Date: October 19, 2013
Location: Memorial Stadium, aka “Death Valley,” Clemson, South Carolina
I have the distinct pleasure of introducing Jameis Winston and Kelvin Benjamin to our countdown, a pair of ’Noles who would go on to be first-round NFL Draft selections. But just as you’ll hear more from them in the league, so will they appear again in this series.
A lot of us have claimed plays in this series for which we were present, either in a coverage capacity or perhaps younger, as a fan. However, I was not in Clemson, South Carolina, when KB skied to snag Winston’s perfectly thrown ball that opened the scoring against the Tigers. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even see the game live. But the circumstances that brought such that unfortunate reality to being are exactly why I wanted to pen this piece.
When FSU throttled Clemson by a 51-14 score, I was in Toledo, Ohio, at a good friend’s wedding. And yes, he’s still my friend, even though he got married on this day that has proven so momentous in Seminole history, and even though his reception venue had nary a television in sight.
I know, I know— this isn’t about me. But I bring up my own experience with this game, and the play that began the scoring onslaught, for a reason: I was in disbelief, as were many who watched what transpired in Death Valley. I honestly thought that something was wrong with my phone when getting score updates, and I asked several friends to check theirs as I made my way to and from the open bar.
As much as Seminole fans remember the Clemson curb-stomping as a vault to an eventual national championship, this was supposed to be the Tigers’ night. And this was supposed to be the coronation of Tahj Boyd as a Heisman-winning QB, not a massive propulsion of Winston onto the national stage. But just as missing an FSU-Clemson game drastically altered my routine, so did this game — and this play — rewrite the script.
The Tigers got the ball first, and on the first play from scrimmage, the Florida State defense forced a turnover. Still, there was a chance for the Tigers to stymy the Seminoles’ momentum, and turn it back to their ebullient home crowd. On 2nd and 9, FSU was behind the chains in Clemson territory, when Winston delivered this dime to Benjamin. The result was astonishing, and it serves as a microcosm for the lead I kept see growing on my phone.
This play is impressive for so many reasons. First, Winston puts it where only Benjamin can get it, despite what is very good coverage from the Tigers. Benjamin then shows amazing hand strength, as the ball appears to nearly slip through his hands before he squeezes it. Moreover, KB has the wherewithal to keep himself inbounds.
Now, some of you will, no doubt, look at this play’s rank and think it’s way too low. But, as I mentioned when explaining our criteria, you’ll certainly concede that an early scoring play in what winded up being a blowout loses some points, given the final 37-point spread. That said, it’s still worth acknowledging that the butt-whipping that took place may not have been so severe without this fantastic connection between Winston and Benjamin.