By Bob Thomas
Associate Sports Information Director
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Karlos Williams’ 12-yard touchdown run in overtime prompted a wild Doak Campbell Stadium celebration at the end of a long week, as No. 1 Florida State side-stepped a potentially damaging defeat with a 23-17 victory over No. 22 Clemson Saturday night.
Williams’ game-winner came two plays after the Seminole defense stuffed Clemson tailback Adam Choice on fourth-and-one. The senior tailback broke off a 13-yard run on the first play, then bounced outside and untouched around the left end for the game-winner on the next snap.
“You know we challenged our guys to find out who we are,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’re not where we want to be, but we do know who we are. That’s a team that will fight you, that will compete with you, that understands how to win, how to be a family and understands how to love from within.”
No one was feeling that love more than Seminole quarterback Sean Maguire. In a span of four days his role expanded from back-up to spot-starter – and eventually the closer – in the wake of Jameis Winston’s suspension, which was extended from one half to a full game on the eve of the contest.
Maguire took his opportunity a step further, when his 74-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene with 6:04 remaining – and Roberto Aguayo’s point-after – forged a 17-17 deadlock, ultimately leading to the fifth overtime game in school history.
“I can’t put it into the words,” Maguire said, whose night began with a rousing ovation when he was introduced. “It’s the greatest feeling in my life so far, that’s for sure, to get this win for our team.”
Florida State’s defense stood strong behind Maguire, whose second interception of the second half, by Clemson safety Jadar Johnson, gave the Tigers the ball at the Seminole 26 with 2:14 to play. Two plays later, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman stripped tailback C.J. Davidson of the ball, which Nate Andrews recovered at the 14. The Noles killed the clock, opting to take their chances in just the fifth overtime game in school history.
“It was a team effort out there,” said Goldman, who not only forced the potential game-saving fumble, but blew up Clemson’s fourth-and-one play in overtime. “Making plays to help my team, it’s definitely a great feeling. Overall it was a team effort and I just did what I had to do.”
The Seminoles played inspired defense in the second half, limiting the Tigers to 149 yards after they rolled up 249 before the break. FSU also benefited from a pair of missed field goals, a touchdown negated by a replay over-ruling and an errant shotgun snap that killed a drive to the Seminoles’ 1-yard line.
Aside from the two interceptions, Maguire was sharp in the second half, completing 15 of 22 attempts for 199 yards and the scoring strike to Greene as Fisher went to the shotgun, allowing him to find his groove. He finished 21-of-39 for 305 yards.
“It was nice Coach Fisher and Coach Sanders had that confidence in me to start calling first-down pass plays, especially lining up in the gun, letting me throw and getting in the rhythm,” Maguire said.
And it didn’t hurt to have a pair of seniors – Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary – at his disposal. The duo combined for 15 receptions for 213 yards.
“That’s the advice I got from Jameis, too, ‘When in doubt find 80 or 35,’” Maguire said, his postgame smile brighter than ever. “It worked out pretty well.”
Greene was the recipient of nine passes for 135 yards – eight of those in the second half – while O’Leary matched a career-high with six grabs for 78 yards.
In the process of posting their first overtime victory since beating NC State 50-44 on Nov. 15, 2003, the Seminoles (3-0, 1-0 ACC) extended their nation-leading winning streak to 19 games.
Maguire wiped out a 10-3 halftime deficit, directing a nine-play, 68-yard scoring drive to start the second half by completing 6-of-7 attempts for 54 yards, including three to tight end and roommate Nick O’Leary. It was Maguire’s 15-yard pass to O’Leary – to the Clemson 1 – that set up Mario Pender’s touchdown run. Roberto Aguayo’s point-after tied the game at 10-10.
The Seminoles avoided Clemson’s first attempt to break the deadlock, when a replay over-turned quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Stanton Seckinger, who was ruled down at the 1. An errant shotgun snap over the head of Watson forced a 40-yard field goal attempt by Ammon Lakip, which was wide right.
Clemson (1-2, 0-1) made amends, converting a Jayron Kearse interception of a deflected Maguire pass into the go-ahead score, thanks to Mike Williams’ diving reception between two Seminole defenders that set up the Tigers at the FSU 2. Watson’s untouched two-yard touchdown and Bradley Pinion’s point-after gave the Tigers a 17-10 lead with 11:44 remaining.
Maguire’s first start began auspiciously against a charged Clemson defense, which sacked the redshirt sophomore three times and hurried him three others. He was 6 of 17 for 106 yards, though he managed to avoid any turnovers. Meanwhile, the Tigers stuffed the Seminoles’ running attack to the tune of minus-22 yards on 11 carries.
Subsequently, the Seminoles failed to find the end zone in the first half for the first time since the 2012 game at Florida – a span of 20 games – and trailed 10-3 at the break.
Clemson broke a 3-3 deadlock with 5:56 remaining in the first half when tailback D.J. Howard crashed into the end zone from 1-yard out, capping a six-play, 47-yard drive, engineered by freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson, who relieved starter Cole Stoudt on the Tigers’ fourth possession of the game, sparked the go-ahead drive with a 28-yard pass to Germone Hopper to the FSU 17. On third-and-six from the 13, Watson dumped the ball into the flat to tight end Jordan Leggett, who was upended at the 1. Howard’s scoring plunge on the next play put the Seminoles behind for the first time in a regular season game since they trailed at Boston College on Oct. 13 last season, a span of 655 minutes and 53 seconds.
The Seminoles cashed in on their second possession, parlaying Maguire completions to Jesus Wilson and Williams of 14 and 27 yards, respectively, to set up Aguayo’s season-long, 50-yard field goal with 7:40 remaining in the first quarter.
FSU’s 3-0 lead stood until the second play of the second quarter. Watson came on to replace Stoudt and promptly guided the Tigers on a 10-play, 75-yard drive, culminating with Ammon Lakip’s game-tying 30-yard field goal. Lakip’s conversion made amends for an ugly, 23-yard shanked attempt on the Tigers’ second possession, which preceded Aguayo’s field goal.
Florida State faces its first true road contest at NC State on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m.