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No. 22 Clemson squanders chance to knock off No. 1 Florida State, falls 23-17 after OT gamble

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney gambled Saturday night and lost.

Swinney eschewed a field-goal attempt for the lead in overtime against No. 1 Florida State knowing the Seminoles have an All-America kicker.

Turned out top-ranked Florida State didn't need Roberto Aguayo to finish off the Tigers. Karlos Williams ran 12 yards on the second play of Florida State's overtime possession to give the Seminoles a 23-17 win despite being outplayed for most of the night by their Atlantic Coast Conference rival.

"Great teams find a way to win," Swinney said. "They've won 19 games in a row, and we're not quite there."

But Swinney's decision to not go for the lead in OT will be debated.

"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."

Clemson (1-2, 0-1 ACC) had many chances in addition to the coaching decision to forego the field goal try by Ammon Lakip, who had missed twice earlier. His first miss came on a play after Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt underthrew a wide open Jordan Leggett for what have been a touchdown.

The Tigers failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity to get the lead late in regulation when Florida State's Eddie Goldman stripped the ball from C.J. Davidson at the Seminoles' 14 with just over a minute left.

PHOTO: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, right, looks to the referee in the end zone after scoring in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Clemson in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Florida State defeated Clemson 23-17 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, right, looks to the referee in the end zone after scoring in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Clemson in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Florida State defeated Clemson 23-17 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

"It was a game of missed opportunities," Swinney said. "It's a tough loss for the Clemson Tigers. We have to finish. Tonight we had to play five quarters and finish."

Clemson was on the verge of defeating a top-ranked team for the first time in its long football history and avenge one of one of its most embarrassing losses at the same time. A year ago it was all Florida State in a 51-14 runaway on Clemson's turf. And the Seminoles played Saturday night without Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who was suspended after a profane and vulgar outburst in front of many students on the Florida State campus Wednesday.

Instead the Seminoles (3-0, 1-0 ACC) took a big step toward winning the Atlantic Division of the ACC with their victory leaving Clemson to hope it can run the table in conference play and Florida State lose twice.

It looked for most of the game that Florida State might be on the outside looking in.

Clemson spent much of the first half blowing through a porous Seminole offensive line, stuffing a Florida State running game and pressuring sophomore quarterback Sean McGuire, who was making his starting debut in place of the suspended Winston. McGuire was a chilly 6-of-17 for 106 yards in the first half before hitting on 15 of 22 throws for 199 yards and a touchdown in the second half.

Clemson dominated the first half on both sides of the ball. They had 249 yards offense to only 84 for Florida State, which couldn't get any running game and were mostly unable to protect McGuire. Mario Pender was the lone Seminole with positive rushing yardage in the opening half a 3-yard gain on his lone rushing attempt.

"We wore them down," Florida State's Williams said. "The run game wasn't there the whole night, but I believe the more we ran the ball and took those three or three yards gains, we wore them down."

Swinney did see some positives in taking the Seminoles to overtime just a year after Florida State crushed the Tigers 51-14 at Clemson in a game that ignited Florida State's unbeaten run to the national title.

"We're one-and-two, but we're getting better," he said. "We'll grow. We'll get better."

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