CLEMSON — For the first time ever, the Clemson Tigers played in front of their home crowd as the highest ranked team in the land, and the matchup set up like a Hollywood movie: The Tigers were to face the three time defending ACC champion Florida State Seminoles.
On the Seminoles second play of the game, their heralded running back, Dalvin Cook, took his first carry 75 yards for a touchdown. Just 45 seconds into the game and FSU had delivered a knockout punch. The Noles defense would then force a quick turn around and have the ball back after just four plays from Clemson.
Sean Maguire took his team 57 yards, into the red zone, and it looked like FSU was going to run away with the game. Clemson fans quickly thought back to 2013, the last time the Tigers entered this highly touted rivalry as a higher ranked team and favorite. That year, the Seminoles crashed Clemson’s party with a 51-13 blowout on their way to a national championship.
With Death Valley hushed, Coach Jimbo Fisher went for the jugular. Quarterback Sean Maguire threw a pass to Kermit Whitfield. This time, though, Clemson responded. Adrian Baker leapt for the interception and provided the spark the Tigers needed to come to life.
The Seminoles would only reach the red zone one more time on the day, and would not get a touchdown after Cook’s long run. The Clemson defense held. In fact, after Dalvin Cook’s first two carries gave him 111 yards, Florida State would only pick up 250 yards the rest of the day.
Clemson’s offense, so prolific over the past month, looked out of sorts in the first quarter. Deshaun Watson missed easy passes, Wayne Gallman was bottled up, and the Tiger offense struggled to make anything happen. Even late in the first half, when Watson finally completed some passes and moved the offense, he had a huge mental error and spiked the ball on third down, effectively ending a drive.
The second half was a different story. After going into the locker room trailing for the first time all season at the half, Clemson came out and asserted themselves. The highest ranked team in the land played the way they are capable and put the Seminoles to rest.
After a rough start, Watson would finish with 107 rushing yards to go along with 297 passing yards. Gallman, after struggling for much of the first half, would finish with 103 yards including a bruising 25 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Jordan Leggett became only the second tight end in Clemson history to have over 100 receiving yards.
Clemson went into Saturday’s clash in Death Valley as the highest ranked team in the land, and they came out having taken the best shot a quality Florida State team could give with a 23-13 victory. The Tigers remained undefeated and look to remain at #1.
Reach James Inabinet at 803-635-4016.