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Matchup and Memories: Florida State vs Clemson

Can FSU stop the Tigers’ streak?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Florida State at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Florida State is fresh off a blowout win over UMass and on the road again, this time against the Clemson Tigers.

After opening the season 0-4, FSU will look to extend its winning streak to four. This won’t be an easy task for the Seminoles, as defeating the Tigers, is something they haven’t accomplished since the days of Jimbo Fisher.

  • Opponent: Clemson Tigers
  • First matchup: 11/7/1970 (Florida State with a 38-13 victory)
  • Series record: FSU leads 20-13
  • Current streak: Clemson with a 5 game winning streak.
  • Last game: Covid-19 won last year’s matchup, but Clemson took the 2019 game 45-14.

Florida State will look to continue its winning ways against a suddenly vulnerable Clemson squad. Can FSU get to .500 against Dabo and crew? It’ll be a tough ask against a team loaded with blue-chip prospects.

NoleThruandThru’s Recruiting Reminiscences

Clemson and Florida State have a rich recruiting rivalry, with both sides claiming significant victories over the other during the past three decades. Among the top prep players FSU has plucked from South Carolina? Peter Boulware, Dee Feaster, Jamal Reynolds, Chris Hope, Alex Barron, Michael Boulware, Greg Jones, Jamie Robinson, Lawrence Timmons, Dekoda Watson, and Everett Dawkins. There’s some serious star power among those names.

Clemson turned the tables once they began having success in Florida, however. Most point to C.J. Spiller as the turning point for Clemson in the Sunshine State, but that really came at the Florida Gators’ expense. Among the notable in-state prospects that chose Clemson over FSU? DB Deandre McDaniel, RB Jamie Harper, DT Tavaris Barnes, LB Tony Steward, DB Cortez Davis, DB Travis Blanks, DB Mackensie Alexander, WR Artavis Scott, DB Trayvon Mullen, OL Will Putnam, DT Tyler Davis, and DB Daylen Everette this year.

While Clemson fans will always lament losing the Boulwares, Reynolds, Hope, and Jones to FSU, Steward and Putnam are probably the most painful losses for Seminole recruiting fans. Steward looked like a sure thing for FSU until late in his recruitment, when his high school coach got much more involved. Steward famously looked miserable during his own commitment ceremony, which seemed to be prophetic, as his Tiger career was beset with injuries. Putnam was a strong FSU lean but became a casualty of FSU’s ineptitude on and off the field.

Two more names are notable for me in this recruiting rivalry. The first is Ricky Sapp. Sapp represented one of the first major victories for Clemson against FSU in the 2000’s. Sapp was committed to Clemson but FSU did everything in its power to secure the flip. It was a close call but Clemson won out, giving the Tigers new-found confidence in securing a major in-state prospect. The other name is Markish Jones, which is still one of the strangest situations I’ve followed in recruiting. Jones flipped from the Tigers to the Seminoles on National Signing Day but was so torn between Clemson and FSU that he infamously signed letters of intent to both schools. Though Jones wanted to come to Tallahassee, the ACC ultimately had to make a ruling, which went in favor of Clemson. It was all for naught though, as Jones turned out to be a bust in the classroom and on the field.

Matt Minnick’s memorable moment

The Florida State/Clemson rivalry is, in my humble opinion, underrated nationally in terms of memorable moments, games, and plays it has produced for the better part of 35 years. Just off the top of my head you have the “Puntrooskie” in 1988, Peter Warrick’s coming-out party in 1997 (I seriously don’t know that I’ve ever seen a wide receiver take over an entire ball game like Warrick did that day), Bobby Bowden narrowly escaping Woody Dantzler and the Tigers in “Bowden Bowl I” on the way to the 1999 national title, Weinke to Snoop in 2000, Tommy Bowden ending his dad’s 2003 title aspirations in Bowden Bowl V, FSU’s evisceration of a top 5 Tigers team in 2013, and Eddie Goldman’s forced fumble in 2014 to send a wild game into OT where FSU eventually won. That’s a lot of memorable moments!

But the one I’d like to reminisce about today is the 2012 home game in prime time between No. 4 FSU and No. 9 Clemson.

The amount of explosive talent on the field inside Doak Campbell Stadium that night is mind-boggling. Clemson’s wide receiver corps that night, led by DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, and Adam Humphries, featured six future pros who, as of Week 7, have combined for 22,462 receiving yards and 146 touchdowns in the NFL. This hindsight makes it a lot more reasonable why a secondary featuring Xavier Rhodes, Terrence Brooks, Ronald Darby, Lamarcus Joyner, and P.J. Williams—all of whom made at least one tackle—would still have a hard time holding Clemson below 40 points.

Needless to say, it was an electric atmosphere in Tallahassee and the 83,231 fans in attendance were treated to a dazzling display of fireworks on the field. “Nuk” Hopkins opened up the scoring with a 60-yard reception from Tajh Boyd less than two minutes into the game, the first touchdown FSU’s defense had given up that season. From there it was game on, as both teams traded upper-cuts and body blows.

Trailing 21-14 at the half, FSU found itself down double-digits after Watkins threw a beautiful ball to future NFL running back Andre Ellington on a wide-receiver pass, which Ellington housed for a 52-yard score.

And while the 2012 Seminoles didn’t bring home a national title, it was this season that laid the foundation for the following season’s triumph. And it was this game against Clemson where the emerging behemoth matured.

E.J. Manuel, playing his best game as a ‘Nole, led a furious third-quarter rally that was capped by this 29-yard rainbow TD to Rodney Smith, giving FSU it’s first lead.

From there, the Seminoles tacked on two more touchdowns, ultimately going on a 28-0 run, before Clemson added a cosmetic score with 2:11 left to achieve the final 49-37 outcome. Manuel threw for 380 yards and two scores while also rushing for 102 yards on 11 carries, becoming the first FSU QB since Charlie Ward in 1992 to throw for 300+ and run for 100+ in the same game. Chris Thompson ran for 103 yards and two scores himself on just 15 carries, while also leading the team in receptions and yards (8/79), while James Wilder added 65 yards and a pair of 5-yard TD runs.

All in all, it was a helluva night in Doak and, while it took a little longer than hoped, a great precursor to the explosive success coming in the near future. Who knows, maybe this Saturday could be the same type of launching point?

Here’s a longer package of highlights from that incredible evening:

Matt Minnick, the resident Tomahawk Nation historian, is a Tallahassee native and life long Seminoles fan, attending over 225 FSU football games across the country since 1986.

We love hearing your favorite Florida State football moments and memories. Drop a comment below sharing your favorite memory from FSU vs. Clemson.