College Football
Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis looks to pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Clemson, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

FSU Survives in Death Valley, Defeats Clemson

In the most important ACC game of the year, Florida State defeated Clemson 31-24 in an overtime thriller at Death Valley on Saturday afternoon. FSU ended a seven-game losing streak to Clemson.

Clemson squandered countless opportunities and several coaching mistakes proved to be the downfall for the Tigers.

Suspect Coaching Decisions

Both teams came into Saturday’s game believing it would determine the outcome of their season. But Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney and new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley hindered Clemson’s offense. For example, on the Tiger’s second drive of the game, Clemson was in the red zone. On third and three, Riley elected for a quarterback run play with Cade Klubnik. The Seminoles stonewalled the play and Clemson kicked a field goal.

With Clemson driving with five minutes left in a tie game, Swinney called a timeout while the offense was on the FSU 40, instead of running down the clock. But things got weirder when Clemson called three straight pass plays while nearing the red zone. Clemson’s incomplete pass on second and long stopped the play clock and created a long third down attempt, shifting momentum to the Seminoles.

Weitz’s Catastrophic Ending

Before Saturday’s game, Clemson was without a kicker. Dabo Swinney called graduate senior walk-on Johnathan Weitz. Weitz was watching from home a week ago. But when Clemson needed a fill-in kicker, he was Dabo’s guy. As the third quarter ended, Weitz made all three PATs and his lone field goal attempt.

However, what looked like the makings of a Disney movie, turned into disaster when Weitz missed a chip-shot field goal attempt that would have given the Tigers a three-point lead with less than two minutes left in the game.

Dynamic Defenses

Under the Swinney era, Clemson has prioritized their defense. While this year’s Clemson defense does not stack up to their national championship-level defenses, on Saturday, the Tigers stepped up when it mattered most. With the game tied at 24, the Seminoles got the ball with 1:40 left.

At the Clemson 39, the Tigers broke up four straight Jordan Travis passes and stopped the explosive FSU offense. But the FSU defense also rose to the occasion.

With Clemson up by a touchdown in the winding moments of the third quarter, Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik was driving the offense down the field. At midfield, Kalen Deloach came into the backfield unblocked and caused a scoop-and-score touchdown for the Seminoles and tied the game entering the fourth quarter.

In overtime, FSU stopped Clemson from tying the game, created a four-and-out for the Seminoles, and ended the game.

ACC Power Change

FSU solidified themselves as the main powerhouse in the ACC this year. With their win Saturday, Florida State will not be truly tested until the Seminoles travel to Gainesville and face Florida. Until then, FSU needs to focus on not being upset by Duke or Miami. Their next matchup will be hosting Virginia Tech next week.

For Clemson, the Tigers started the season 2-2 and Dabo Swinney needs to rethink his opinion on the transfer portal and NIL. Clemson has zero starters from the transfer portal this season. Swinney’s way of thinking is outdated, and at this rate, Tiger fans should be satisfied with nine wins this season. Clemson will play at Syracuse next week.

About Nick VanZandt

Nick VanZandt is a senior journalism student at the University of Florida and this is his third semester working for WRUF.

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