Even though his defense had just allowed a 60-yard touchdown pass a few minutes before, and they were tired due to a lack of depth at some key positions, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables had confidence his unit could get a stop as Florida State took the field at the Clemson 40-yard line with 6:46 to play.
It took just one play for his defense to prove him right. Safety Van Smith intercepted James Blackman’s pass at the Clemson 18 and returned it 38 yards to the Seminoles’ 44. A few minutes later, running back Travis Etienne broke off a 25-yard run to the FSU five and then two plays later he found his way into the end zone from a yard out, sealing No. 4 Clemson’s 31-14 victory at Death Valley.
For the most part, the Tigers, who clinched the ACC’s Atlantic Division with the win, dominated the Florida State offense all day.
Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) held the Seminoles to 229 yards, including just 21 on the ground. They sacked Blackman five times, forced two fumbles, had two turnovers and held them to 3-of-13 on third down.
So before his defense headed out for that crucial possession late in the fourth quarter, Venables huddled his defense up and told them to just settle down.
“You can’t go try and make somebody else’s play,” he said. “That’s your drive. You have to stay very disciplined… You just have to play with discipline for 60-minutes. That’s why in 60-minute games, anyone can embarrass you when you start losing your discipline and have guys that are trying to do too much.
“We had a couple big drives there where we didn’t play great and they exposed us. But we were able to settle down and we played great all night. We just need to relax. There are no magical calls – you just have to execute with technique and discipline and do your job. They did that.”