7:45 PM ET, November 6, 2004
ORANGE BOWL, MIAMI, FL
MIAMI (AP) -- Reggie Merriweather and the Clemson Tigers probably aren't heading to a Bowl Championship Series game this season. They might have ensured Miami isn't headed to one, either.
Merriweather ran for a career-high 114 yards and three second-half touchdowns, including a 2-yard score in overtime Saturday night to cap Clemson's 24-17 comeback victory over Miami (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today; No. 11 AP). The Tigers trailed 17-3 at halftime, but dominated the second half and sent the reeling Hurricanes to a second straight loss.
"He was essential," quarterback Charlie Whitehurst said. "When we needed a play, we went to him. He stepped up and met the challenge."
Charlie Whitehurst completed 21 of 37 passes for 258 yards for Clemson (5-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), which has won four straight for the first time in four seasons.
Frank Gore had 105 yards and two touchdowns for Miami, which also lost on the game's final play a week ago at North Carolina.
The loss knocked the Hurricanes (6-2, 3-2) out of first place in the ACC, leaving them a game behind Virginia and Virginia Tech in the race for the league title and automatic BCS berth. Miami visits Virginia next weekend, and hosts Virginia Tech on Dec. 4 in the regular-season finale.
"This loss will really test us," Hurricanes coach Larry Coker said. "We haven't lost a lot, and now we've lost back-to-back games. It is extremely disappointing."
Clemson needed five plays to score in the extra session, with the Tigers benefiting from a pass-interference penalty against cornerback Kelly Jennings. That moved Clemson to the 10, and Merriweather scored three plays later to cap the Tigers' rally from a 17-3 halftime deficit.
On its overtime possession, Miami moved to the Clemson 5, but three straight incompletions by Brock Berlin sealed the Hurricanes' second straight loss. Berlin's final attempt was intended for Lance Leggett in the corner of the end zone, but Clemson's Tye Hill had him well-covered and the ball bounced away.
Miami begged officials to call pass interference; no flag came.
"If it's not called, then it's not pass interference," Coker said.
Clemson outgained Miami 215-104 after halftime, sparking the comeback.
"In the second half you have to score points and make plays," said Miami quarterback Brock Berlin, who was 22-of-46 for 245 yards.
The win marked the first for the Bowden clan against Coker; Clemson coach Tommy Bowden is the son of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who is 0-5 against Coker.
"We just didn't quit," Tommy Bowden said. "We shut them down in the second half completely. ... It goes down to kids not quitting and playing hard."
Miami led 17-3 at halftime and appeared to be cruising. The Hurricanes allowed Clemson only six first downs and 156 yards in the first two quarters, but Clemson seized momentum quickly after Miami missed an opportunity to build a three-touchdown lead.
Devin Hester -- who started at tailback and cornerback, plus took his usual roles as kickoff returner, punt returner and on the kick coverage team -- dropped an interception at midfield. Had he caught what would have been his second pick of the game, he would likely have scored; no one stood between him and the end zone.
Clemson knew it caught a break, and quickly capitalized.
Whitehurst connected with Airese Currie for a 37-yard gain on the next play. And on the successive play, Merriweather burst past the Miami line, broke two tackles in the secondary and rumbled in for a 27-yard touchdown that cut Miami's lead to 17-10.
Following two more stalled Miami drives, Clemson used a little trickery to tie the game.
Facing a fourth-and-2 from the Miami 9, Bowden went for a fake field goal and elected to call upon kicker Jad Dean to run for a first down. Dean caught a flip from holder Cole Chason, got to the Miami 3, and Merriweather scored on the next play to tie the game.
Gore's 23-yard run opened the scoring, and Jon Peattie's 35-yard field goal later in the quarter pushed the margin to 10-0.
Dean hit a career-long 48-yard field goal -- his only one in four attempts -- later in the quarter to get Clemson on the board. Gore pushed Miami's lead to 17-3 on a 14-yard run with 19 seconds left in the half.
"We felt it we could weather the storm, take the first blow and settle down," Bowden said, "we'd be all right."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-19||5-19|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||1-2|
|TD||12:56||FRANK GORE 23 YD RUN (JON PEATTIE KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 68 yards.
|FG||6:07||JON PEATTIE 35 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 49 yards.
|FG||2:52||JAD DEAN 48 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 43 yards.
|TD||0:19||FRANK GORE 14 YD RUN (JON PEATTIE KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 67 yards.
|TD||8:00||REGGIE MERRIWEATHER 27 YD RUN (JAD DEAN KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 76 yards.
|TD||13:47||REGGIE MERRIWEATHER 1 YD RUN (JAD DEAN KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 50 yards.
|TD||0:00||REGGIE MERRIWEATHER 2 YD RUN (JAD DEAN KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 25 yards.