Before the season began, Clemson’s offensive coaches talked to their players about the road that was laid in front of the third-ranked Tigers.
They talked about a Clemson team had not won at Auburn since 1950. They talked about how the Tigers had not won at Georgia Tech since 2003, and they talked about how they have not won at Florida State since 2006.
So far Clemson beat Auburn at Jordan Hare to start the season to end one streak, and then a few weeks later whipped Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Now comes the biggest test of them all as the Tigers travel to No. 15 Florida State next week in Tallahassee, Florida.
Since the Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992, Clemson is 1-11 at Doak Campbell Stadium and 3-12 all-time there.
In the last five years, Clemson has won 63 games, won four straight bowl games, two ACC Championships, made the College Football Playoff and played for a National Championship. The only thing the program has not done to this point is beat Florida State in Tallahassee.
“It is just another good challenge for a group, a team, especially these offensive guys that have accomplished an awful lot of things that have not been done around here in a long time. It is just another goal for these guys to kind of put an end to that,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “Obviously, it will not be something that is a major focus. We have to go get ready and play the game, but I know the guys would like to be the ones to try and turn around that trend.”
Since the Tigers’, 27-20, win over the Seminoles in 2006 when James Davis scored the winning touchdown in the final 30 seconds, they have lost the last four meetings down there. In each case, Clemson played well enough to win, but it just did not make the plays when it needed to the most.
In 2008, FSU outlasted the Tigers 41-27. In 2010, Clemson had the football with a first-and-goal late in the game but had to settle for a game-tying field goal and then lost, 16-13, on a 55-yard field goal as time expired.
In 2012, Clemson had a 10-point lead in the third quarter, but a long kickoff return changed the momentum of the game and the Tigers eventually lost the game, 49-37.
Then there was the 2014 game. Clemson completely outplayed the Seminoles and dominated the game all the way through. After Jadar Johnson got a late interception and returned it deep into FSU territory with under two minutes to play, the Tigers appeared set to kick a game-winning field goal. However, C.J. Davidson fumbled the second down play and the Seminoles recovered to force overtime. Florida State ended up winning the game, 23-17, in overtime.
Scott says there is a simple reason why the Tigers have not won in Tallahassee in 10 years.
“The team that plays in Tallahassee is very good,” he said. “I think we recruit very well every year and I think they are right there with us, if not ranked above us, every single year. They are a very, very talented. They have always played well against us no matter how they have played up until that point. Then they have made the plays and we have not.
“We have had opportunities to win the last couple of times we have been down there and we just were not able to capitalize on them.”