TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With Clemson in front by two touchdowns midway through the second quarter, Florida State was finally moving the football against a Clemson defense that had been stifling to that point.
In eight plays, quarterback Deondre Francois moved the Seminoles to the Tigers’ 30-yard line on a drive that covered 35 yards. They had some momentum. Maybe this was the moment they could turn the game in their favor.
However, Clemson’s defense did what it has been doing all year. It came up with a big play that told its opponent it had no hope at winning the game.
Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence got a push up the middle on third-and-20 at the Clemson 40-yard line and deflected Francois’ pass just enough where it went right to linebacker Tre Lamar, who returned it 43 yards to the Florida State 30-yard line.
A few plays later, to add insult to injury, the Tigers cashed in on the opportunity with a one-yard touchdown-run by defensive tackle Christian Wilkins on a play called “The Fridge Package” as the second-ranked Tigers cruised to a 59-10 victory over the Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.
“I for sure thought I was going to score,” Lamar said afterwards. “There was one dude between me and the end zone, but I couldn’t do it, but I was excited to get one.”
Lamar’s interception ended any hope the Seminoles (4-4, 2-4 ACC) had in upsetting Clemson as it built a 45-0 lead through the first 40 minutes of the game.
“They had a little momentum going and a little drive coming around for them, so I think it was big just getting the turnover in general to turn the tide for us,” Lamar said.
The Tigers (8-0, 5-0 ACC) held FSU to 247 total yards, including minus-21 yards on the ground, an all-time best against an ACC opponent.
“We wanted to make them one-dimensional, take the run away and we were able to do that,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “That led to us being able to pin our ears back, bring some pressure on the quarterback and disrupt their timing.
“We got a couple of turnovers, we really should have had another one with K’Von Wallace. Defensively, we were awesome.”
Clemson finished the game with five sacks and overall had 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Francois, who either led the ACC or was second in many passing categories coming into the game on Saturday, completed just 17-of-36 passes for 180 yards. He was sacked four times and of course there was Lamar’s interception.
“We woke up this morning and our guys were focused,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “They just had a real hunger to them. They had the right stuff to them in regards to not being satisfied and wanting more, expecting more and demanding more.
“It makes it a lot more fun to coach when you have guys with that type of leadership and that type of attitude.”