What We Learned From Clemson Beating FSU in Dramatic Fashion

Clemson’s 30-20 victory over Florida State on Saturday wasn’t like any of the Tigers’ other five wins this year.

This game felt different going into it and coming out of it. Head coach Dabo Swinney called it a top-5 victory in his career . There were moments of emotion as former Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden and his family was on hand to celebrate the life and legacy of late FSU coach Bobby Bowden.

The men’s golf team was recognized for its 2021 ACC Championship, and national-title-winning golfer Turk Petit ran down the Hill. There was a sense of optimism, especially from a home crowd, that even though it thinned out some in the second half, the ones who stayed really made an impact on the game.

And then there was the outcome. Clemson’s offense and defense both scored late touchdowns. The Tigers covered the spread for the first time this year. Several young stars emerged and they held on for a tight victory.

Sure, the Tigers have played plenty of close games this season, and they’ve lost three of those. But this one was vital in so many ways. It stopped the bleeding. It gave the program some renewed life. You could see it in the celebration of the players, who haven’t always played their best and have dealt with much adversity.

None of this means that this season will go down as successful, but for one late afternoon in Death Valley, Clemson, to a certain degree, felt like Clemson again.

Here’s what else was learned from the Tigers’ dramatic victory that got them to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in ACC play:

Looking ahead

A few weeks ago in this weekly piece, we told you younger players were going to need this season, despite the failures, to grow up and improve. That was on full display against FSU. Running backs Will Shipley and Phil Mafah combine for 169 rushing yards and three runs of 21 yards or more. Shipley produced two touchdowns , including the go-ahead score with 2:53 remaining.

There were several redshirt freshmen and sophomores who made big contributions as well. We’ll get to one of them shortly, but on a team where leadership is lacking on offense, this has become an opportunity for younger players to have a voice and be productive. It might seem like a small thing right now, but this will pay off when Clemson tries to right the ship as a program next year. Coaching them up

Clemson’s staff has taken plenty of heat and certainly deserves some criticism. Swinney will tell you that. He’s pointed the finger at himself after last week’s loss to Pittsburgh. But if we’re going to be fair, the staff also deserves a little praise. They’ve not thrown in the towel. Through injuries and dealing with inexperienced players, it wouldn’t be a total shock if it looked like the effort just isn’t there.

That hasn’t been the case, and it’s a testament to the young men on the team but also the coaches […]

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