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Inability to seize chances defines Florida State’s loss to Clemson

It was close, perhaps more so than most expected, but Florida State couldn’t pull off an upset against Clemson Saturday.

The Noles were defeated 37-34 in a game that went down to the wire. Several lead changes took place in the fourth quarter, including Deshaun Watson’s 34-yard game winning touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett.

Penalties were arguably the biggest factor in Saturday’s loss. Dalvin Cook’s 50-yard run in the second half was negated by a chop block penalty that most would argue was the wrong call. One of those people is FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher, who didn’t mince words when talking about the officiating.

“It’s ridiculous, it’s not a chop, it was not a chop,” Fisher said during his postgame press conference.

“And I’m going to tell you what, you hold coaches accountable, players accountable, hold the damn officials accountable. It’s garbage. And then to call another penalty on the sideline is even more garbage. It’s cowardly, it’s gutless and wrong.”

“Now they can take it, fine it, do whatever they want to do with it, that’s a fact. Look at the film. It’s ridiculous that they do it. That was a huge call in the game. Now, [we] still had chances to win the game after that. That’s ridiculous and the guy wasn’t even in position to make it and plus it was 10 yards down the field so the penalty should have been marked from there, not from the line of scrimmage.”

He also argued that the big hit on quarterback Deondre Francois, which forced him to miss one play in the fourth quarter, should have been targeting. Coincidentally, FSU defensive back Trey Marshall was ejected for targeting Clemson receiver Mike Williams when the Noles had a 28-20 lead.

At that point, Marshall was leading the Seminoles with 11 tackles and had a pass breakup. That crucial call played a role in swaying momentum for Clemson.

As was the case with Matthew Thomas against Miami, Marshall will be forced to miss the first half of next week’s game (against N.C. State).

Let’s focus on one positive element of the night for the Noles: another excellent performance from Dalvin Cook. The superstar recorded 169 yards and four of FSU’s five touchdowns. Had his (other) big run not been called back, the junior would have surpassed 200 yards for the fourth time in his career.

Cook stepped up in FSU’s biggest game. He needed to have a huge performance for the Noles to stay competitive against Clemson and did just that. However, he wasn’t satisfied about his team’s precision.

“We’ve got to do a better job of executing in the big moments.”

That, not the penalties, represents the biggest takeaway of Saturday’s loss. FSU had several opportunities to upset the No. 3 team in the nation, likely ACC champion and potential College Football Playoff team… but couldn’t capitalize.

Sure, a few questionable calls shifted momentum, but there were also negligent plays — such as back-to-back false starts on FSU’s final drive — that are inexcusable.

Overall, the Noles played one of the nation’s best teams down to the wire and looked more like the team many expected to challenge Clemson in the ACC during the preseason. However, Florida State’s inability to capitalize on opportunities played the biggest factor in its loss Saturday.

It’s something the Seminoles will have to live with in a season when they won’t even make a New Year’s Six bowl.

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