The Daily Nole

Clemson Holds Off FSU Rally to Clinch ACC Title Spot

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Florida State’s furious rally at Memorial Stadium came up short on Saturday as Clemson put the game away late to clinch a third straight ACC Atlantic division title, 31-14.

The Seminoles (3-6, 3-5 ACC) made things interesting late after trailing 17-0 at the break. In his return from injury, Jacques Patrick got FSU on the board with a 3-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.

With less than nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter, FSU reached into its bag of tricks and struck gold on a 60-yard touchdown strike from quarterback James Blackman to tight end Ryan Izzo to cut the lead to 17-14.

FSU’s next possession began at Clemson’s 40-yard-line after Tigers’ quarterback Kelly Bryant fumbled on a run up the middle. Unfortunately for FSU, Blackman was intercepted on the first play of the drive by Clemson safety Van Smith, who returned it 38 yards to the FSU 44.

Six plays later, the second of Travis Etienne’s two touchdown runs — this one from a yard out — gave Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) a 24-14 lead. Adam Choice put the exclamation point of the victory with a 10-yard touchdown run in the game’s final minute.

Early on, it looked like Clemson might run away with the contest. Bryant got the scoring started with a 2-yard touchdown run with under three minutes to play in the first quarter.

The Tigers drove deep into FSU territory on each of its next three drives, but only once came away with a touchdown. That was thanks to a pair of fumbles — one of which was recovered by the Seminoles and one of which they were unable to recover despite having several players around the ball. Etienne’s 28-yard rush made it 14-0 midway through the second quarter on the first play of the drive after a big punt return from Ray-Ray McCloud.

Thanks to FSU’s failure to recover the second fumble inside the 5-yard-line, the Tigers cashed in with a 26-yard field goal from Adam Spence to take a 17-0 halftime lead into the locker room.

Clemson finished with 227 yards on the ground, led by Etienne’s 97. Bryant added 60 on the ground to go with 151 yards passing for the Tigers in the win.

Blackman passed for 208 yards, but on just 13-for-32 passing. FSU receiver Nyqwan Murray led all receivers with four catches for 73 yards, but had a big drop on what looked to be a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Thanks to sacks, FSU rushed for just 24 yards.

Both teams will be at home next week to take on FCS schools. The Seminoles will host Delaware State while Clemson takes on The Citadel.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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