TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After catching a wide open pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson around the Florida State 17-yard line, Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett made his way around the corner and towards the goal line. As Florida State’s Kyle Meyers tried to tackle him, he dove for the pylon while using his left hand to keep his body up just enough, while sticking the ball over the goal line.
The 34-yard catch-and-run gave Clemson a one-point lead with 2:06 to play in the game, and turned out to be the winning touchdown as the third-ranked Tigers downed No. 14 Florida State, 37-34, Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. Wide receiver Mike Williams caught Watson’s pass on the two-point conversion for the game’s final points.
“I’m glad to finally walk into this room and be happy,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who won for the first time in five tries at Doak Campbell Stadium. “It’s been a long time coming, I can tell you that.”
It’s been 10 years since the Tigers last won in Tallahassee, and just the second time since the Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992.
FSU took a 34-29 lead with 3:23 to play when running back Dalvin Cook scored his fourth touchdown of the night from eight yards out. Cook also had touchdown runs of 4, 43 and 70 yards. He finished the game with 169 yards on 19 carries.
“And dadgum No. 4 (Cook) … I hope he is leaving. He’s a great player,” Swinney said.
And though Cook had a Heisman-like moment with his performance, it was Clemson’s Watson who kept himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation despite throwing two earlier interceptions. After Cook’s touchdown, Watson drove the Tigers’ 75 yards in five plays for the winning touchdown, and made it look easy while doing it.
“He’s just unbelieveable,” Swinney said. “He just keeps playing and that fourth quarter was unbelieveable,” Swinney said.
Watson opened the drive with a 25-yard pass to Leggett to midfield, and then found his tight end again for 11 yards and a first down on third-and-five from the FSU 45. On the next play, Watson had Leggett wide open near the far sideline for the 34-yard game-winning score.
“The resiliency was awesome. They had to be at their best and they were in the fourth quarter,” Swinney said.
Watson, who threw a touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow earlier in the game, finished the night 27 of 43 for 378 yards. He also ran for 52 yards. Leggett, who had three catches for all 70 yards on the winning drive, finished the night with five receptions for 122 yards. He had a 41-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter to set up the Tigers’ first touchdown.
However, the Seminoles were not done. Quarterback Deondre Francois quickly put them in position to tie the game with a field goal, but back-to-back procedure penalties and then back-to-back sacks from Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and linebacker Ben Boulware ended the game.
It was nice redemption for a Clemson defense that could not stop Cook in the second half. The ACC’s top rusher had 136 yards and three touchdowns in the last 30 minites.
“Our defense had a couple of bad spots and that’s tough to do against a really good team like that,” Swinney said.
With the win the Tigers (8-0, 5-0 ACC) seized control of the ACC’s Atlantic Division with home dates with Syracuse and Pitt left as well as a road-game at Wake Forest.
“It was a heck of a ball game and I’m proud of all those guys,” Swinney said.
After the Tigers took a one-point lead on Greg Heugel’s 46-yard field goal, reserve FSU tailback Freddie Stevenson went 38 yards to the Clemson eight-yard line, and Cook scored on the next play to give the ‘Noles a 34-29 lead after the two-point conversion failed with 3:23 to play.
Huegel made his 46-yard field goal with 5:25 to play in the game, giving the Tigers a brief 29-28 lead. Huegel’s kick capped an eight-play, 23-yard drive that took 3:28 off the clock
On fourth-and-1 from the FSU 43, running back Wayne Gallman got a block from Lawrence in the jumbo package to spring an 11-yard run to move the football out to the 32-yard line. Gallman’s run was set up by a 20-yard sliding catch by Renfrow on third-and-21.
Clemson owned the first quarter, but Florida State owned the second as Francois threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Nyqwan Murray with 23 seconds to play in the first half. Murray’s touchdown, which was originally ruled incomplete but overturned by replay, cut the Tigers’ lead to 17-14 at the half. The play capped a 6-play, 78-yard drive that took 1:21 off the clock.
Clemson opened the game with a nine-play, 68-yard scoring drive capped by a Gallman one-yard run with 11:05 to play in the first quarter. Gallman’s touchdown was set up by a 41-yard pass down the seam from Watson to Leggett, who carried the ball to the one. Gallman scored on the next play.
The Tigers extend their lead to 14-0 on their next possession as Watson threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Renfrow. The drive was an 80-yard scoring drive in which Clemson used 10 plays and took 3:36 off the clock with 1:41 to go in the first quarter.
The Tigers outgained FSU 147-67 in the opening 15 minutes as Watson was 9-for-11 for 98 yards.
Clemson had two opportunities to extend its lead with consecutive drives that started near midfield. But the Seminoles forced a three-and-out on the first one, and then Marquez White intercepted Watson on a third-and-short play and return it to the FSU 40.
The interception changed the course of the game and gave FSU life after back-to-back three-and-outs to end the first quarter. The Seminoles had 144 total yards in the second quarter, while holding the Tigers to 84 total yards.
Florida State (5-3, 2-3 ACC) was aided by two Clemson penalties, a pass interference call on Mark Fields and a Boulware holding penalty to move the ball deep into Clemson terrioty as well as a 28-yard pass play. Cook scored on a 4-yard run with 8:20 to play in the second quarter.
Huegel answered the Cook touchdown with a 23-yard field goal with 1:49 to go in the half. Safety Jadar Johnson intercepted Francois at his own 29 on a deep pass and returned it three yards. Watson drove the Tigers 62 yards in eight plays after the interception to set Huegel up with a 23-yard kick.
Huegel made a second field with 9:08 to play in the third quarter to give the Tigers’ a 20-14 lead. The kick was set up with a 40-yard pass to Deon Cain to the FSU 13. Cain also had a 29-yard reception on the drive.
FSU’s Tarvarus McFadden intercepted a Watson pass at the Clemson 43-yard line, and on the next play, Cook took a hand-off, got around right end and raced 43 yards for a touchdown to give the ‘Noles their first lead, 21-20, with 6:18 to play in third quarter.
After Cook went for 70 yards on FSU’s next possession, Clemson bounced back and converted three third downs, two to Williams and one to Artavis Scott, a 13-yard pass to the FSU two-yard line. Gallman scored on the next play with 11:30 to play. The two-point pass to Williams fell incomplete and the Seminoles still held a 28-26 lead.
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