Florida State somehow found a way.
Florida State trailed 17-7 late in the first half and then 24-17 late in the third quarter, but was able to pull out a gutsy 31-24 win in overtime to post its first win over Clemson since 2014 and remain undefeated.
Keon Coleman caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime as he high-pointed a beautiful pass from Jordan Travis over a Clemson defender. And when the Clemson offense got its turn in overtime, Florida State’s defense stopped the Tigers on fourth down to seal the victory.
Keon Coleman is an absolute BEAST! pic.twitter.com/tWZpDLPUFl
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 23, 2023
It was a remarkable turn of events after things looked bleak for the Seminoles late in the third quarter. Clemson had a 24-17 lead and was driving into FSU territory to take a two-score advantage — until the FSU defense made a huge play.
The Seminoles sent a blitz and Kalen DeLoach put a major hit on Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik. DeLoach knocked the ball out of Klubnik’s hand as he looked to throw downfield, scooped up the loose ball and took off running for a 56-yard touchdown to tie the game at 24-24.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) September 23, 2023
And then late in the fourth quarter, Clemson had a chance to retake the lead.
With just under two minutes remaining, Clemson kicker Jonathan Weitz — who wasn’t even on the team until this week — had a chance from 29 yards out. He had made all of his kicks earlier in the game — a 30-yard field goal and three extra points. But with the pressure turned up, this kick sailed wide and ultimately sent the game to overtime.
That’s when the Travis-to-Coleman connection that was on display in FSU’s triumphant Week 1 win over LSU resurfaced. Coleman’s remarkable touchdown grab proved to be the game-winner.
Travis finished the game with 289 yards and two touchdowns through the air, both to Coleman. Coleman caught five passes for 86 yards in the win while Johnny Wilson had five catches for a team-leading 94 yards.
The passing game was the only way FSU could move the ball on the stout Clemson defense. The Seminoles could muster only 22 rushing yards on the afternoon. In fact, FSU was badly outgained by Clemson. The Tigers put up 429 yards in all and started hot. Klubnik was picking apart the FSU secondary in the early going while the combination of Phil Mafah and Will Shipley went for 136 yards on 28 carries.
On the other hand, there was some curious play-calling from Clemson late in the game. Before Weitz's go-ahead field goal try, the Tigers tried a screen pass to the tight end and then a quarterback draw. The two plays gained a total of one yard.
And then in overtime, Klubnik threw behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-1 play from the FSU 16. It was stopped for a one-yard loss, setting up a do-or-die fourth-down play. Klubnik dropped back to pass again but couldn't connect with Beaux Collins, sealing the win for the Seminoles.
What does this mean for Florida State?
FSU improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play with the win, and the Seminoles are in an excellent position in the ACC in the early going. There are obvious national implications, too. FSU has marquee wins over LSU and now Clemson on the road with a pretty favorable schedule ahead.
FSU hasn't quite played up to the level it exhibited in the second half of the LSU game, but Mike Norvell's team has still been able to come out on the right side of the scoreboard. The Seminoles barely avoided a scare last week at Boston College and then managed to improbably eke out a win over Clemson on Saturday. FSU is proving it can win in different ways, but the Seminoles need to execute at a higher level to realistically achieve at the highest levels.
What's next for Clemson?
Clemson dropped to 2-2 with the loss and turnovers were the story in both of those losses.
In the Week 1 loss to Duke, Clemson drove the ball inside the Duke 10-yard line on three consecutive second-half drives yet did not score a single point. In Saturday's loss to FSU, it was that pivotal Klubnik fumble that swung the game. The missed chip shot field goal did not help either.
Clemson now has two losses in September for the second time in three seasons. At 0-2 in conference play, the Tigers will need some chaos elsewhere in the ACC to try to get back into the conference championship race. Clemson has won the ACC title in seven of the last eight seasons, but it'll be an uphill climb to make it back to the championship game.
Clemson was hoping to jump back into the College Football Playoff race this season, but that dream may already be dead before the first month of the season comes to a close.