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Game story: Late penalties doom FSU’s upset attempt at Clemson

Not a moral victory, but a step in the right direction.

FSU v Clemson Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Clemson, SC- Florida State football was doomed by penalties in a 30-20 loss to the Clemson Tigers in Death Valley on Saturday evening. The Seminoles led Clemson with 3:00 minutes remaining in the game, but the Tigers took advantage of FSU penalty and miscues to extend their home winning streak to 32 games. The Seminoles were just 4-13 on third down and committed nine penalties for 35 yards. Despite those figures, the ‘Noles still had a chance in a hostile environment against a powerhouse program.

There aren’t moral victories in football, but there are steps in the right direction. Despite the result, Florida State is still moving in the right direction as a football program.

Moments that mattered

Akeem Dent steps up early

The Florida State Seminoles won the coin toss, but deferred to the Clemson Tigers, who took the ball over at their own 35 to start the game after Parker Grothaus’ kick barely rolled out of bounds at the 1 yard line.

Amari Gainer blew up a swing pass for a loss of four on the first play of the game. Another Gainer tackle brought up third-and-12. The Tigers ran a well-timed screen pass that looked like it could be disastrous for FSU. Running back Will Shipley was out in open space with only Akeem Dent to beat, but Dent brought down the running back short of the line to gain with a strong tackle, forcing a three-and-out.

The Seminoles’ offense picked up one first down before punting on their first drive. A trio of first downs quickly pushed the Tigers into FSU territory. Jarrett Jackson pancaked an interior offensive lineman to force a throwaway on first down. On third-and-six, Dent came up with another big play. Coming off the edge on a safety blitz, Dent hit DJ Uiagalelei’s arm to force an incompletion. BT Potter converted a 47-yard field goal to open the scoring after Dent’s timely pressure.

FSU puts together picture-perfect TD drive to end 1Q

After no positive runs on their first drive, Lawrance Toafili picked up six yards on the Seminoles’ first play of their second drive. Jordan Travis rolled out to his left and connected with Darion Williamson on the next play for a first down. On third and eight near midfield, FSU checked out of a pass play after seeing a Clemson blitz to run a draw. The draw resulted in a gain of 24 yards for Jashaun Corbin.

Treshaun Ward gave the Seminoles’ first and goal on an 11-yard rush, which was sprung by Jordan Wilson’s blocking. A couple of short runs brought up third-and-goal from the one. With Travis underneath center, he quickly tossed the ball to Corbin on his left, who finished off the drive by plowing into the end-zone. FSU led 6-3 at the end of the first quarter after Ryan Fitzgerald’s extra point was blocked. The drive lasted 10 plays, went for 75 yards, and ate up more than five minutes.

Two big plays give Clemson the lead

The Tigers and Seminoles traded empty drives after FSU’s TD drive. After a Florida State three-and-out, Phil Mafah broke off a 63-yard run on the first play of Clemson’s drive. It was the first time this season that FSU allowed a 20+ yard run to a running back. A pair of short runs set up third-and-seven from the 11. Uiagalelei took advantage of Travis Jay in one-on-one coverage. Tight end Davis Allen out-leaped Jay for an easy 11-yard TD connection, putting the Tigers up 10-6.

Toafili makes the play of the season

The Seminoles needed a big play of their own to respond to the Tigers. Toafili responded with the top play of Florida State’s season to this point. Travis found Toafili on a wheel route near the sideline. The running back had just the safety to beat. He was dragged down from behind by Sheridan Jones, but bounced right off the defensive back and kept his footing near the sideline to house the pass for six. The play went for 75 yards and gave FSU a 13-10 lead.

Clemson responds with nine-play TD drive

That three-point lead didn’t last long as the Tigers began to gash the interior of FSU’s defensive line. On third-and-two, Uiagalelei called his own number on a run up the middle to avoid a three-and-out. Shipley ran for 14 up the middle on the next play. On a free play (after FSU jumped offside), the QB found Justyn Ross for a 19-yard gain. Shipley gashed the ‘Noles again for a 22-yard gain, before finishing the drive with a two-yard score. The teams traded three-and-outs to finish the half, leaving the ‘Noles down 17-13 going into the locker room.

Both teams can’t execute, open half with empty drives

The Seminoles opened the second half with an easy pitch-and-catch from Travis to Malik McClain for a first down. A 12-yard scramble by Travis brought up fourth and two. The Seminoles tried a run up the middle, but Dillan Gibbons and Darius Washington failed to create space as Corbin was stuffed at FSU’s own 49.

The Tigers quickly moved deep into FSU territory as Uiagalelei connected with Joseph Ngata for a 29-yard gain. Dent pressured the QB on third-and-five, which forced an incompletion. Potter missed his second kick of the game, this one from 37 yards, to keep the deficit at four early in the half.

Freshman comes up with big play, false starts keep offense from capitalizing

Florida State couldn’t get points on its second drive of the half, but the Seminoles were able to flip the field. On first down within Clemson’s 20, Gainer broke up an under thrown ball on a wheel route. Quashon Fuller then blew up an outside run for a loss of three yards. Uiagalelei looked to drive the ball down the field on third-and-13, but freshman Omarion Cooper had other ideas. Cooper leaped up and snagged his first career interception to give the Seminoles the ball at Clemson’s 42.

Before FSU’s offense could even get started, it false started. A pass over the middle to Jordan Wilson and a short scramble brought up fourth-and-five at Clemson’s 37. The ‘Noles stayed on the field to go for it before another false start led to a punt.

Despite exchange of fumbles, score remains the same early in 4Q

The first portion of the fourth quarter sent the game into a frenzy. On the third play of the quarter, Uiagalelei sent a dangerous pass to EJ Williams. Williams caught the ball in traffic, but Jammie Robinson stripped him of the ball before he hit the ground. Gainer recovered the fumble FSU’s 41. On the first play of Florida State’s following drive, Ward tripped and fumlbed. Andrew Mukuba recovered on FSU’s side of the field. Clemson moved the ball into FSU’s red-zone, but the defense bent and didn’t break. Potter shanked a 30-yard field goal for his third miss of the game.

Jermaine Johnson, enough said

FSU’s offense stalled near midfield, once again, after one first down. The Seminoles punted to the Clemson 23. After a first down gain of nine, Fabien Lovett stuffed a second down run to bring up third-and-one. A false start made it third-and-six and pushed the Tigers into an obvious passing down. Jermaine Johnson took advantage. The Georgia Bulldogs defensive end transfer exploded past the right tackle, knocked the ball out of Uiagalelei’s hand, and scoped the ball up as he ran into the end-zone for six. The scoop-and-score put the Seminoles up 20-17 with 7:39 remaining.

Penalties doom FSU’s defense as Clemson takes late lead

Florida State’s defense stepped up again after the scoop-and-score, forcing a quick three-and-out. The three-and-out ended on a Keir Thomas sack. But the Florida State offense responded with a quick three-and-out of their own. Clemson took over the ball at their 42 with 3:48 remaining. Despite a perfectly timed pass breakup, Kevin Knowles was called for a defensive pass interference. Two plays later, DJ Lundy was called for a late hit out of bounds to push the Tigers to the Seminoles’ 21. Shipley gave the Tigers the lead with 2:53 remaining as he broke multiple tackles to score from 21 yards out.

The Seminoles had two late chances top score a game-winning touchdown, but couldn’t get anything going on either. FSU’s offense didn’t score in the second half.

FSU notables

Travis: 14-22, 176 yards, 2 TD

Toafili: 1 rec, 75 yards, TD, 4 rush, 17 yards

Corbin: 9 rush, 31 yards, 1 rec, TD

Lundy: 11 tot tkl, 8 solo, .5 TFL

Dent: 9 tot tkl, 5 solo, 1 PBU, 1 QBH

Thomas: 6 tot tkl, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL

Johnson: 4 tot tkl, 2 tfl, 1 sack, TD

Up next: Florida State will be back at home next week against the NC State Wolfpack. The Wolfpack are 5-2 entering Saturday night’s matchup with the Louisville Cardinals.

FSU is 26-14 all-time against the Pack, but lost last year’s matchup 38-22.

The game time and network is yet to be announced.