent, gave everything they had. To me, I'm really proud of them. They played as hard as they could."
Hopkins, a junior, flashed NFL-ready skills with a bowl-record 190 yards on 13 catches and two TDs, including a 12-yard score that drew Clemson to 24-22 with 2:47 to play.
The six-point underdog Tigers attempted to tie the game but Boyd was flushed from the pocket by a blitzing LSU All-American linebacker Kevin Minter, forcing an incompletion. Minter finished with a game-high 19 tackles, one off his career high in what was possibly his final college game.
Linebacker Lamin Barrow had 12 tackles and Reid 10.
LSU recorded six sacks of Boyd for 28 yards in losses and 12 tackles for losses totalling 44 yards.
The combination of Boyd-to-Hopkins, which worked six times for 104 yards in the first half, connected on an 11-yard touchdown with 5:43 to go before halftime.
Instead of finding themselves tied for the second time LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan barreled through and blocked the extra point, leaving the Tigers with a 14-13 lead.
LSU took advantage of sudden change on the game's second play when defensive end Barkevious Mingo crashed into wide receiver Sammy Watkins on a run play, jarring the ball loose which Craig Loston recovered at Clemson's 23 and knocking Watkins out of the game with an ankle injury.
Hill carried twice, the second time breaking out of tackle at the line of scrimmage to complete a 17-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead 55 seconds into the game.
Boyd accounted for 68 of Clemson's 75 yards on its next possession - completing 3 of 3 passes for 38 yards and carrying 5 times for 30 yards.
Clemson twice convereted on third down and Boyd completed the 11-play drive with an 11-yard scoring run at the 9:46 mark for a 7-7 deadlock.
LSU regained a 14-7 edge nearly two minutes into the third quarter when Mettenberger, who completed his first six passes of the game, found Landry on an out route for a 7-yard scoring toss on third down.