No. 1 Florida State mounts improbable rally, stuns No. 22 Clemson in OT

22 Comments

Let us recount the ways No. 22 Clemson could have beaten No. 1 Florida State Saturday night in Tallahassee:

  • Not under-throw a wide-open tight end on third-and-goal on the first drive of the game.
  • Not miss the ensuing field goal.
  • Not snap the ball over your quarterback’s head while knocking on the door of another touchdown, moving from the four-inch line to the 24.
  • Not missing that ensuing field goal.
  • Not having your defensive back fall down in front of Florida State’s best receiver, allowing an otherwise silent Rashad Greene to stroll in for a game-tying 74-yard touchdown grab.
  • Not fumbling the ball at the Florida State 14 with 1:36 to play, missing a chance at a game-winning touchdown or field goal.
  • Not running the ball on fourth-and-1 against a stacked box in overtime.

Clemson did every one of those things, and thereby turned a 17-10 fourth-quarter lead into a 23-17 overtime loss to Florida State.

The obvious story was the continued struggle of Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire, playing for the suspended Jameis Winston, and the corresponding dominant effort of the Clemson defensive front. Maguire completed 21-of-39 passes for 305 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Take away the 74-yard gift and add in the six sacks for 49 yards and you get a more accurate representation of Maguire’s first start: 182 yards on 43 called pass plays, good for 4.2 yards per attempt, with two interceptions. Oh, and Florida State also ran for minus-12 yards in regulation.

Cole Stoudt started the game for Clemson, played the first three series, and was not seen again. That was partly of his own doing – Clemson did not score in his time on the field – but mostly it was due to the play of his freshman backup Deshaun Watson. He accounted for 296 yards of total offense and one touchdown with no turnovers. Considering the play of the Clemson defensive line, there’s a chance he’d have been the best quarterback on the field even with a certain Heisman winner in action.

After trading field goals to open the game, D.J. Howard powered in from one-yard out to give the Tigers a 10-3 lead with 5:56 remaining in the first half, a lead it would take into halftime. Florida State opened the second half with the ball and put together without a doubt its best possession of the half, moving 68 yards in nine plays, setting up a Mario Pender one-yard run to tie the game with 11:05 remaining in the third quarter. Clearly buzzing after his halftime talk with the coaching staff, this drive was the only time Maguire looked the part of a major college starter, connecting on 6-of-7 throws for 53 yards. Again, take out this drive and the touchdown, and Maguire’s 36 other called passes registered a total of 129 yards.

Watson put Clemson on top again at 17-10 with a two-yard run four minutes into the second half, which Florida State equalized when Maguire found a wide open Greene for a 74-yard catch-and-jog.

Clemson appeared to be in perfect shape to win the game after Maguire airmailed a pass into the arms of Jadar Johnson, which he returned 24 yards to the Florida State 26.

And now we are into the portion of the game where Florida State defensive lineman Eddie Goldman wrecked everything in sight, including the hopes of every Clemson fan in existence. After an eight-yard run by Watson on first down, Goldman forced a Davidson fumble at the Seminoles’ 14, thereby doing just about the only thing possible to keep Florida State from losing.

On the opening possession of overtime, Goldman sacked Watson for a loss of four on second down, and then created the disruption that allowed a host of Seminoles to stuff Adam Choice for no gain on fourth-and-1 to end Clemson’s chance in overtime. Two plays later, Karlos Williams rumbled into the end zone for the game-winning score.

With the win, Florida Stats has obviously survived the Winston suspension, and seemingly will be more galvanized than ever in its drive to repeat. The Seminoles are now officially the clear favorites to win the ACC, and thus become the ACC’s representative in the College Football Playoff. There are hurdles to cleared between now and then, a home date with No. 9 Notre Dame on Oct. 18, and a Thursday night trip to Louisville on Oct. 30, and two six-point wins in its only two games against competent opponents suggest this is not the Florida State juggernaut of a year ago. But a betting man would say this is the closest Florida State and its 19-game winning streak come to defeat until January.

For Clemson, what can you even say? The Tigers will never have a better shot at their first win over an AP No. 1. The schedule gets breezy from here, but that feels like hollow consolation for a team that’s 1-2 and has seen any realistic hopes of a championship evaporate before the end of September. This was a loss every Clemson fan, player and coach will try – and fail – to forget.

Mel Tucker’s first Michigan State coaching staff is officially complete

Michigan State football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

And just like that, Mel Tucker‘s first coaching staff at Michigan State football has been filled.  Officially.

Earlier Friday, reports continued to surface that Tucker was looking to swipe Scottie Hazelton from Kansas State.  Later on in the evening, MSU confirmed that Hazelton has been added to Tucker’s staff.

The veteran of nearly a quarter-century in the coaching profession will serve as the Spartans’ defensive coordinator.

“Scottie definitely has the mentality you’re looking for in a defensive coordinator,” the new Michigan State football head coach said in a statement. “He’s a leader with an infectious personality and he’s an excellent teacher. He’s learned from some of the great defensive minds in the game throughout his career. Scottie has been a defensive coordinator multiple times, including at the Power 5 level, he’s coached in the NFL, and he’s been on a staff that won a national championship. I couldn’t be more excited about hiring Scottie as our defensive coordinator to lead our outstanding defensive staff.”

Hazelton spent the 2019 season as the defensive coordinator at Kansas State.  He’s also been the coordinator at Wyoming (2017-18) and Nevada (2013) at the FBS level.

With Hazelton’s hiring, all 10 of Tucker’s on-field assistants for his Michigan State football staff have been hired.

The weekend before last, it was confirmed that Ron Burton and Mike Tressel would be retained.  Shortly thereafter, Chris Kapilovic officially followed Tucker to MSU from Colorado.  Two Wednesdays ago, former first-team All-Big Ten wide receiver Courtney Hawkins returned to East Lansing to coach the same position he played for the Spartans.  A day laterJay Johnson was confirmed as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Harlon Barnett was brought back as defensive backs coach.  A day after that, Tucker pried Ted Gilmore away from Wisconsin to serve as MSU’s tight ends coach.

February 24, Ross Els (special teams coordinator) and William Peagler (running backs coach) were added as well.

Oklahoma State could be landing spot for LSU transfer WR Dee Anderson

LSU Dee Anderson
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Could one soon-to-be-former LSU football player be leaving the SEC for the Big 12? According to one of his social media accounts, that’s certainly a possibility.

Prior to the start of summer camp, Dee Anderson was indefinitely suspended because “[h]e had some conditioning stuff to get done.” That suspension extended into the regular season as the wide receiver missed the first two games of the year. In mid-September, LSU football head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed that the suspension would remain in place for the rest of the year.

Three months later, Anderson entered the NCAA transfer database. The redshirt junior receiver graduated from the university in mid-December.

Since then, news on a potential landing spot for Anderson has been scant. Thursday morning, however, Anderson posted a GIF on his personal Twitter account of Oklahoma State mascot Pistol Pete. That, of course, intimates that the Cowboys are in play.

Adding to the OSU intrigue, a former high school teammate of Anderson is Cowboys running back LD Brown. According to Pokes Report, “Brown said things looked really good in terms of Anderson ending up at Oklahoma State.”

Anderson was a four-star member of the LSU football 2016 recruiting class. His first two seasons in Baton Rouge, Anderson saw sporadic action. The 6-6, 229-pound Texas native then caught 20 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown in 2018.

Prior to the conditioning issue, Anderson had been expected to be a significant contributor in the passing game this season.

Anderson would be eligible to play at any FBS school in 2020 as a graduate transfer. The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

The addition would help backfill a position that’s been hit with attrition of late.  This current cycle, a total of four OSU receivers have left.

Penn State AD hired search firm to negotiate new James Franklin contract

Penn State football
Getty Images
1 Comment

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour appears to really be a fan of a particular search firm. So much so she hired one to do part of her job and recommended them to a rival school to boot.

Those are a few of the takeaways after reporter Andy Wittry decided to dig a little deeper into the recent Michigan State coaching search. This included a freedom of information request for emails to Spartans athletic director Bill Beekman that uncovered several gems.

While there were the notable ‘fan suggests hiring XYZ coach’ type emails, there was also a note that Barbour sent along to her counterpart in East Lansing:

“Sorry to hear about Coach Dantonio’s decision to retire,” the Nittany Lions AD wrote. “As I think we’ve discussed in the past, we have been partnered with Chad Chatlos and Ventura Partners for the last three plus years, utilizing them as our search consultant on all head coaching searches as well as a number of upper level administrator hires.

“Although we have not had to do a football search at Penn State during my time, frankly Chad and I have prepared for a football search on several occasions and he most recently served as our negotiator for Coach Franklin’s latest extension. He is/was fantastic.”

MSU did use a search firm to eventually hire Mel Tucker and spent six-figures with DHR International.

Beyond it being fascinating (and to some PSU fans, perhaps concerning?) that one AD would recommend a particular person to work with to a division rival, it’s notable that Penn State brought in outside help to lock their head coach up with a new deal.

The school confirmed on Feb. 26 that James Franklin had agreed to an extension worth over $35 million over the next six years.

While it’s no shock to see a search firm involved in finding a new coach, it’s a bit unique to bring one in for a renegotiation with a current coach — something most AD’s handle internally with an opposing agent.

The close ties with Chatlos and Ventura Partners is also interesting given that Collegiate Sports Associates was the search firm that wound up helping the university find Barbour for her current role. Typically that leads to a bit of a quid pro quo where the same firm is used for other searches but the Nittany Lions have instead gone exclusive with another.

Take note, as well, that Barbour said she has prepared for a football search on several occasions. Perhaps that little nugget is the result of Franklin’s name popping up in connection to spots like Florida State and USC in recent months.

Instead he appears to be sticking around Happy Valley for several years to come with that hefty new salary that was recently negotiated.

Mel Tucker reportedly hiring Kansas State’s Scottie Hazelton as new Michigan State DC

New Michigan State DC Scottie Hazelton
Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of the best beards in college football is headed to Michigan State.

No, not the one on the face of Illinois head coach Lovie Smith, but rather that of Kansas State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton. Per The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, the Wildcats assistant is leaving for the same position in East Lansing on Mel Tucker’s newstaff.

Hazelton spent just one season in the Little Apple after being hired by KSU’s Chris Klieman. The two briefly overlapped on the defensive staff at North Dakota State before reuniting in the Big 12.

In addition to a productive tenure leading the Bison’s defense at the FCS level, Hazelton has put together quite a diverse coaching career. That’s included coordinator stops at the NAIA, Division II and Division III levels as well as a season at Nevada in 2013 and a run at Wyoming from 2017-18. He also coached linebackers at USC in 2012 and did the same for the Jacksonville Jaguars during Gus Bradley’s tenure in Duval.

Now Hazelton will link up with Tucker as the final member of the MSU assistant ranks. The head coach has quite a large salary pool to work with and you can probably assume that had something to do with luring a Power Five DC so late in the typical hiring season. At K-State, Hazelton made $550,000 last year according to USA Today.

Either way, the bearded new defensive coordinator won’t have long to get acclimated to East Lansing as the Spartans begin spring practice on March 17.