TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — No. 1 Florida State seemed destined to lose with its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston standing on the sideline, suspended and relegated to cheerleader.
Sean Maguire hung in with an up-and-down effort as Winston’s replacement and Florida State escaped with a 23-17 overtime victory Saturday night over No. 22 Clemson, but every miscue by the backup-turned-starter was a reminder that the face of the program was wearing street clothes and a ball cap.
Winston was suspended for the game against Clemson (1-2, 0-1 ACC) after making “offensive and vulgar” comments earlier this week on campus. Interim President Garnett S. Stokes and athletic director Stan Wilcox announced the decision to extend the half-game benching to a full game late Friday night. There had been criticism that the original punishment for Winston’s latest embarrassing off-field incident was too light.
Wilcox declined to comment on the Winston suspension. Winston was not made available after the game, but Fisher said he would be the ‘Noles quarterback again on Monday.
“I don’t condone any of the comments Jameis made earlier this week, or how and where he chose to make them,” Fisher said after the game. “He knows that, our team knows that. We spoke a lot about that throughout the week internally and with the administration.
“At the end of the day we felt the one game made the most sense. I chose to keep that process internal. Now he’s served that punishment and he’s ready to move forward. .,.. You never know at the pace that kids learn or why they make mistakes. Our hope and belief is that Jameis will learn from this and use better judgment.”
Things looked dire after Maguire had thrown an interception that gave Clemson the ball in FSU territory with 2:14 left in the fourth. Doak Campbell Stadium was silent as the defending national champions were staring at their first loss since the 2012 season.
A fumble by Clemson and a questionable overtime decision by Tigers coach Dabo Swinney helped the Seminoles avert the upset.
Karlos Williams bounced around the outside for a 12-yard touchdown to win it for Florida State, which has won a school-record 19 straight games.
“We challenged our guys to find out who we are,” Fisher said. “We’re not where we want to be, but we do know who we are.”
Maguire had never started a collegiate game and had only thrown 26 passes in his career. Now he was facing a conference rival in a game that has sent the winner to the ACC championship each of the last five years.
Fisher said they changed everything once they learned Winston wouldn’t be available for the second half. Coaches had a whole different package waiting for the team’s best player.
Clemson, still, had enough missed opportunities to let Florida State (3-0, 1-0) escape.
The last Clemson misstep in crucial spot came in OT.
Swinney declined to attempt a 33-yard field goal on the first possession and Adam Choice was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-1. Two plays later, Williams went practically untouched into the end zone.
“Fourth and a foot. That’s on me,” Swinney said. “We didn’t come here to play patsy. We missed a couple of kicks and, obviously, that had something to do with it.
“Some crazy things happen in football and you have to go through it.”
Clemson kicker Ammon Lakip had missed two short field goals earlier in the game.
Maguire was regularly pressured by a loaded Clemson defensive line and completed 21 of 39 passes for 305 yards with two interceptions and a 74-yard touchdown to Rashad Greene to tie it at 17 with 6:04 left in the fourth. Winston was one of the first guys on the sideline to greet Greene after the receiver got free deep.
Greene finished with a game high 135 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions.
“We were able to keep him calm, keep him composed and just trust us that we trusted him,” Greene said.
The two teams went into overtime after a fourth quarter of mishmash, game-changing plays on both sides. Clemson freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson threw a beautiful 39-yard pass in between two defenders, caught by a diving Mike Williams to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by the quarterback.
Maguire’s late pick gave Clemson the ball in FSU territory, but C.J. Davidson was stripped by Eddie Goldman and the ‘Noles recovered at 1:36 inside the Florida State 20, and then played for OT.
“(Winston) told me he’s proud of me,” Williams said. “He’s a great leader. He did something you really don’t’ see in a lot of starting quarterbacks, which is rally behind the backup.”
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