Clemson’s Football History vs. Florida State

Editor’s Note: This is part of an All Clemson series of stories, which breaks down Clemson Football’s history against its 10 Power 5 Conference opponents for the 2023 season. In each story, All Clemson Tigers will recap a Memorable Game, Memorable Play, Significant Win, Significant Loss, Did You Know, Top Individual Performances, as well as detailed facts from the series’ history.

Perhaps the biggest game in the ACC this season will take place on Sept. 23 at Memorial Stadium when preseason darling Florida State visits Death Valley. The Seminoles are the national media’s favorite to win the ACC this coming season and will be led by Heisman Trophy hopeful Jordan Travis at quarterback.

However, the Tigers have won the last seven meetings in the series, including last year’s 34-28 victory in Tallahassee, Fla. Clemson, the defending ACC Champions, has won seven of the last eight league titles and has won 12 straight games over ACC foes, which began with a 30-20 victory over Florida State in the 2021 matchup.

Memorable Game: The week before Clemson’s date with No. 3 Florida State, the Tigers were humiliated by Wake Forest in Winston Salem, N.C. Clemson fans were calling for Tommy Bowden’s head and no one gave the maligned Tigers a fighter’s chance to knock off the Seminoles. But strange things can happen in college football and that is exactly what happened on November 8, 2003. Clemson snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Seminoles and beat the big-bad ‘Noles for the first time since 1989 with a stunning 26-10 victory in Clemson. Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw one touchdown and ran for another, while the defense held FSU to 11 rushing yards. Whitehurst threw for 272 yards, including his 58-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Hamilton. He also threw a 51-yard pass to Kevin Youngblood. The Tigers went on to win the last four games of the 2003 season to finish the year 9-4, including a victory over No. 6 Tennessee in the Peach Bowl.

Memorable Play: Clemson fans, you don’t have to read this if you don’t want to, but the most memorable play in the Clemson-FSU series is “Puntrooskie,” which the Seminoles ran to perfection in their stunning come-from-behind win over the Tigers in 1988. Facing fourth down-and-four at his own 21-yard line with 1:31 to play and the game tied at 21, Bowden called for the fame Puntrooskie, which many still believe is the greatest trick play in the history of college football. On the snap, punter Tim Corlew leaped as if the ball sailed over his head causing everyone in Memorial Stadium to think Clemson was going to win the game. But the ball was snapped to up-back Dayne Williams, whose son Garrett Williams helped the Tigers win two national championships in 2016 and 2018. On the trick play, Dayne Williams placed the ball between the legs of Butler, who was also a blocking back in the formation. Butler was supposed to count to three before taking off, instead he took off at one second after he noticed Clemson’s Jerome Henderson saw he had the football.  Butler sprinted down the left sideline and wasn’t caught until Clemson return man Donnell Woolford pushed him out at the Tigers’ one. Two plays later, Richie Andrews kicked a 19-yard field goal with 32 seconds remaining to win the game for the Seminoles.

Significant Win: The 2016 meeting between No. 3 Clemson and No. 12 Florida State is arguably the greatest game between the two rivals. The Tigers rallied from a 28-20 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Seminoles 37-34 in Tallahassee, Fla. Deshaun Watson’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett with 2:08 to play proved to be the game-winner, as Ben Boulware and the Clemson defense suffocated the Seminoles near midfield on their ensuing possession to secure the victory. Watson completed 27-of-43 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tigers. He also had 52 rushing yards on 17 carries, while Leggett finished the night with five catches for 122 yards. Though Clemson won the game, it could not stop FSU running back Dalvin Cook. The junior ran for 169 yards, including 136 in the second half. He ran for four touchdowns, including runs of 43 and 70 yards in the third quarter. He also had an 8-yard run that put the Seminoles in front 34-29 with 3:23 to play. The Tigers went on to win the ACC in 2016, and their first national championship since 1981.

Significant Loss: When the Seminoles rolled into Death Valley in 2013, they were ranked No. 5 in the country, while the Tigers were ranked No. 3. It was the first time in the 71-year history of Memorial Stadium that it hosted a matchup of two top 5 teams. It was also the first top 5 meeting between two ACC foes. Unfortunately for Clemson, the game did not live up to the hype. Behind Jameis Winston’s 444 yards and three touchdowns, Florida State beat the Tigers 51-14. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw two interceptions and lost one fumble, including one that was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Mario Edwards. In all, Clemson turned the ball over four times, including the first play from scrimmage. Clemson’s 37-point loss is still the program’s worst in the history of Memorial Stadium. FSU went on to win the ACC and the national championship in 2013, while the Tigers concluded the season with a win over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl and a No. 8 final ranking.

Did You Know? Legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden lost his last four games at Death Valley. However, Bowden posted a 6-4 record at Memorial Stadium, and his six wins represent the most wins by an opposing coach in the history of the stadium.

Series Record: Florida State leads 20-15

Games played at Clemson: Clemson leads 9-8

Games played at FSU: FSU leads 12-6

Neutral Site Games: 0-0

First Meeting: FSU won 38-13 in 1970, at FSU

Last Meeting: Clemson won 34-28 in 2022, at FSU

First Meeting as ACC opponents: FSU won 24-20 in 1992, at Clemson

First Clemson win in the series: 1976, 15-12 at FSU

Last Game at Clemson: 2021, Clemson won 30-20

Last FSU win: 2014, 23-17 (OT) at FSU

Last FSU win at Clemson: 2013, 51-14

Current win streak: Clemson has won seven straight, 2015-’19; 2021-present

Longest win streak in the series: FSU won 11 straight from 1992-2002

Clemson’s longest win streak: Clemson’s current seven-game win streak

Other series facts: From 1999-’07, the Clemson-FSU series was commonly known as the Bowden Bowl, as Clemson was coached by Tommy Bowden and Florida State by Bobby Bowden. Bobby had a 5-4 advantage in those nine games, but Tommy won the last three. They remain the only meetings of father and son head coaches in FBS history. The first Bowden Bowl came in 1999, a 17-14 victory for Florida State. That FSU team went on to win the national championship, and the 17 points and three-point victory margin were season lows for Florida State in that championship season. It was the closest Clemson had come to beating the No. 1 ranked team in the nation until it beat Alabama in the National Championship Game to end the 2016 season… Clemson has defeated the Seminoles in each of the last seven meetings. Only Florida (8) has beat FSU consecutively more than Clemson… Florida State won 14 of the first 16 meetings in the rivalry. Since 2003, Clemson has won 13 of the last 19… From 2009-’19, the winner of the Clemson-Florida State game went on to win the Atlantic Division title, an 11-season streak that ended in 2020 in a division-less season that ultimately did not feature a Clemson/Florida State matchup. From 2011-’19, the winner of the game also won the ACC Championship, including six wins by Clemson in that span… Since 2003, Clemson is 9-1 against Florida State at Memorial Stadium. Prior to 2003, Florida State won the first seven matchups at Death Valley, the longest win streak by an opponent over the Tigers in Memorial Stadium history.

Clemson’s Top Individual Performances vs. FSU

Quarterback: Deshaun Watson – 27-of-43 for 378 yards and 2 touchdowns, 430 total yards, 2016 (Clemson won 37-34)

Running back: C.J. Spiller – 312 all-purpose yards, 156 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, three catches for 67 yards and a 58-yard TD, 2009 (Clemson won 40-24)

Receiver: Chansi Stuckey – 11 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns, 2005 (Clemson won 35-14)

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