It wasn’t pretty. It hardly has been this season, but Clemson (5-3. 4-2 ACC) got the job done.
After an ugly third quarter, Clemson did just enough to inch past Florida State, 30-20.
As it has all season, Clemson’s defense rose to the occasion with the game on the line. After the offense scored a touchdown, surpassing 19+ points against an FBS opponent in regulation for the first time this season, it was the defense’s turn to make a stop.
It did. Twice.
Clemson sacked FSU quarterback Jordan Travis on consecutive plays. Myles Murphy brought down Travis for a loss of three yards on second down. Then, Ruke Orhorhoro brought him down for a loss of 19 yards. Travis lost the ball, but his knee was down.
FSU punted the ball away, stopped by Clemson with its three timeouts, but its end of the game desperation ended in a Barrett Carter touchdown. The first of his career and Clemson’s first non-offensive touchdown of the season.
Before Carter’s touchdown though, Clemson needed just three plays to take the lead, the go-ahead score which would be the difference in Saturday’s win.
Really, it was four plays, but the first one didn’t count. D.J. Uiagalelei took a shot down the field with Beaux Collins as his intended receiver — pass interference.
Uiagalelei gained two yards on the ground, then five. However, he was hit late out of bounds by D.J. Lundy. Personal foul. Tack on another 15 yards.
Will Shipley got his chance at redemption. After dropping a touchdown pass, in which he could’ve figuratively hit his head on the goal post in Clemson’s 27-17 loss to Pitt last week, Shipley was visibility dejected.
He got his chance. Shipley, taking tacklers with him, found the endzone for the second time Saturday. This time on a 22-yard scamper, which showed off his physicality and his willingness to get those extra yards.
Shipley led the way with 128 rushing yards on 25 carries, averaging 5.1 per carry and scoring two touchdowns (2, 22). He also accounted for a third of Clemson’s offensive production. The Tigers scored 24 points on 377 yards of total offense, adding six points from Carter’s late touchdown.
But it almost didn’t happen that way.
Just as Clemson looked like it was about to turn a corner offensively, Uiagalelei threw an untimely interception in the third quarter, his sixth of the season. Luckily for Clemson, its defense rose to the occasion yet again, preventing the Seminoles from getting any points off the turnover.
After multiple perfectly placed passes from Uigalelei to Justyn Ross for gains of 12 and 25, another untimely turnover came about. Uiaglelei hesitated on a screen pass, found E.J. Williams, who was then gang tackled and had the ball stripped away.
After a relatively clean first half, minus a couple of offsides penalties, Clemson turned over the ball on back-to-back offensive possessions. However, the Tigers were finally able to catch a break after Williams’ turnover. On the very next play, Treshaun Ward coughed away the football and it was recovered by Clemson’s true freshman safety Andrew Mukuba.
While the Tigers ended up putting up 30 points in regulation, it was almost as if there was a forcefield in the red zone for the majority of the second half.
In the third quarter, Clemson, again, had a chance to reach 20 points for the first time in regulation this season against an FBS opponent, and again, it failed. B.T. Potter, who went 1-of-3 on field goals in the first half had a chance to make it a 7-point game. Instead, Potter, who came into the game with just one miss on the season, knuckled a 30-yard chip shot, which whistled past the left upright. His third miss of the game.
Clemson got the ball back again and nearly gave the game away.
Midway through the fourth, Marcus Tate was called for a false start on a 3rd-and-1, which forced Uiaglelei to line up out of the shotgun on 3rd-and-6. After flying past Walker Parks, Georgia transfer Jermaine Johnson II stripped sacked Uiaglaleli and found the end zone for a scoop-and-score, which gave FSU a 20-17 lead.
From there, the Seminoles had a chance to put the game on ice, but Clemson’s defense had other ideas. While Travis gained a yard or two on the ground on each of the three plays FSU ran, Mario Goodrich, Xavier Thomas and Tyler Davis were all over him.
That set up Clemson’s go-ahead scoring drive and would be the difference in the game.