Clemson 40, No. 8 Miami 37, OT
Did it ever.
Kyle Parker threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Ford in overtime, giving Clemson a wild, wacky 40-37 win over No. 8 Miami on Saturday night - the biggest win during Dabo Swinney's tenure as coach, the Tigers' first victory in their last nine tries over ranked teams, and their first road win over a Top 10 foe in more than eight years.
"It was a play that we had never run before," Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier said.
It was a play Miami won't want to see again.
"We knew this game was going to come down to who made more plays," Ford said. "And we did."
C.J. Spiller had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown - the sixth of his career - and a long catch for another score, on his way to a school-record 310 all-purpose yards for the Tigers (4-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference). DeAndre McDaniel had a 23-yard interception for another touchdown and Richard Jackson hit a 30-yard field goal with 5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game.
Clemson trailed seven times in the game, erasing every one, Ford's TD catch the lasting blow.
"I have a birthday next month and I think I'm going to turn 50 instead of 40," Swinney said. "We had to put on Superman capes. We made plenty of mistakes that could have lost us the game, but they played with poise and confidence. We just kept battling."
How stunning was this from a Miami standpoint? Since the start of the 1985 season, Miami is now 113-2 when scoring 37 or more points.
The ACC is now out of Miami's control: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Virginia all have one loss in the Coastal, meaning the Hurricanes will need help to reach the conference title game.
"Not making any excuses," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "We just played sloppy."
Jacory Harris threw for two touchdowns for Miami (5-2, 2-2), but also threw three interceptions.
The Hurricanes could have had fourth-and-goal from the Clemson 3 in overtime after Matt Bosher's third field goal of the game. But Miami kept the three points on the board, turning it over to the defense.
And Parker - who picked apart the middle of the field all day - found Ford, a South Florida native, for the winning score. Parker finished 25 of 37 for 326 yards.
"I should have made the play on that myself," said Miami safety Randy Phillips, who was near Ford but in a supporting role on the final play. "I should have taken it into my own hands."
It was the third meeting of these teams since Miami joined the ACC; all three went to overtime, and all three have been won by the road team.
After the way regulation was nothing but wild back-and-forth, it couldn't have been too surprising that this one needed more than 60 minutes before getting settled.
Spiller had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown just before halftime, then a 56-yard TD catch midway through the third quarter. Both came on Miami breakdowns; the Hurricanes didn't want Alex Uribe to kick it deep to Spiller on the return for a score, and the TD catch came when he was covered by linebacker Sean Spence, who battled an injured left knee all day.
The kickoff was particularly upsetting to Shannon. Uribe didn't kick in the second half, getting replaced by Bosher.
"Blown assignments," Shannon said. "We had something called and we went on the field and it was totally different. ... Guys didn't get it done."
Both defenses offered major scoring swings, too. Allen Bailey sacked Parker, knocking the ball loose and setting up Marcus Robinson's 53-yard rumble for a score that gave Miami a 24-21 lead in the third quarter. And in the fourth, McDaniel's interception runback - the second pick of the day and seventh of the season, which led the nation at that point - put Clemson up 31-27.
Harris remained cool under pressure, just as he has all season.
On Miami's very next play, he connected with Travis Benjamin for a 69-yard touchdown, a lead that looked likely to hold up when Phillips intercepted Parker in the end zone about 4 minutes later.
Parker atoned nicely.
"I think last week we realized that we could be really good and this week we acted on it," he said, going back to Clemson's 38-3 win over Wake Forest a week ago. "I thought we really got some explosive plays and we played well."
The opposite emotion echoed in the Miami locker room.
"This has to be my toughest loss here," Harris said. "We fought so hard throughout the game as a team and didn't come out with the victory. We let Clemson outwork us, we turned the ball over too much - little things that made us get to this point."