Clemson Football lost to the Florida State Seminoles in overtime on Saturday 31-24. The Tigers played well and were very competitive on Saturday despite missing some key players.
The concern coming into the game was critical errors that had haunted the Tigers during the first six quarters of football this season. Fumbles and special team mistakes cost them the opener at Duke, and poor execution by Cade Klubnik resulted in Clemson trailing FCS Charleston Southern in the first half of that game.
While Clemson had played mistake-free football in the second half against CSU and against Florida Atlantic, the concern was that a few mistakes would be all that was necessary for Florida State to create some separation on the scoreboard.
In reality, it was the mistakes by the Tigers that allowed Florida State to stay in the game at all.
Clemson led the Seminoles 24-17 and were threatening to score following a great rush by Phil Mafah. Unfortunately, Klubnik was sacked and fumbled the ball, which was returned for a Florida State touchdown.
One might initially point the finger at Klubnik for not sensing the pressure coming from his right side, but as commentator Greg McElroy speculated, it did look like Mafah was assigned to pick up the blitzer on that play.
Mafah viewed to the left and center and didn’t see anyone, so he began a short route, leaving the blitzer free to hit Klubnik. I agree with McElroy that Klubnik seemed to think he had protection.
While the Tigers could have gone up by two touchdowns or extended the lead back to ten, instead FSU was able to tie it at 24-24.
Clemson had an opportunity to regain the lead late in the game but instead of going for a touchdown, they were conservative. They ended up trying a field goal. Jonathan Weitz made a field goal earlier and came on to attempt a game winner, but he couldn’t hit it.
If the attempt had been successful, the Tigers could have taken the victory formation after Florida State failed on 4th down in the final minute. Instead the game went to overtime.
Lastly, after Florida State scored on their first possession, Clemson called an RPO which should have been handed off to Shipley for an easy first down. Instead, Klubnik threw the ball to the far side of the field for a wide receiver screen that was blown up. The fourth down attempt was no good, and Clemson lost a game they controlled much of the day.
Clemson Football allowed Florida State to stay in the game
Three mistakes were the difference, but it isn’t easy to know exactly who was responsible. Should Klubnik have sensed the pass rush, or was Mafah responsible for picking up that blitz?
Weitz missed the field goal, but had they been more assertive, might they have found the end zone?
Klubnik made the wrong decision on the RPO, but as Dabo Swinney said in his comments after the game:
The Tigers did not play badly today, but there is plenty of room for improvement.