In a game marked by quarterback controversy, the No.1 ranked Florida State Seminoles squeaked past the 22nd ranked Clemson Tigers 23-17 in an overtime thriller.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher was pleased with his team's resolve, but he knows much improvement is needed.
"We challenged our guys to find out who we are," Fisher said. "We're not where we want to be, but we do know who we are."
The tempo was slow as many expected. Seminoles starting quarterback redshirt sophomore Jameis Winston being suspended for yelling an obscenity on campus earlier in the week.
In spite of his early struggles, redshirt sophomore Sean Maguire got the job done. He went 21 of 39 for 305 yards and one touchdown. Maguire was so loose he even poked fun at advice Winston gave him.
"Jameis told me when in doubt find 80 or 35 and it worked out well," Maguire said.
Senior tight end Nick O’Leary was a consistent target for Maguire, catching six passes for 78 yards. O’Leary credited Maguire for stepping up despite nerves. He feels the win was big for the team morale.
“We feel really good about the win,” O’Leary responded. “He [Maguire] was nervous, but anyone would be for their first start.”
The first quarter was filled with inconsistent quarterback play on both sides. Clemson’s senior starter Cole Stoudt as well as Maguire both struggled to find their footing early.
The Seminoles were able to take a 3-0 lead early on. The Tigers made a switch midway through the first to true freshman signal caller Deshaun Watson.
The change proved to be vital for the Tigers as they scored 10 unanswered points in the second quarter; capped off by a 1-yard plunge from redshirt senior running back D.J. Howard. Clemson went into the half holding a 10-3 lead.
Watson was able to move the Tigers offense instantly upon getting his number called. Maguire struggled in the first half, completing only six of his 17 attempts for 106 yards. The FSU rushing attack was stuck in reverse in the first half; going backwards for a miserable output of negative 22 yards.
The Seminoles came out in the second half and responded on their first drive. The drive went nine plays and covered 68 yards. The drive was completed by a 1-yard touchdown run from redshirt sophomore Mario Pender.
Both teams had drives that stalled in the middle of the third until Clemson marched down to the one-yard line. The drive was wasted as the Tigers botched a snap that pushed them back 23 yards; this resulted in their second missed field goal of the night.
Momentum shifted quickly after Maguire threw a costly interception. Watson responded by taking the Tigers 64 yards in four plays and finishing off the drive himself with a keeper from three yards out to take a 17-10 advantage.
The Noles were able to rally back in the fourth quarter despite sloppy play overall. Senior Rashad Greene capped his night with the game-tying 74-yard TD with 6:04 left to play.
Pressure mounted as Maguire threw what appeared to be a loss-clinching interception with 2:14 left, but the Tigers couldn't convert.
Clemson had the ball at the Florida State 14-yard line before fumbling away their chance to win in regulation.
The Tigers appeared to be poised for the upset, but they were stuffed on a 4 and 1 in their only possession of overtime.
Senior RB Karlos Williams took the opportunity and ran into the win column, scoring the game-winner two plays later.
The Seminoles were able to escape and extend their winning streak to 19 games. The team is poised to improve its play next week when it takes on ACC foe North Carolina State Wolfpack. Jameis Winston is set to return as the starter when the Noles kick-off at 3:30 p.m.