This is part of a series on Canes football games that have been lost to history. Information on the series including other articles is available here.
The year is 2005. President George W. Bush is in the first year of his final term in office. The week of September 17th, 2005 saw Gold Digger by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx top the Billboard Hot 100 list. And The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman was #1 on the New York Times fiction best seller list. Gas was $2.77 a gallon. The big news story was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina hitting Mississippi and devastating the Gulf Coast, including breaking levees in New Orleans and flooding the city.
Miami entered the game at 0-1, having lost the season opener at Florida State.
Clemson entered the game at 2-0, having beaten Texas A&M and Maryland.
This was a matchup of 2 ranked teams.
The Canes came into this game off of a loss and a bye week, having opened with FSU on Monday Night Football in Tallahassee. It was game that featured several mistakes, dropped passes, and ultimately a dropped hold on a FG attempt which gifted the Seminoles a 10-7 win. But no one was sure if the Canes were any good.
For Clemson, they had won 2 games by a total of 4 points. Against Texas A&M, they kicked 6 FGs and won 25-24, including hitting the game winning FG with 2 seconds left. Against Maryland, the Tigers trailed by 10 heading into the 4th quarter. But back-to-back TDs saw them escape with a win.
The narrative coming into the game was that Miami had cracked under the pressure in a close loss while Clemson had done the opposite, twice.
Both defenses came out ready to play and the teams exchanged 5 punts (3 for Clemson, 2 for Miami) with the longest drive being 11 yards.
Finally, the Canes put together a strong drive. Kyle Wright completed pass to Ryan Moore for 16 yards, Quadtrine Hill for 9 yards, and after a holding penalty put the Canes in 3rd and long, Darnell Jenkins along the sideline for a big conversion. Tyrone Moss would pick up the next first down via the ground, but the Canes would have to settle for a FG, which Jon Peattie put through to nudge the Canes in front 3-0 at the end of the 1st quarter.
Clemson immediately responded going 85 yards in 5 plays, in a minute of time of possession. After Charlie Whitehurst kept the ball on a QB sneak for 2 yards, the Tigers crossed up the Canes’ defense on a shotgun RPO where Whitehurst ran for 65 yards. 2 plays later Whitehurst would complete the TD pass that put Clemson ahead 7-3.
Both defenses settled down after that, and there were 3 consecutive punts.
It would be the Tigers who would put together the next drive, set up by a long throw from Whitehurst to Curtis Baham up the seem of the Canes defense for 38 yards on 3rd-and-7 from the Clemson 23. Miami would stiffen, but Clemson converted a 4th-and-1 at the Canes 30. Finally, after gifting Clemson another 1st down with consecutive offside penalties, the Canes forced a FG, which Clemson made to go up 10-3.
Miami’s offense responded, in a roundabout way. After Tyrone Moss picked up a first down on 2 runs, the Canes pitched the ball to Devin Hester who did Devin Hester things, running for 36 yards to the Clemson 22-yard line. On the next play, Kyle Wright was temporarily knocked out and Kirby Freeman came in. That stalled the drive, but Peattie hit another FG, and the lead was trimmed to 10-6.
The half ended that way, with Clemson up 10-6, but with the game finely balanced between 2 offenses that had a few explosive plays, but were mostly dominated by the defenses.
Hester opened the 2nd half with a strong kickoff return to the Canes 43. After Tyrone Moss carried the Canes across midfield to the Clemson 41, disaster struck. Wright was sacked for an 8-yard loss, and then a holding penalty pushed the Canes back further. They ended up losing 2 yards on the drive and punting from their own 41, but Brian Monroe hit a perfect punt and pinned Clemson inside their 10.
After the Canes D forced a 3-and-out, the offense took over on the Clemson 47. After Wright hit Jenkins for another critical 3rd down conversion, Moss took over. He carried on 5 consecutive plays, taking the Canes inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line. From there, Wright dumped to Hill on a screen pass for the go ahead TD, putting Miami up 13-10.
A series of errors resulted in no points on the next drive. After Clemson drove the ball to midfield, the Canes forced a punt. But they roughed the kicker, giving Clemson a first down on the Canes 30. But when the Canes held Clemson at the 28, the Tigers false-started on a FG attempt. Backed up 5 yards, they tried and missed a 50-yard FG.
Miami’s offense responded by trying to put the game away. Derron Thomas got some rare action, and carried for 4 and 12 yards for one 1st down, and then another 4 yards to get Miami into range at 3rd-and-6 at the Clemson 47. From there, on the last play of the 3rd quarter, Wright hit Sinorice Moss for 43 yards to the Clemson 6. 2 plays into the 4th quarter, Tyrone Moss scored the TD that put Miami up 20-10 early in the 4th quarter.
On the next drive, the Canes made multiple penalties which allowed the Tigers to put together a few first downs, but they ultimately punted. Moss and Charlie Jones combined on the next drive to muscle down a few first downs, and get the ball into Clemson territory. The drive stalled, but Monroe’s punt pinned Clemson at their own 19, with only 7:01 remaining.
It took Clemson 10 plays to go 81 yards. The Big play was a 23-yard completion to Baham to the Canes 10. Whitehurst would QB sneak for a TD from there. Miami’s defense, brilliant all day, failed to force a 3rd down. It was now 20-17.
Miami’s offense needed a first down to ice the game. After Moss gained 4 yards on 2 plays, Wright was sacked on 3rd down. Monroe’s punt put the Tigers at their own 44 yard line with 1:15 left.
Whitehurst hit Baham for 11 and 14 yards, moving to the Canes 31. From there, he hit Chansi Stuckey for 21 yards to the Canes’ 10 with 41 with 26 seconds left. Clemson was 10 yards from victory. On 3rd-and-10, with 23 seconds left, Whitehurst had Stuckey wide open in the end zone, but overthrew him. Whitehurst was hit as he threw and had to rush the pass, but after the game, this was pointed to, justifiably, as a moment where Clemson could have won the game. The Tigers did hit a FG to tie it at 20 and force OT.
Miami got the ball first. Moss gained a yard on 1st down. On 2nd-and-9, the Canes made a holding penalty, and Miami was at 2nd-and-19. Wright hit Greg Olsen for 8 yards, and then on 3rd-and-11, Wright hit Ryan Moore for a huge gain down to the Clemson 6. With that new life, it was time for Tyrone Moss, who scored a TD 2 plays later. The extra point put the Canes up 27-20.
Clemson immediately started moving on their next drive. They needed a TD, but gained 10 yards on 1st down. After consecutive catches netted 8 total yards to the Canes’, Clemson found themselves at 4th-and-2. The play broke down, but Whitehurst fired a bullet into the end zone and found Baham who made the catch that tied the game at 27.
Miami’s defense put together a strong possession on the next drive. Clemson only gained 2 yards on 3 plays, but made the FG to go up 30-27.
The Canes offense knew a TD could win the game. After Moss was stuffed for a 2-yard loss, Wright hit Moore again, for 16 yards to the Clemson 11. Moss gained 9 yards on the next 2 runs. On 3rd-and-1 from the Clemson 2, the Canes called on Moss, but for once, Clemson stopped him for no gain. The Canes had the option of going for the win on 4th-and-1 from the 2 or for kicking the FG and forcing the 3rd OT. Larry Coker elected to kick and the game went to a 3rd OT tied at 30.
The game would be over in 4 plays.
After a reverse to Sinorice Moss gained no yards, the Canes would call Tyrone Moss’ number again. And he delivered. Moss scampered over the right-side, outraced the defense to the sideline, and laid out over the pylon to score the TD that put Miami ahead for good. Wright threw incomplete on the 2-point conversion, but the Canes took a 36-30 lead.
Clemson would throw an incompletion, then Kenny Phillips intercepted Whitehurst, dropping to one knee, and flinging the ball into the air victoriously.
Miami 36, Clemson 30 in 3 overtimes.
Full Game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alukz8Pt44Y
Why is it Memorable?
This is one in a series of classic games the Canes and Tigers played. And the only one the Canes won. The previous year (2004) the Tigers won in OT, and in 2009, they would do so again.
But this game was about the late, great Tyrone Moss. The Miami offense didn’t do much. Wright made some clutch throws, but only threw for 155 yards. Moss was called upon to carry the load, and he did, carrying 31 times for 135 yards and 3 TDs, including 2 in OT. Moss was the Canes rope-a-dope on the day. He leaned on that Clemson defense all day, often stymied, but never defeated. And after wearing them down, he knocked them out in OT.
Kudos should also be paid to the Canes’ defense. For much of the game, Clemson really struggled to move the ball.
Speaking of Clemson, their role here should not be diminished. They could have gone away multiple times but didn’t, which turned this from a comfortable Miami win to a classic game.
The images of this game that live on years later are of Moss diving into the end zone, of the entire team celebrating victory, and of Tommy Bowden, exhausted from the game, going to a knee at midfield.
We all felt that way after this win, which ended in sweet relief.
Miami would use this game to propel the season forward, culminating with the much more famous demolition of Virginia Tech in November, which propelled the Canes to the #3 ranking in the country. That game would also likely cost the Canes the season, as Tyrone Moss left with an injury.
That would ultimately be fleeting, as 2 weeks after that, they lost at home to Georgia Tech 14-10, costing them the ACC Coastal and a shot at a rematch with Florida State. The Canes would go to the Peach Bowl, where LSU would obliterate them. Most of the offensive staff was fired after that game, and Larry Coker was out a year later.
For Clemson, their close calls did not end here. They would lose in OT the next week to Boston College, then lose by 4 to Wake Forest, before recovering to win 5 out of 6, with the loss coming by 1-point to Georgia Tech. Clemson would win their bowl game, and finish 9-4, with their losses either coming in OT or by a combined a 5 points.