June 17, 2014 - by

The much anticipated Labor Day showdown with Miami is now less than two months away.  That means you can start thinking about getting together the family-favorite tailgating recipes, dusting off the old garnet and gold wardrobe, and preparing for the Saturday tradition of Florida State Football at Doak Campbell Stadium.  

Every football season brings a new air of excitement to Tallahassee.  There is nothing like the summer before a new football season.  We’ve all been there.  The preview magazines hit the shelves in local bookstores, the latest polo shirts and new Nike apparel becomes available, and it is impossible to get your fix of Seminole football until the beginning of the fall.  That nervous feeling sets into your body and those three months before football season seem like an eternity.  

Well we have the solution.  For the next 9 weeks, the Seminoles.com staff will preview every game for the 2009 season–starting with the Florida game and working our way through the schedule leading up to the Miami game on September 7th.   Each week, we will take a look back at memorable moments in Seminole history, give you insight on opponents and returning players, and preview each matchup as the summer progresses.  

The great thing about college football is that no one–not even those TV analysts–has a complete idea of what is going to happen this season.  Sure, most people have a good feeling that Florida State’s offensive line will be one of the best units in the ACC, Dekoda Watson will lead a veteran defense along with Patrick Robinson, and Christian Ponder should have a much better grasp of the offense this season.  But the surprises and nail-biting games of a new season are what make college football the most anticipated sport of the season.  It’s that time of year, Seminole fans.  Are you ready?

By Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com

Happy Birthday, Bobby.

Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden was given quite the 79th birthday present last season when his Seminoles wrapped up the visiting Clemson Tigers with a decisive 41-27 victory.

A crowd of around 80,000 sang “Happy Birthday” to Bowden in the waning moments of a game that featured several big plays.

And perhaps none was bigger than Neefy Moffett’s interception return for a touchdown in the first half that tied the score at 10 apiece. On the play, FSU’s starting left defensive end nabbed an ill-advised Clemson pass and rumbled 18 yards into the endzone while sending Seminole fans into a frenzy.

For the game, quarterback Christian Ponder threw for a score and ran for another while tailback Antone Smith dashed for two rushing touchdowns. Ponder finished the game with 153 yards through the air and Smith had 63 yards on the ground.

Stealing the spotlight from Smith in the backfield, though, was true freshman Jermaine Thomas. Now penciled in as the starting running back entering the 2009 season, Thomas registered 95 yards on just 11 carries against Clemson – good enough for a staggering 8.5 yards-per-rush average.

Through the air, Preston Parker led all Seminoles with six receptions for 37 yards and Taiwan Easterling added 43 yards on four grabs.

Former Seminole Corey Surrency hauled in FSU’s only touchdown catch.

Returning seniors Dekoda Watson and Patrick Robinson combined for 16 tackles in the win over the Tigers, which ended FSU’s three-game skid to its rivals from the South Carolina.

Entering last year’s showdown, Clemson had earned three-straight victories and four wins in the previous five games.

Not counting last season, Clemson’s recent triumphs over the Seminoles certainly weren’t commonplace as prior to the 2003 season FSU had won 14 of its first 16 games against the Tigers.

Florida State is now 16-6 all-time against Clemson. 

By Ryan Pensy, Seminoles.com

C.J. Spiller – Running Back
Although he started just one game in 2008, there is no bigger playmaker on the Tiger squad than C.J. Spiller.  With 4,908 career all-purpose yards, Spiller has a chance this season to break the ACC’s career all-purpose record of 5,828 yards.  Spiller led the ACC last season with 1,770 all-purpose yards and was named 2nd-team All-ACC as a running back.  The 2009 season will bring some changes for Spiller, mainly the loss of backfield teammate James Davis who was drafted in the sixth round by the Cleveland Browns.  What was a weakness last season is now a strength as Spiller will have a veteran offensive line to run behind.  Spiller appears to be a man on a mission this season looking to improve his draft stock before he turns pro.  There were many fans in Death Valley who waited anxiously this offseason as Spiller waited until the final day before declaring that he would return to Clemson for his senior season.  Only time will tell if that was the right decision.
Da’Quan Bowers – Defensive End
Coming out of high school, Da’Quan Bowers was listed as the top prospect in the nation by ESPN.com.  Bowers lived up to the hype.  After enrolling early at Clemson last spring, Bowers had his sights set on playing during his freshmen season in 2008.  Bowers accomplished that goal as he was on the field in all 13 games last season, starting six of those contests.  He had 47 total tackles last year, 26 for a loss.  This season Bowers and the Clemson defense will have a new defensive coordinator in Kevin Steele.  The former linebackers coach at Florida State has taken over the Tigers defense after spending the last two seasons at Alabama.  Steele will push Bowers to play at the top of his game each and every snap.  If he can accomplish this, look for Bowers to start to garner the same accolades and attention he had coming out of high school.        

Offensive Starters Returning:  63% (7 of 11)
Chris Hairston (LT), Cory Lambert (LG), Thomas Austin (C), Mason Cloy (RG), Landon Walker (RT), Michael Palmer (TE), Jacoby Ford (WR)

Defensive Starters Returning:  72% (8 of 11)
Kevin Alexander (DE), Jarvis Jenkins (DT), Ricky Sapp (BAN), DeAndre McDaniel (SLB), Brandon Maye (MLB), Kavell Conner (WLB), Chris Chancellor (CB), Crezdon Butler (CB)

Starters Lost – 40% (9 of 22)
Aaron Kelly (WR), Cullen Harper (QB), James Davis (RB), Tyler Grisham (WR),  Dorell Scott (NG), Mike Hamlin (CAT), Chris Clemons (FS)

Tigers Breakdown
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney
At Clemson: 1st year (interim coach for 7 games), .571 winning %
2008 Record: 7-6 / 4-4 ACC/ Tied for 3rd Place
Series Record: 16-6, Florida State
2008 Team Stats Yards NCAA Rank ACC Rank
Total Offense: 329.4 87th 4th
Rushing Offense: 111.6 99th 10th
Passing Offense: 217.9 58th 1st
Points Per Game: 25.2 60th 4th
Total Defense: 299.9 18th 5th
Rushing Defense: 127.4 36th 5th
Passing Defense: 101.7 12th 3rd
Points Allowed Per Game: 17.3 13th 2nd

Returning Stat Leaders

Rushing: C.J. Spiller (629 yards, 7 TD’s)
Passing: Willy Korn (216 yards, 1 TD)
Receiving: Jacoby Ford (710 yards, 4 TD’s)
Tackles: Kavell Connor (125)
Sacks: Four tied (2)
INT’s: Crezdon Butler, Chris Chancellor (4)

By Scott Kotick, Seminoles.com

There are few games on the Seminole football schedule outside of Florida and Miami that have produced as many great moments as the Clemson rivalry.  Not only have some of the greatest plays come during this yearly matchup, but also some of the best overall games have happened during Bobby Bowden’s tenure at Florida State.   Punt returns for touchdowns, big hits from the linebackers, and record-breaking touchdown passes have become expected when the Seminole and Tigers clash each fall.  Here are some of the most memorable moments.

September 17th, 1988: #10 Florida State at #3 Clemson

It was the Seminoles’ second top-10 matchup of the season, and it came only three weeks into the 1988 season.  After getting blanked 31-0 by Miami in the season opener (yes, it was the year of the Seminole rap), Florida State went up to Death Valley with a mission against the #3 Clemson Tigers.

With a 24-21 win, the Seminoles gave Bobby Bowden his first victory against Clemson as the Florida State head coach in one of the most hostile environments in all of college football.  While this game was certainly one of the best of the 1988 season, it will forever be remembered as the Deion Sanders and Leroy Butler show. 

With the game tied 14-14 in the 3rd quarter, Clemson punter Chris Gardocki boomed a punt deep into Florida State territory, and Prime Time took it from there.  Even before the ball was snapped, Deion called out the Clemson crowd and foreshadowed how he would break the hearts of the fans in Death Valley.  Sanders weaved through the Clemson special teams and then put on the afterburners to outrun everyone on the field to give the Seminoles a 21-14 lead.  It was pure Deion football.

But the key play in that 1988 game was due to none other than Leroy Butler–except he was playing on special teams, not in the defensive secondary.  Known as the ultimate riverboat gambler, Bobby Bowden decided to catch the Tigers off guard with the “Puntrooskie.”  Yes, that’s right: the famous Puntooskie was born in Death Valley when the Seminoles lined up in a punt formation and the snap went to fullback Dayne Williams, who then handed off to Butler.  The future Green Bay Packer raced for 78 yards down to the Clemson 2-yard line to seal the win for the Seminoles. 

October 23rd, 1999: #1 Florida State at Clemson

It was Bowden Bowl I that year, as father Bobby Bowden took on son Tommy Bowden in the much-anticipated October matchup.  The Seminoles were riding high and had been #1 the entire season heading up to Death Valley.

The game was much closer than every Seminole fan had expected, as Florida State squeaked out a 17-14 win behind five Sebastian Janikowski field goals.  But none was more important than when Janikowski lined up and booted a 39-yard field goal with 5:26 left in the fourth quarter to give the Seminoles the lead for good. 

Most Seminole fans will remember Ann Bowden dressed in a half orange-half garnet shirt to support both Tommy and Bobby.  But it was the Seminoles pulling out a win that was more important to sending Florida State to the national championship game later in the season to give Bobby his second national championship.  It was one of those games that the Seminoles needed, and they got it just in the nick of time. 

November 4th, 2000:  #10 Clemson at #4 Florida State

It was yet another top-10 matchup between these two programs, but this time, it was complete dominance by the Seminoles on an early November evening in Tallahassee.  

During Chris Weinke’s Heisman campaign, Florida State romped all over Clemson 54-7 behind 771 total yards of offense and 521 yards through the air from Weinke.  Mickey Andrews’ nationally ranked Seminole defense also held the Tigers to just 262 yards of total offense.  The Seminoles clinched the ACC Championship for a record ninth straight time, and dazzled the Doak Campbell Stadium crowd with the longest touchdown pass in Florida State history.

Backed up on his own 2-yard line, Chris Weinke dropped back into the end zone on a play fake and hid the ball as he casually walked backwards as if running back Travis Minor had the ball.  He had everyone fooled–even the cameramen.  Weinke then turned around and threw the ball to a wide-open Snoop Minnis, who then raced 98 yards for a touchdown and the lead that the Seminoles never relinquished.  

That play happened in the middle of the first quarter, and it was pure Seminole football for the rest of the night.  Clemson was stunned.  They had hoped for more during Bowden Bowl II.  Florida State then went onto an 11-2 record and a number five finish in the polls.

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