TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP)—Wyatt Sexton became an instant hit with Florida State fans and left coach Bobby Bowden with a decision to make.
Sexton threw for 162 yards and a touchdown Saturday after replacing an injured Chris Rix, and No. 8 Florida State forced five turnovers in a 41-22 victory over Clemson.
Justin Miller provided most of the Tigers’ offense with two kickoff returns for touchdowns and an NCAA record 282 yards on six returns.
Bowden doesn’t like quarterback controversies and he said he won’t take long to decide which quarterback will start against North Carolina next week.
“We’ll have it squared away by Monday,” Bowden said. “I’m not worried about that.”
Rix, who has started 37 games for Bowden, has never been a fan favorite due largely to some erratic performances on and off the field, and a 0-5 record against archrival Miami.
Rix was also involved in the most recent Florida State quarterback controversy—two years ago—when he was replaced as the starter for four games by Adrian McPherson. But Rix regained the job after McPherson was kicked off the team.
This time it was an injury that took Rix out of the game.
He sprained his right ankle late in the first quarter and was able to return, but spent the rest of the game on the sideline watching Sexton direct the offense.
The crowd chanted “Wy-att Sex-ton” during and after the game.
“I would love to have the opportunity to start,” Sexton said. “I would like to have the team in my hands.”
Sexton, a redshirt sophomore from Tallahassee, completed 17 of 26 passes with a 47-yard scoring pass to Chauncey Stovall—the Seminoles’ first TD pass of the season.
“It was a perfect throw,” said Stovall, who caught a career-high seven passes for 96 yards. “Wyatt just sat back in the pocket and waited and I did my thing.”
Rix told Bowden at halftime that he was ready to go, but the coaches wanted to give Sexton a chance with the game on the line.
“I’m happy the coaches had confidence in me and let me show what I can do,” Sexton said. “When I first got in I was extremely nervous. It took me awhile to get my composure.”
Miller’s two TDs covered 97 and 86 yards. His second touchdown brought Clemson to within 24-22 midway through the third period following a safety.
“It was a great individual performance by a player who just refused to quit,” Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said.
The Seminoles (2-1, 1-1) avenged last year’s 26-10 loss at Clemson and gave Florida State’s Bowden a 5-1 record in matchups against his son.
It was also the elder Bowden’s 344th career victory, the most ever by a Division I-A coach.
Tommy Bowden may have his own quarterback controversy at Clemson (1-3, 1-2) , which has lost three straight.
His quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst, threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles.
“It’s getting to a state where it’s really, really hurting us,” Tommy Bowden said. “We should be more productive than that regardless of how good they are.”
The Tigers, who have an open week before visiting Virginia on Oct. 9, managed only 173 yards, and just two first down and 23 yards in the second half.
“When you’re playing defense like that, you’ve always got a chance to win,” Bobby Bowden said. “While you’re making mistakes and getting adjusted, they’re holding down the other team.”
The Seminoles’ defense, ranked ninth nationally going into the game, scored one touchdown and set up another just 18 seconds apart in the second quarter.
The Seminoles took the lead 10-7 on B.J. Dean’s 1-yard TD run, three plays after Charles Howard recovered a fumble by Whitehurst at the 18.
Whitehurst, on Clemson’s next offensive play, was intercepted by Leroy Smith, who ran in 31 yards right past the quarterback to give the Seminoles a 17-7 lead.
This time Clemson countered as Curtis Baham—wide open in the end zone— pulled in a 12-yard TD from Whitehurst to make it 17-14 with 1:47 left in the half.
Whitehurst, who has struggled all season, completed 10 of 24 passes for just 88 yards and lost two fumbles. He has 13 turnovers in Clemson’s first four games, including 10 interceptions.
James Coleman and Leon Washington also scored touchdowns for the Seminoles and Xavier Beitia kicked field goals of 29 and 38 yards.