Dustin Hopkins booted a 55 yard FG as time expired to help Florida State defeat the Clemson Tigers 16-13 in front of 72,228 screaming fans on a cold night in Doak Campbell Stadium.
Time not only expired on this game for Clemson, but also on their chances of reaching a second consecutive ACC Championship game. The Tigers dominated almost every statistical category for the night, but continued the trend of 2010, missed opportunities. Whether it was missed field goals, costly turnovers, or timely penalties; the Tigers figured out a way to beat themselves.
The Tigers opened the game with a 12 play, 82 yard drive over 4:54 capped off by a Jamie Harper 26 yard TD run. Florida State answered with a 53 yard pass on their first play from scrimmage, but was held to a 28 yard FG making the score 7-3. Clemson responded by marching down the field on a 14 play, 67 yard drive, but came up empty handed when K Chandler Catanzaro had a 34 yard FG blocked by LB Nigel Bradham. At the end of the 1st quarter Clemson held a 7-3 lead. The Tigers out-gained the ‘Noles 123-73 and held a time of possession advantage of 11:37-3:23.
The 2nd quarter began with FSU and Clemson’s offense sputtering before the Tigers caught the first lucky break of the game. On a Dawson Zimmerman 53 yard punt to the FSU 10 yard line, return man Greg Reid muffed the punt, which was then recovered by Clemson snapper Matt Skinner. The Tigers were held to a 22 yard FG MADE by Catanzaro. This was the first made FG by Clemson after missing 5 straight over the past 3 games. Neither team could move the ball until Clemson marched down the field running the two minute drill, but was cut short when QB Kyle Parker’s pass was intercepted by Mike Harris of FSU on a deflection. The ‘Noles kneeled to run out the clock. FSU had a total of 6 yards in the 2nd quarter.
- Total yards: Clemson 209, FSU 79
- 1st Downs: Clemson 10, FSU 3
- Time of Possession: Clemson 20:08, FSU 9:52
The 3rd quarter opened with FSU marching down the field to the Clemson 21 before being stopped just short on a long 3rd and 21. K Dustin Hopkins was successful on a 39 yard FG to make the score 10-6 in favor of Clemson. The Tigers responded with an 11 play, 59 yard drive of their own to set up a Catanzaro 38 yard FG attempt, but the ball was snapped before he was prepared to kick forcing an awkward, off-balanced attempt that missed wide left. FSU QB EJ Manuel single handedly ran the ‘Noles to the Clemson 46 before his ensuing pass was tipped and intercepted by a diving Da’Quan Bowers. Clemson had regained momentum and was led by Jamie Harper and Kyle Parker to the FSU 11 yard line as the 3rd quarter came to a close. The 3rd quarter was balanced with both TOP and yardage, with the two teams playing smash-mouth football back and forth down the field.
The opening play of the 4th quarter was a Kyle Parker fade pass intended for DeAndre Hopkins. The play was set up well with a favorable one-on-one matchup in the left corner of the endzone, but Hopkins slipped and fell allowing Xavier Rhodes to come up with the easy interception. This play instantly awakened Doak Campbell Stadium and the FSU offense, who responded by stampeding their way down the field on a 12 play, 85 yard drive resulting in an EJ Manuel TD scamper from 8 yards out. The Seminoles now led 13-10 with just over 10 minutes to play. Clemson did little on their next drive as the stadium became deafeningly loud. Following a 32 yard punt by Zimmerman the Tiger D had to come up with a stop to give the offense a chance. After allowing one first down the D stepped up to force a FSU punt that sailed through the endzone for a touchback.
With 4:11 to play the Tigers had one last chance, starting at their own 20. Kyle Parker hit Hopkins for a 32 yard gain on 1st and 10, immediately followed by a 15 yard bulldozing run by Jamie Harper. Two more completions landed the Tigers at the FSU 16 yard line with 2:55 to play. Harper scampered for 2 yards, followed by Kyle Parker being run out of bounds for a loss of two. A 6 yard slant pass to Jaron Brown made it 4th and 6 from the 12, and Dabo Swinney called timeout with :57 remaining. Placekicker Catanzaro trotted out, currently 1-3 on the night, but confidently kicked it straight between the uprights for a 29 yard game-tying FG. With the game tied at 13, FSU regained possession at their own 29 with :50 left in regulation. Two quick out-patterns got FSU to their own 44 with :38 remaining. Following a 15 yard illegal block penalty on FSU, the ‘Noles had 2nd and 24 from their own 30 yard line, :21 left. FSU called their last timeout setting up an EJ Manuel deep pass down the left sideline incomplete to Rodney Smith, but out comes the flag, defensive pass interference. The ref had dropped his hat signaling the receiver stepping out of bounds, and the ball appeared well overthrown, yet a costly 15 yard penalty was enforced. Now instead of 3rd and 24 from their own thirty, the ‘Noles had first and 1o from the 45. Manuel connected with Smith for a gain of 18 on the next play putting FSU at the Clemson 37. Following an incompletion and a spike, FSU was left with a 55 yard FG attempt with :03 seconds remaining. Dabo called a timeout to ice the kicker, but sophomore PK Dustin Hopkins was not shaken and drilled the kick straight down the middle for a game-winning FG as time expired. The kick would have easily been good from 65 yards.
The Tigers have lost five games this season by a combined 26 points. The defense has allowed only 5 TD’s in the last 5 games combined, yet the Tigers are 3-2 in those games. The place-kickers are a dismal 9-18 on the season, and have missed repeatedly in key situations. The worst part for Clemson fans is that this was just another gut-wrenching, momentum-killing, all too horribly familiar ending to an otherwise excellent game.
Junior DE Da’Quan Bowers recorded 9 tackles, 2 for a loss, and had an interception. He also recorded a sack for the 8th consecutive game which ties a school record held by former Tiger Gaines Adams (RIP). RB Jamie Harper had 27 carries for 143 yds and a TD. He also caught 9 passes for 54 yards. Kyle Parker was 28-44 for 239 yds with 2 INT.