MIAMI | Jacoby Ford tucked the ball safely under both arms after he crossed the goal line, sprinting to give it to his mother as a memento.
Dabo Swinney leapt into the arms of right-hand man Woody McCorvey, filled with joy and relief.
It was quiet for quarterback Kyle Parker, who had lost sight of his receiver and did not know the Tigers had pulled off Saturday's 40-37 overtime upset of No. 8 Miami until he saw teammates sprinting onto the field.
"You should have been in the press box," offensive coordinator Billy Napier said. "I thought it was 'Animal House.' I've never seen guys hugging like that before."
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Perhaps because it had seemed that long since Clemson had veered from the all-too-familiar script.
Ford's 26-yard touchdown catch catapulted the Tigers (4-3, 3-2 ACC) to one of the program's biggest road wins in program history, and ended Clemson's stretch of collapsing in clutch situations.
Having failed against No. 8 TCU, No. 10 Georgia Tech and Maryland, the Tigers finally broke through, matching the school's record for highest-ranked opponent beaten on the road in the process.
The triumph positioned Clemson in the driver's seat in the ACC Atlantic Division, where it is in first place and holds the tiebreaker over Boston College.
Moreover, it snapped a stretch of eight consecutive losses to ranked opponents for the Tigers. It also broke a skid where the Tigers suffered eight of their past nine losses by seven points or less.
Running back C.J. Spiller finished with a program-record 310 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, while Parker outdueled Miami quarterback Jacory Harris by throwing for 326 yards and three touchdowns.
"No group deserved to be able to break through (more) than this group," Swinney said. "I told them coming down here that this wasn't a David and Goliath. We were good enough and expected to win.
"I don't think there's any turning back. ... I hope that this win can teach these kids that it ain't ever over till it's over, you have to appreciate the valleys because it's in those valleys that you grow and mature ... and find out who's all-in and who ain't. So that when you get on that mountain top, you know who hung in there with you. Only time will tell, but I will say this is a big shot in the arm."
And there were several occasions in which the Hurricanes (5-2, 2-2) could have drawn blood.
Junior safety DeAndre McDaniel's 23-yard interception return pushed Clemson ahead 31-27 with 9:40 remaining in the game, only for the Tigers to lose the lead one play later when Miami receiver Travis Benjamin got behind three defenders for a 69-yard touchdown down the sideline.
Clemson responded by driving to a first-and-goal from the Miami 4 before Parker's forced throw on third down was intercepted in the end zone with 5:37 left. But after forcing a three-and-out, the Tigers strung together a nine-play drive, with back Jamie Harper barreling to the Miami 13 with 20 seconds left.
Clemson had to burn its final timeout with nine seconds to go when the team did not get to the line to spike the ball in enough time. So instead of taking one crack at the end zone, Richard Jackson kicked the game-tying 30-yard field goal and sent the game to overtime for the third consecutive meeting.
"We had to overcome a lot tonight - a lot - but I wouldn't take it any other way," Swinney said.
Clemson won the toss and elected to give Miami the ball first, and momentum swung into the Hurricanes' favor as Graig Cooper rushed for 19 yards to the Tigers' 6, setting up first-and-goal.
"I'm sure everybody said, 'Oh no, can Clemson score a touchdown to match it,'" defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said.
Instead, Clemson held its ground, giving up 1 yard on consecutive runs before forcing an incompletion on third down.
Miami settled for a 22-yard field goal, and after gaining 1 yard on the first two plays of their drive, the Tigers looked as if they would have to try a field goal to tie.
But Parker, given plenty of protection, fired a laser to Ford inside the 5 as Ford crossed the middle on a post route.
Ford turned the corner into the end zone as Miami's approaching safety took out the corner in coverage, and the fiesta was on. The Tigers had fulfilled Swinney's recent pleas to "grow up."
"I'm not sure I want to go home," Swinney said as he sat a table in his post-game news conference.