The Florida State Seminoles entered Death Valley as the number four team in the country and a slight favorite to defeat the 2-1 Clemson Tigers. For the most part, the Tigers controlled the contest: FSU was not able to run the ball effectively, Clemson was getting pressure on Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis, and Cade Klubnik was comfortable managing the offense. A couple of huge plays from Florida State along with costly mistakes by the Tigers and the Clemson coaching staff flipped the outcome and Florida State escaped with a 31-24 overtime victory. What were the key plays that ultimately shaped this matchup?
Weitz On The Board
Both teams were forced to punt on their first offensive possessions. On Clemson’s second series, the Tigers converted a short fourth down near midfield with a run by Phil Mafah but an offensive pass interference penalty and a false start on Blake Miller stymied the drive inside the red zone. Jonathan Weitz was summoned for his first career field goal attempt. Less than a week of experience since rejoining the program, Weitz needed to hit a 30-yard attempt and he blasted it through the uprights to put Clemson ahead 3-0.
Complementary Football Puts Tigers Ahead 10-0
On FSU’s next drive, Jeremiah Trotter Jr. broke through the line and sacked Jordan Travis on third and ten, forcing a three-and-out for the Seminoles. The resulting punt was a poor one, drifting out of bounds at the 49-yard line and setting Clemson up with good field position. Klubnik threw a great ball to Tyler Brown and the redshirt freshman made a diving catch inside the ten. On second and goal, Cade Klubnik crossed the goal line for a short touchdown to give Clemson a 10-0 advantage.
Death Valley was rocking but FSU did not blink, responding with a 13-play touchdown drive that ended with a touchdown pass to a wide-open Keon Coleman on third and goal from the seven-yard line. The Seminoles converted a fourth down earlier in the drive and scored when they desperately needed to.
Klubnik Punches Back
Clemson’s offense was in a rhythm and looked really comfortable for the first time all season. Cade Klubnik connected twice with Troy Stellatto for first downs and then threw a 33-yard completion to Jake Briningstool that got Clemson to the 12-yard line. Garrett Riley split Will Shipley out wide and Klubnik threw to him on a quick slant for the ten-yard score. It was a seven-play, 78-yard drive to make it 17-7 with just 2:12 remaining in the half.
Florida State Seizes Momentum Before Half
With Clemson leading 17-7 and in firm control, the final possession of the first half was a critical one. Jordan Travis escaped pressure and connected with Keon Coleman for 38 yards followed by a pass interference penalty on Sheridan Jones. With 22 seconds remaining, Travis ran in for the touchdown to cut the deficit to three points at the half.
Shipley Takes The Lead for Clemson
After a field goal from the Seminoles out of the half, Clemson took over at the 23-yard line and engineered a strong drive. Will Shipley ran for a first down followed by Cade Klubnik escaping a sack and doing the same. Troy Stellatto caught another pass for a first down and the drive was aided by a facemask penalty on FSU. Jake Briningstool caught a pass to get down to the one, and Shipley plunged in for the go-ahead score. It was an 11-play, 77-yard drive.
Knockout Punch...Or Not
Clemson forced FSU to punt and was driving for what could have been a knockout blow. Phil Mafah had just run for 46 yards and the Tigers were rolling. On a second down play from the FSU 29-yard line, Phil Mafah missed a blocking assignment and Kalen DeLoach blasted Cade Klubnik in the pocket, jarring the ball loose. Klubnik never saw the defender. The ball bounced kindly for DeLoach who scooped it up and ran it back 56 yards for the tying score. According to gameonpaper.com, the win probability flipped by 34 percentage points in FSU’s direction on that play alone (from Clemson's 82% likely to win to just 48% at the time).
No Hollywood Ending
The Clemson Tigers had steadied the ship after the scoop and score and a sack by Xavier Thomas forced a punt from Florida State. With 7:03 remaining in the game, Clemson began its drive at the 43-yard line. A pass interference penalty gave Clemson a first down and a Tyler Brown reception converted a third and six. Who knows whether it was Dabo Swinney or Garrett Riley who called it, but the Clemson offense got conservative, and a 3rd and 11 QB draw was stuffed for no gain. That set up a 29-yard field goal for Jonathan Weitz with 1:49 remaining. Weitz sailed the kick just a bit wide and the Seminoles had the ball with a chance to win.
After the Seminoles unsuccessfully took a few shots to get into field goal range, they punted with 23 seconds remaining. Clemson questionably opted to not attempt to end the game in regulation and the contest went to overtime. On the second play of overtime, Jordan Travis lofted the ball to Keon Coleman. The transfer wide receiver made a terrific play to haul in the touchdown. Jeadyn Lukas, in the game for the injured Nate Wiggins, covered the pass nearly as well as he could have but great players make great plays and Keon Coleman did just that.
Clemson got nine yards from Will Shipley on their first play to set themselves up well. On third and one, the Tigers ran an odd bubble screen to Adam Randall, a play Cade Klubnik later claimed was his fault for attempting. On fourth and two, Klubnik’s pass fell incomplete and the Florida State Seminoles, despite never leading in regulation, escaped with the 31-24 win.
Clemson will try to begin salvaging the season on Saturday at Syracuse.