Date: October 19, 2013
Location: Clemson Memorial Stadium, aka “Death Valley,” Clemson, South Carolina
Opponent: No. 3 Clemson Tigers
This was billed as the biggest game in ACC history. The conference hadn’t had one team in the top five this far into a season since 2007. It hadn’t even had a real title contender since 2000; it had struggled for the last decade to even win BCS bowl games. And yet here were two solid top-five title contenders deep into October: No. 5 Florida State visiting No. 3 Clemson. FSU came into the game dominant but untested against elite competition, having annihilated Maryland 63-0 two weeks before, much to the chagrin of ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt. Clemson was at home and had Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins back from an eleven-win campaign the season prior.
It was Clemson’s year. This was their statement game. Tajh Boyd’s Heisman coming-out party. Clemson expected this game to launch them into the thick of the title hunt conversation when the BCS rankings came out the next day. And this game was all of those things.
Just not for Clemson.
Taking advantage of a Tiger turnover on the game’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jameis Winston connected with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to take an early 7-0 lead. Roberto Aguayo added a field goal, and Lamarcus Joyner ripped another Clemson turnover from Boyd leading to a Mario Edwards Jr. scoop n’ score, and it was 17-0 FSU. Clemson answered with a methodical eleven-play, sixty-five yard drive capped by a three-yard touchdown pass from Boyd to Watkins with fifty-one seconds left in the first quarter, and it looked like Clemson had finally shown up. Dazed but not deterred, the Clemson faithful roared back to life, determined to lead the comeback.
There are statement games. Then there are statement plays.
With a 1st and 10 and 7:21 left in the first half from their own 28-yard line, Winston took the snap from shotgun. He had Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene to his right in a stacked alignment to the boundary and at first looked to Shaw, who was running a route toward the sideline. Seeing Shaw was covered, Winston came back to Greene and, unfazed by the Clemson zone blitz that had dropped defensive linemen D.J. Reader and DeShawn Williams into coverage, Winston fired a pass right between them. Reader fell trying to knock the pass down, batting the umpire’s hat instead and sending it flying, and Greene secured the pass seven yards downfield and turned to run.
Not three yards away and coming downhill fast to bring him down was Tiger defensive back Bashaud Breeland. With Breeland angled to the inside, Greene leaned out to his right, turning a sure tackle into an arm tackle, and then shrugged Breeland off. Williams was up next, and the 295-pound man tried to bear hug Greene’s ankles from behind. With quick footwork, Greene easily slipped him too. Then, it was off to the races.
Safety Travis Blanks came off his coverage of Shaw and cornerback Darius Robinson had an angle, but it was already over. Greene exploded, and in five yards, Blanks had no chance. Just a two-man track meet now, Greene drifted toward the sideline and outran Robinson’s angle, racing 65-yards for the touchdown and a 23-7 lead. It was what he did next that will make this play be remembered forever:
He told Death Valley to hush, raising his index finger to his facemask. The silence was deafening. It spoke loud and clear.
“We don’t play against noise. We’re playing against the Clemson Tigers,” Winston said afterward. “It was amazing, when we were out on the field that first snap. It was loud and we started smiling because we don’t play against noise.” You don’t have to play against it when you’re the one that brings it. Winston finished 22 of 34 for 444 yards and three touchdowns.
Greene would finish with eight catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and the ’Noles would go on to score more points than any opponent ever has at Memorial Stadium with a 51-14 win; but it was the moment Rashad Greene told Death Valley to be quiet that will always speak the loudest.