MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — For two years, one of the most accomplished classes in Ohio State history knew nothing but winning.
The Buckeyes will now enter next season on a different kind of run: a losing streak.
Four late turnovers turned what looked like a redeeming OSU victory into another exasperating loss, with the No. 7 Buckeyes falling 40-35 to No. 12 Clemson in Friday night’s Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium.
Clemson went ahead with touchdowns off of back-to-back turnovers, then held off the Buckeyes’ comeback attempts with two more. After Tajh Boyd’s five-yard touchdown pass to Stanton Seckinger put the Tigers ahead 40-35 with 6:16 left, OSU quarterback Braxton Miller was intercepted on his final two drives.
OSU (12-2) was buried for good when Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony picked off Miller at the Clemson 39 with less than two remaining.
In the end, it was Boyd and Clemson over Miller and the Buckeyes in an expected shootout that played to form — surpassing even the staggering over/?under of 70 that Las Vegas had put on the game.
Boyd completed 30 of 39 passes for 370 yards and five touchdowns — 227 yards of which went to star receiver Sammy Watkins — and ran for 127 yards and another score.
Miller, a junior playing in perhaps his final college game, threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions.
For OSU, it was a downer of a finish to a remarkable run. The Buckeyes won a school-record 24 straight games before falling in last month’s Big Ten championship game.
A gloom hung over the Buckeyes from the moment they deplaned in this sun-splashed state.
The flu bug that swept through the team. Sacks leader Noah Spence’s three-game suspension for a Big Ten violation. Lockdown cornerback Bradley Roby watching his final college game in sweats.
What else could go wrong?
Turns out, a lot.
At least in the horrible, terrible, no good, very bad, and ultimately satisfying first half for the Buckeyes.
A defense short three starters from an already wobbly bunch offered little pushback early.
Clemson needed the ball for less than three minutes to pile up 150 yards and 14 points.
Boyd knifed through the heart of OSU’s defense for a 48-yard touchdown run — the longest of his career by 21 yards — on the sixth play from scrimmage, then found Watkins four plays later for a 34-yard score.
OSU’s offense, too, showed little life, stalling on three of its first four drives. Even a usually stalwart offensive line allowed three first-half sacks.
But almost inexplicably, despite being outgained 362-254 in total yardage, the Buckeyes took a 22-20 lead into halftime.
Trailing 20-9, the Buckeyes rallied for 20 unanswered points — including back-to-back scores to close the half. Miller threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to an open Jeff Heuerman, then ran for a three-yard score with 12 seconds left.
The momentum only continued after intermission, nudged along by Hyde’s 32-yard run to the Clemson 1 on 4th-and-1 — just the type of up-the-gut burst many clamored for on a failed late conversion against Michigan State last month. Hyde punched it in on the next play to push OSU ahead 29-20.
It was all setting up for OSU, only for the night to take a wild turn. Back-to-back Buckeyes turnovers deep in their own territory handed the lead right back to Clemson.
Receiver Corey Brown's drop of a punt gave way to another long touchdown connection from Boyd to Watkins, while Miller’s interception at the OSU 38 on the ensuing possession led to the Tigers’ go-ahead score — a three-yard touchdown catch by Martavis Bryant.
Yet OSU withstood the punch, and the two sides swapped scores.
Miller threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to put the Buckeyes ahead 35-34 early in the fourth quarter, while Clemson answered with a 13-play, 75-yard go-ahead drive.