CLEMSON – When it came time for Clemson's defense to make that one big stop in the closing seconds…
Tigers Fall 36-30 in 3OT
Recruits at the Game
Clemson Football Notebook
Tigers Run Out of Gas
Miami tailback Tyrone Moss scampered and weaved his way to a 25-yard touchdown run to give the No. 13 Hurricanes the wild 36-30 triple-overtime victory over Clemson Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers had a chance to either tie or win, but quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was intercepted by Miami's Kenny Phillips on second down to end the game. It was the first turnover by Clemson this season and the first in 213 plays.
"We had the opportunity to win," Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said. "Our team did not quit. We continued to push throughout and I am very proud of that. We should have won this game, but my team did their best and did not quit. Miami made one more play at the end."
What makes this loss maybe even more hard to swallow is the fact that Whitehurst, who has been nearly perfect all season, had his choice of two wide open receivers in the end zone in the final seconds, but he pass sailed over the head of Chansi Stuckey, forcing the Tigers to have to settle for the game-tying field goal.
On that third-and-10 from the 10 with 23 seconds left to play, Whitehurst took the snap from the shotgun and as Stuckey made his break toward the back, left corner of the end zone, but the pass was well out of reach.
Also at that same time, tight end Bobby Williamson was standing alone on the right side of the end zone. But Whitehurst, who was under some pressure, never saw him.
"I've just got to make one play," Whitehurst said. "It was hard-fought and they made one more play. … It was a situation where we were in field goal range and I didn't want to throw an interception. I think when I threw it, he came wide open. I don't think he was wide open before I threw it. So, it was sort of like protecting the ball and trying to make a play at the same time and it didn't work."
Whitehurst still finished the day 31-of-55 passing for 288 yards and two interceptions.
Once in overtime, Miami got the ball first and promptly scored a touchdown after converting a third-and-11 from the 26 to the 6. Two plays later, Moss scored from three yards out to make it 27-20.
However, the Tigers battled the odds and on a fourth-and-two from the five, Whitehurst scrambled and found a double-covered Curtis Baham, who caught it on the pass on the tips of his fingers to tie it at 27-27 and send it into double overtime.
Clemson then got the ball to start the second overtime and was forced to settle for a Jad Dean 39-yard field goal to take a 30-27 lead.
On the Hurricanes' possession, they moved the ball to the 2, but were unable to get the touchdown and they, too, had to settle for a 19-yard field goal to tie it at 30-30 and force a third overtime.
"I debated whether or not to go for it," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "But we felt like our defense would make a stand. And we also felt like we could run the ball on Clemson."
And that's exactly what happened.
The No. 20 Tigers (2-1, 1-1 ACC) had their hardest time all season trying to move the ball on the ground. All told, Clemson compiled just 90 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Whitehurst led the way with 58 yards, while tailback James Davis had 12 carries for 12 yards and Reggie Merriweather had three rushes for eight yards.
"We had to throw a little more than anticipated," Clemson offensive coordinator Rob Spence said. "It was very difficult to run that ball against that front."
Conversely, as the game wore on in the second half, the Hurricanes (1-1, 1-1 ACC) found the going a lot easier as their offensive line wore down the Clemson defense and tailback Tyrone Moss finished with 139 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries.
Clemson's comeback started late in the fourth quarter as it put together an nine-play, 81 yard drive that ended with a Whitehurst one-yard run to make it 20-17 with 2:58 to play.
The Tigers then forced Miami to go three-and-out and took over on their own 44 with 1:20 to go in the game, which resulted in Dean's game-tying field goal rather than that almost touchdown pass from Whitehurst.
"A loss is painful and we don't want to experience it," Bowden said. "We will have to live with this one all week. The only way to cure the pain is tow in a big game next week."
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