CLEMSON — The No. 4 Clemson Tigers (9-1, 7-1 ACC) donned their orange pants for the first time since the 2017 College Football Playoff Championship Game, and captured their third straight ACC Atlantic Division Championship Saturday night with a 31-14 victory over the Florida State Seminoles (3-6, 3-5 ACC).
“What a ballgame. We all knew what was at stake in this game,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “What can you say about these seniors, that’s three wins in a row against Florida State—not many people can say that. They don’t give out participation trophies. They don’t give out ribbons, you have to go out and earn them.
“To be here three divisions in six out of nine years—I’m really proud of our coaches and players.”
On a cold night, it was true freshman running back Travis Etienne who caught fire for the Tigers—as he scored twice on the night and rushed for nearly 100 yards and scored two touchdowns.
“Really proud of Travis Etienne, I thought he gave us a spark down the stretch,” Swinney said. “He’s special. He’s had a great year. He’s exciting because every time he touches it he’s got the ability to take it to the house.”
After three combined punts in the first quarter, the Tigers broke the scoring drought on a 2-yard touchdown run from Bryant that capped a 6-play, 20-yard drive, after Florida State quarterback James Blackman's fumble was recovered by linebacker Tre Lamar at the Florida State 20-yard line.
After a Florida State punt, the Tigers appeared to be headed toward another touchdown when running back Tavien Feaster fumbled on the Florida State 3-yard line. Florida State gained only 1-yard on the drive.
Following a 59-yard punt, a 35-yard return by Tavien Feaster gave the Tigers the ball at the Florida State 28-yard line. The Tigers needed only one play to extend their lead—as Travis Etienne took a handoff 28 yards for a touchdown. Clemson added a 26-yard field goal by Alex Spence and ended the first half with a 17-0 lead over the Seminoles.
The Seminoles got on the board with 1:13 in the third quarter, after running back Cam Akers capped a 7-play, 90-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run that cut the Tigers lead to 17-7. The Seminoles cut the Tigers' lead to three points, after a trick-play led to a 60-yard touchdown pass from Blackman to tight end Ryan Izzo.
The Tigers gave the ball back to the Seminoles on the next possession, as Bryant fumbled at the Clemson 40-yard line. However, the Seminoles returned the ball to the Tigers on the next play—as Blackman’s pass was intercepted by Van Smith and returned to the Florida State 44-yard line.
“The pick by Van Smith, an ol’ salty veteran made the play of the night,” Swinney said. “It was huge. We were in a bind right there. It’s a team game. Sometimes there’s mistakes on the defense and the offense goes out and makes a play.
“But I’m really proud of Van, our veteran, going out there and making a play.”
Clemson needed only six plays before they found the end zone on Etienne’s 1-yard touchdown run that extended the lead to 24-14. The Tigers added another touchdown with :35 seconds remaining in the game, as Adam Choice’s 10-yard touchdown ended a 3-play, 28-yard drive that followed a Blackman incomplete pass on fourth-and-9.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE TIGERS: Goal No. 2 Accomplished
The Tigers’ accomplished their second goal of the 2017 season—win the division—with their victory over Florida State. With the victory, the Tigers captured their third consecutive Atlantic Division title and earned a spot in the ACC Championship Game Dec. 2.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE TIGERS: Fumbles
The Tigers could have put the game away early on had they been able to hold onto the football, as they fumbled three times on the night—twice inside their 1-yard line, losing one fumble and being forced to settle for a field goal on the second.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Travis Etienne
The true freshman running back led the Tigers rushing attack, as he amassed 97 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Albert Huggins
The former Orangeburg-Wilkinson standout defender got his first start of the season, filling in for an injured Dexter Lawrence, and made the most of the opportunity.
Huggins finished the game with four tackles, one sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.
UP NEXT: The Citadel Bulldogs
The Tigers close out their home schedule next week, as they welcome The Citadel Bulldogs to Death Valley next Saturday (12:20 p.m., ACC Network). The Tigers will celebrate Senior Day and Military Appreciation Day.