Playing without Jameis Winston proved to be a very difficult task for Florida State, but the defending national champions and still the number one team in the country managed to prevail with a 23-17 overtime win over Clemson, as the Tigers made every possible mistake in the book in order to botch an incredible opportunity, from missed field goals to not being able to get the job done in the red zone.
The Seminoles were on the ropes, behind 17-10 in the fourth quarter, until Sean Maguire hit Rashad Greene for a 74-yard touchdown, trying the game. That touchdown was only made available because a Clemson defender slipped, leaving Greene wide open. Maguire threw an interception on the next possession. Clemson returned the ball into field goal range, but fumbled the ball as they were trying to get a bit closer, leading the game into overtime.
In overtime, Clemson had the ball first but because Dabo Swinney had no trust in his kicker Ammon Lakip he decided to go for it on a short fourth down situation and was denied just before he was able to move the goalposts. Florida State got the ball and Karlos Williams went on a 12-yard run to win the game for the Seminoles, with everyone in the stadium quite aware that they managed to get away with one.
No one can really blame Maguire, making his first start behind center for Florida State, for looking as raw and fresh as he did. He threw two interceptions and was harassed all through the first half, which included getting hurried on 12 of 20 dropbacks and getting sacked three times. The second half was very different for him as he kept throwing the ball to Nick O’Leary and Greene, getting 15 receptions for 213 yards from the two veterans.
Clemson had Florida State where they wanted them, but couldn’t finish the job. They made it into the red zone on seven of their 15 drives but managed to score on only four occasions. The biggest missed opportunity came late in the third quarter, dragging on into the fourth. A touchdown reception was overturned after a review, leading to a big goalline stand by the Seminoles, something which could have gone either way. With the score tied at 10, Clemson had a chance to take the lead through a field goal but Lakip made his second miss from very close range.
The Tigers finished with just 1.9 yards per play when inside the red zone, and although they eventually did take the lead later in the fourth quarter, this was a game of missed opportunities for them, leading to what is now a three-game losing streak against Florida State in a game that usually decides the winner of the Atlantic division in the ACC. It’s their second loss of the season which should drop them out of the rankings, but at least they can feel confident in the ability of their quarterback, Deshaun Watson, as the freshman did a very good job with 19-of-28 for 266 yards and also ran for one touchdown.
Jameis Winston couldn’t stop being the center of attention even without playing as he put on pads and looked ready to play before Jimbo Fisher told him to stop the nonsense and take the protective gear off. He didn’t seem dejected by that on the sidelines, instead talking to Maguire the entire game and trying to rally the troops in the moments that called for his intervention. Clearly, without him, the Seminoles are a completely different team.
And yet, these are the kind of games teams get stronger through. Playing from behind, without their best player. When Winston comes back, things might seem quite easy again, as it looks like there’s only really just one potential stumbling block in this season for the Seminoles remaining in the form of number 9 Notre Dame.