Tigers claw their way to victory

Billy Gilbert // The Miami Hurricane
Billy Gilbert // The Miami Hurricane

For the third straight meeting between Miami and Clemson, the game went the overtime and the road team won.

This game was wild as it featured 12 lead changes, a 90-yard kickoff return, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, an interception return for a touchdown and a game-winning touchdown in overtime.

The Miami Hurricanes couldn’t get past a stingy Clemson team, 40-37, at Land Shark Stadium Saturday night.

The tough loss drops Miami (5-2, 2-2 ACC) ten spots in the Associated Press Poll to No. 18. They no longer control their own fate in the ACC.

“We had sloppy play all night long,” head coach Randy Shannon said. “It was just bad football. We probably played our worst game as a football team including Virginia Tech. We had a chance to win the game, just didn’t pull it out. When you play that bad of football and keep teams around like that, that’s going to cost you. It just was bad.”

Clemson (4-3, 3-2 ACC) couldn’t have got anything less from a stellar performance from senior versatile running back C.J. Spiller. Spiller accounted for a Clemson school-record 310 all-purpose yards, including a 90-yard kickoff return just before halftime. It was his seventh straight game with a play at least 60 yards or more.

Spiller rushed for 88 yards on 14 carries and caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Spiller accounted for 75 percent of Clemson’s offense.

“I know Spiller. I know him personally,” Shannon said. “I talked to him before the game, after the game. I know what type of kid he is. He’s a phenomenal athlete. They were going to give him touches, and when he gets touches he’s going to try and do something with it.”

But Miami had their opportunity. The Canes were up 34-31 and the Tigers were at Miami’s four-yard line, senior safety Randy Phillips made a play and intercepted Clemson’s quarterback Kyle Parker in the end zone.

With 5:37 remaining in the game, all the Hurricanes had to do was move the chains and keep the clock going. Miami ran it three straight times with senior Javarris James. James fell short of picking up a first down and the Canes were forced to punt. That punt eventually led to the game timing field goal and a win in overtime.

Shannon insisted that it wasn’t a conservative play call.

“Why does everybody say that? We’ve killed games before just by running the football,” Shannon said. “It wasn’t conservative. We were able to run the football in our four-minute offense the last couple of games. That’s what I mean by sloppy play. Guys up front blew check. When that happens, that’s going to get you.”

Sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris called this the toughest loss of his career.

“We fought so hard throughout the game as a team, and we didn’t come out with the victory,” said Harris, who was 17 of 27 for 256 yards, two touchdowns but three costly interceptions. “We let Clemson out-work us. We turned the ball over too much. It was little things that made us get to this point. I came out there, was throwing too many interceptions.”

With five games remaining and so much football to be played, it’s Shannon’s responsibility to get his team back in line and respond next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. as the Hurricanes head to Wake Forest (4-4, 2-2).

“It hurts. Players will be down, in the tank,” Shannon said. “It’s my job, the staff’s job to get it going, get them to understand how ugly we played, that we still had a chance. Like anything we want more of everybody, including the staff and the team.”

Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at lledoux@themiamihurricane.com.