Florida State’s losing streak to Clemson is over.
Even though the Seminoles never led in regulation.
No. 4 FSU (4-0, 2-0 in ACC)) rallied from early deficits of 10-0 and 17-7 to knock off the Tigers (2-2, 0-2) for the first time since 2014 31-24 in overtime, snapping a seven-game losing streak in the ACC rivalry.
The Seminoles won despite being outgained 429 to 311 to the Tigers.
In overtime, FSU got the ball first and Jordan Travis hit Keon Coleman for a 24-yard touchdown pass on its second play of the series.
Then, FSU’s defense got a stop without allowing a first down in overtime, blowing up a screen pass on third and one and escaping with a win on an errant pass by Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik on fourth and two from the 17-yard line.
Perhaps the play of the game, though, came from the FSU defense. With Clemson leading 24-17 and across midfield in the third quarter, FSU linebacker Kalen DeLoach hit Klubnik on a blitz, picked up the fumble he forced himself and returned it 56 yards for a game-tying touchdown which wound up being the final score of regulation.
FSU may not have even made it to overtime were it not for Clemson kicker Jonathan Weitz missing a chip-shot 30-yard field goal with less than two minutes left which would have given the Tigers the lead.
FSU drove across midfield on its final drive of regulation but the offense stalled out from there.
Here are three takeaways from FSU’s narrow, streak-snapping win over the Tigers
Passing game survives some inefficiency
For long stretches of Saturday’s game, things sure looked eerily similar to the end of last week’s game from the Florida State football offense.
After the Seminoles were held in their last four possessions last week at Boston College, they were similarly held scoreless through two drives Saturday, managing just 21 yards of offense against the Tigers on 11 first-quarter plays.
After the Seminoles got in a 10-0 hole that appeared daunting, the offense re-awakened. FSU scored 17 points on its ensuing three possessions to tie the game at 17 early in the third quarter.
Jordan Travis distributed the ball well to his playmakers during that stretch, leading a pair of consecutive touchdown drives which were largely generated through the air and included a clutch fourth-and-short conversion by Travis on the ground.
However, he fell off a bit in the second half in terms of his accuracy. After he completed 12 of 17 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in the first half, he was 9 of 20 in the second half, falling perhaps a bit too much in love with the deep ball.
In the end, though, he threw the one ball he needed to Coleman when FSU needed it most in overtime. It was Coleman’s second touchdown of the day, giving him six touchdown catches in four games this season.
It was once again the usual suspects for FSU’s receiving game. Johnny Wilson led FSU with 94 yards while Coleman added 86, as this pair accounted for 62.3% of Travis’ 289 passing yards.
Defense starts slow but clutches up
There was a lot of confidence from the FSU coaching staff this week that the defensive issues which plagued the Seminoles last week were correctable.
While that may prove true in the long term, it wasn’t a quick fix by any means as the same issues showed up for the second straight week in Death Valley.
Once again, FSU was giving away far too many easy catches, missing tackles to turn big plays into bigger plays and struggling to get off the field in advantageous third-down scenarios.
Clemson’s offense had some major questions entering this game and was without Antonio Williams, the team’s leading receiver last season, due to injury. And yet, you wouldn’t have known that from how effective the Tigers’ offense early on was Saturday afternoon.
Klubnik had 190 passing yards in the first half, completing 13 of his 18 passes.
On Clemson’s final six possessions, though, the FSU defense clutched up, allowing no points. This was aided by the missed field goal, but included some clutch stops, none bigger than the one in overtime.
After Clemson had 17 first-half points, the Seminoles allowed just seven points the rest of the way.
Run game can’t get going
its run game was never able to find much footing against the Tigers’ defense. Trey Benson picked up six yards on his first carry of the game, but the Seminoles finished with just 22 rushing yards on 20 carries (1.1 yards per carry).
Despite these struggles, FSU remained committed to the run throughout the game, often putting the offense behind the chains in the second half. This contributed to FSU’s average third-down-distance being 8.1 yards and the Seminoles finishing 4 of 13 on third downs.