TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Dabo Swinney has mastered winning close games during his tenure at Clemson. Saturday's victory over Florida State might be the sweetest of all.
The third-ranked Tigers rallied to beat the No. 12 Seminoles 37-34 and won for the first time in 10 years at Doak Campbell Stadium.
It is the fifth win by seven points or fewer this season for Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC) and gives it a 16-2 record in since 2011 under Swinney when winning by less than a touchdown.
"I'm glad to finally walk into this room and be happy. It's been a long time coming," Swinney said. "We had a couple of lulls, but when we needed to make plays we got them."
The win extends Clemson's regular season winning streak to 22 games and gives it consecutive victories over Florida State (5-3, 2-3) for the first time since winning three in a row from 2005-07.
The win also likely assures the Tigers of being in the top four when the first College Football Playoff rankings are released on Tuesday. Clemson is trying to make the playoff for the second straight season after losing to Alabama in last year's national championship game.
For the second straight year, Deshaun Watson played a large role in the win as he had 430 yards of total offense.
The junior completed 27 of 43 passes for 378 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. His 34-yard pass to Jordan Leggett and 2-point conversion with 2:06 remaining gave Clemson the lead. Watson also had 52 yards rushing on 17 carries, and Leggett had 122 yards on five receptions.
"It was just a great play call. We've seen it all game and called it at the right time," said Watson of the TD to Leggett. "It's a special win. It's hard to win here against these guys."
It is the second straight game Watson has had over 400 yards of offense against Florida State — he had 404 last year in a 23-13 victory. He is also the first quarterback to beat Florida State in consecutive seasons since Oklahoma's Landry Jones in 2010-11.
Wayne Gallman led Clemson's rushing attack with 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns .
Florida State was able to drive into Clemson territory with under a minute left but could only get to the Tigers' 34. The Seminoles self-destructed due to penalties and Deondre Francois (17 of 35 for 169 yards with a touchdown and interception) was sacked on the final two plays.
FSU fell short despite Dalvin Cook's career-high four touchdowns. The junior had 136 of his 169 yards rushing in the second half and had two touchdown runs of 40-plus yards.
"Dalvin had another great game. I've seen him play a lot of good ones. He had space and he outran angles," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "They're going to throw haymakers, we're going to throw haymakers. We battled back but unfortunately we came up short."
Cook, who leads Power 5 backs in rushing, has gone over 1,000 yards three straight seasons and needs 192 yards break Warrick Dunn's school career record of 3,959 yards.
"They were giving us what we wanted all game," Cook said. "We tried to establish the passing game early and the running game opened up in the second half."
Clemson: With wins over Louisville and Florida State, the Tigers have a firm grip on the Atlantic Division, but Swinney isn't claiming victory just yet. He said after the game that "we've got two hands on the steering wheel, but we didn't win it."
Florida State: The Seminoles were penalized 13 times for 111 yards. One of those calls was a chop block on Freddie Stevenson on what would have been a long Cook run deep into Clemson territory during the fourth quarter. Fisher was not pleased with that call or a targeting penalty that led to the ejection of Tre Marshall. "I will tell you what, you hold coaches accountable, you hold players accountable, hold the damn officials accountable," Fisher said.
— Jordan Culver (@JordanCulver) October 30, 2016
Clemson will most likely remain ranked third with top-ranked Alabama on its bye week and No. 2 Michigan winning at Michigan State. Florida State will fall but it might not be far after rallying but falling short.
Clemson: The Tigers return home to face Syracuse.
Florida State: The Seminoles travel to North Carolina State.
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org
Follow Joe Reedy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/joereedy