Over the last few years, the Clemson-FSU game has been the marquee game for the ACC. With this year’s rise of Louisville and two losses by FSU, a bit of the shine was taken off of the game this year, but I’m sure the players on both sides were having none of that kind of thinking. The game went down to the last FSU possession and the Tiger defense came through once again to seal the win.
The Tigers got off to a fast start, scoring on their first possession with a 1-yd run by Wayne Gallman. The 9-play drive was efficient, with a nice throw by Deshaun Watson to Jordan Leggett. FSU’s subsequent drive also started well, but the Clemson defense dialed up some pressure and forced a punt.
The next Clemson drive was also a good one, with Watson making good decisions and running well, especially on one run where Mike Williams made a nice block downfield. The drive ended with a 4-yd touchdown catch by Hunter Renfrow. The Tiger defense then had several good series and stymied the FSU offense. Watson then threw an interception where the defender suckered him into the wrong throw. The ensuing FSU drive was ugly, with multiple penalties on both teams. The Tigers missed a great opportunity to stop the drive when Dalvin Cook fumbled inside the 10, but FSU was able to recover it. Cook then got into the end zone on a short run on the next play.
The Tiger offense was not as dominating the rest of the half, and I noted several poor blocks by Gallman that contributed to stalled drives. But they did get a field goal late in the second quarter to go up 17-7. FSU then executed the 2-minute offense to perfection, taking advantage of bad coverage by the Tiger secondary, and scored on a beautifully thrown pass by Deondre Francois. I have to give it to the young man- that was a big-league throw at the pylon to Nyqwan Murray. The half ended with the Tigers up 17-14.
The second half started well for the Tigers with a good series by the defense. The ensuing Clemson possession looked good, until they got into the red zone and had to settle for a field goal. The Tiger defense then made another good stop when Christian Wilkins made a sack on third down.
The Tigers then took over but Watson threw another pick. It’s clear that the FSU coaches had figured out something about Watson’s decision making that enabled them to fool him with certain looks. The wheels then began to come off for the Tigers when Dalvin Cook got to the outside on a long run and put the Seminoles up 21-20.
The defenses then asserted themselves for a couple of series. The Tigers seemed to be moving the ball with Gallman, but drives were stalling. Then Cook got loose again on the outside on a well executed counter play and scored to put the Seminoles up 28-20. Tiger fans surely had to be worried that things were getting out of control.
But the Tiger offense stayed cool, and Wayne Gallman got a touchdown on a very nice second effort to break the plane. Cook then got loose on another long run, but it was negated by an FSU penalty. The FSU drive stalled and then the Tigers drove down the field but again had to settle for a field goal. On the next drive Cook scored again on an outside run when the Tigers failed to set the edge, but the two-point conversion failed.
The Tigers needed a time-consuming drive and a score. They ended up getting the score thanks to some great catches by Leggett. He showed his athletic ability on a diving effort to get into the end zone and put the Tigers up 37-34. But the quick score left the Seminoles with two minutes to try to pull out the win.
At first, the Seminoles were moving down the field efficiently, with the Tiger secondary showing some weaknesses. They even moved into field goal range, but then they committed two false starts. Then the Tiger defense rose to the occasion, with Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence sacking Francois to set up a fourth and forever for the Seminoles. With everyone holding their breath, Francois dropped back but was sacked again. Tiger nation took a deep breath and reveled in the first Clemson victory in Tallahassee in a decade.
With another win, the Tigers have solidified their claim to a position in the college football playoff. There are, however, still many things that the Tigers need to work on if they want to get to the top of that mountain. Tune into STS in the coming days for detailed analysis of this exciting game.