ATLANTA – Chandler Catanzaro was not about to let a blocked extra point earlier in the game get in the way of his last-second, game-winning field goal.
Catanzaro kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 14 Clemson a wild 25-24 victory over No. 9 Louisiana State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Monday night.
“I was ready when the opportunity came to me,” Catanzaro said. “It was next-kick mentality. I was so thankful for the opportunity.”
Catanzaro, a former walk-on from Greenville, S.C., made 16 of 17 field goals in the regular season.
“I didn’t have any doubt,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of the junior kicker. “He’s just a clutch player all the way.”
The kick gave Clemson its first 11-win season since its 1981 national championship team.
Clemson reached 11 wins for only the fourth time in school history and the first time since the 12-0 1981 team.
“You can’t win 12 until you win 11,” Swinney said. “You can’t win a national championship until you learn how to win games like this.
“This was a landmark win.”
Trailing 24-22, Clemson (11-2) took possession on its 20 with 1:39 remaining. Tajh Boyd passed to DeAndre Hopkins for 26 yards on a fourth-and-16 play during the decisive 10-play drive.
Boyd completed 36 of 50 passes for 346 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He set career highs for attempts and completions while winning the game MVP award.
“Tajh Boyd was phenomenal,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I did not expect the heroic, if you will, efforts that he had.”
Hopkins had 13 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns. After the big fourth-down catch, he added receptions for 7 and 13 yards in the final drive.
Clemson lost star receiver Sammy Watkins to a right ankle injury on its first possession of the game.
Clemson already was without backup receiver Martavis Bryant, who was suspended for the game for failing to meet academic requirements.
The injury to Watkins left the spotlight on Hopkins, Clemson’s leading receiver. He had catches of 17 and 12 yards as Clemson pulled even with an 11-play drive capped by Boyd’s 11-yard touchdown run.
After LSU regained the lead on Mettenberger’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry, Hopkins had a 31-yard catch to set up his 11-yard score late in the second quarter.
Hopkins’ sliding grab gave him TD receptions in 10 straight games to set an Atlantic Coast Conference record. Virginia’s Herman Moore had touchdown catches in nine consecutive games in 1990.