Southern Pigskin

Clemson in the midst of a season-defining stretch

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By Carlos Pineda
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For the third straight week, the Clemson Tigers found themselves playing in prime-time before a national television audience.

Under the lights of one of college footballs most daunting cathedrals, Doak Campbell Stadium played host to a showdown featuring historically the two best teams in the ACC.

No. 4 Clemson came away victorious in Tallahassee with a 34-28 win over Florida State. With their victory Saturday night, the Tigers opened the season with a 7-0 record for the 10th time in program history. Additionally, it marked Clemsons seventh consecutive win over the Seminoles x94 the second-longest winning streak against FSU by an opponent, trailing Floridas eight-winning streak (1968-76). The Tigers also became only the fifth program ever to win three consecutive road games in Tallahassee.

Clemson (7-0, 5-0 ACC) trailed twice in the first half but scored 27 unanswered points to take an emphatic 34-14 lead midway through the third quarter, sending most of the 71,098 in attendance home early. The final score resulted to be close as the Seminoles scored a pair of touchdowns in the final period.

Forcing a turnover with 47 seconds left in the second quarter proved to be key for the Tigers and changed the course of the game. Running back William Shipley ran for 36 yards on the first play of the drive to set up the Tigers in striking distance at the FSU 6. Two plays later, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei scored on a five-yard keeper to give the Tigers a 24-14 lead with 28 seconds left on the clock. Clemson was able to score 17 total points in the last two minutes of the first half and the first two minutes of the third quarter.

Uiagalelei and Shipley led a Clemson offense that ranked third in the ACC in scoring. Uiagalelei completed 15 passes for 203 yards with four total touchdowns and most importantly committed no turnovers, while Shipley rushed for 121 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Shipley had himself quite an evening with a career-best 238 all-purpose yards, including the 36-yard run mentioned above and a crucial 69-yard kickoff return to start the second half that resulted in a touchdown on the next play.

After punting on its first drive, the Clemson offense scored on its next six possessions.

Despite being out-gained 460 yards to 370, the Clemson defense slowed down FSU (4-3, 2-3 ACC) after giving up two touchdowns on its first three drives.

Three times the Clemson defense stopped the Seminoles on fourth down, including one drive at the Clemson four-yard line. Things got a little close in the final 15 minutes as the Seminoles cut the lead down to six points, something coach Dabo Swinney wasnt too thrilled about.

“Don’t like how we finished defensively, but I have a great appreciation for winning, especially down here. A lot of good things in the game,” Swinney said. “That was our fourth road conference game. A lot of teams haven’t even played four conference games. Good teams win different ways. It’s never the same pitch. Tonight, I thought it was special teams and offense. Our defense played great in the second half outside of the last series, when we just lost our minds.”

The Tigers have extended the nations longest active winning streak to 13 in a row, dating back to last years win over Florida State, and sit atop the Atlantic Division with a 5-0 record. Looking more and more like the favorite to win the division, they are set to host undefeated Syracuse next week in Death Valley where they have won 37 home games in a row.

Carlos Pineda – Carlos Pineda is a featured writer for Southern Pigskin. He covered the UCF Knights football team for Florida Today in 2010. Carlos’ work has been published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal. He attended the University of Central Florida. Follow Carlos on Twitter @CarlosFPineda.

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