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Clemson knocks Miami out of first in ACC

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."