Tigers turn it on late

CLEMSON - Thanks to a gutty performance by C.J. Spiller and four Christian Ponder interceptions Clemson moves one step closer to winning the ACC Atlantic Division after Saturday's 40-24 win over Florida State in Death Valley on Saturday night.

In front of a national television audience, Spiller broke his own Clemson single-game all-purpose record of 312 yards. He rushed 22 times for 165, caught three passes for 67 yards and had 80 yards in returns and scored touchdowns rushing and receiving.

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said he doesn't know of any players in college football playing as well as Spiller is right now.

"I thought that Spiller was the difference in the ball game… the happiest I was, was when he was off the field," Bowden said.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney believes Spiller answered the questions of Heisman Trophy voters. Any voter that doesn't include Spiller on his or her list can, "turn their pens in."

"If C.J. Spiller doesn't get respect from you media folks, then what are you looking at? He's the best player in college football," Swinney said. "He plays hurt. What else does he got to do?"

Much needed in Spiller's pursuit of the Heisman are Clemson wins, the Tigers improved to 6-3 (4-2 in ACC) while the Seminoles fall to 4-5 (2-4 in ACC).

After the first quarter, things weren't going quite so well as prospects for a fourth straight win appeared to look a little grim- thanks to some sloppy play. An interception by Kyle Parker that was returned for a touchdown by Jamie Robinson put the 'Noles on top 17-6.

Fortunately for the orange clad fans in the stands, there were three quarters left to play, including a fourth quarter that saw three Clemson offensive touchdowns.

"When it came time to where someone has got to win the game in the fourth quarter, our kids showed that they're mentally tough. They showed that they're physically tough," Swinney said.

Spiller believes the win will go in the Clemson history books as one of the best of all-time.

"It was two great teams battling it out, going blow for blow. We knew it was going to be like that coming into this game," he said.

What wasn't really expected heading into the game: four completions by Ponder to Clemson defensive backs. The final was grabbed by national leader DeAndre McDaniel, who pointed at Ponder just before the tackle.

"The best man was going to win. The best man won," McDaniel said. "He was coming at me and I'd seen him coming. I knew it was going to be a collision."

Ponder was also intercepted by Coty Sensabaugh, Byron Maxwell and Rashard Hall.

Clemson defensive coordinator said it was tough to put a lot of pressure on Ponder, who was getting rid of the ball quickly.

"I thought our secondary did a good job of playing the football," Steele said. "My hat's off to them for making plays."

Plenty of plays were made on the offensive end too.

In response to Dustin Hopkins' 35-yard field goal to give Florida State the opening lead, Clemson scored its first touchdown on a 17-yard pass from Kyle Parker to Dwayne Allen. Richard Jackson missed the ensuing extra-point, kicking off a forgettable performance by the Clemson place kickers. Jackson missed two extra-points and two field goals (38, 26). Spencer Benton also missed an extra-point.

Swinney said Jackson spoke to the team in the locker room after the game.

"He apologized to him and all that, but we win as a team and lose as a team," Swinney said.

Plenty of other points were put on the board, keeping the game from hinging on a few missed kicks.

Kyle Parker fumbled after being hit deep in Florida State territory just moments after Clemson had first-and-goal inside the two yard line. A touchdown pass to Michael Palmer was also called back due to a penalty at end of the third quarter.

But there were plenty of big plays as well.

Xavier Dye's 43-yard touchdown reception was his first touchdown catch from a Clemson quarterback. Spiller's two-point conversion run cut into the lead, leaving Clemson behind 17-14 at halftime.

Spiller also scored the first touchdown of the second half when he caught Parker's 58-yard pass on a wheel route that appears to be a go-to play for offensive coordinator Billy Napier. Clemson regained the lead--21-17.

"They knew it was coming," Spiller said. "I just sold it out really good, made them bight, turned up (field) and tried to use my speed as much as possible."

Andre Ellington scored on a nine-yard run in the fourth quarter--the first offensive touchdown since last season. The touchdown put Clemson up 27-24, and the Tigers didn't look back.

"Andre Ellington did a great job," Spiller said. "He stepped in and gave me a blow. My legs were feeling a little weak in the end."

Durrell Barry's first catch of the season was a two-yard scoring strike from Parker, making it a two score game.

The win was one that Swinney said both the fans and players deserve.

"It's a great, great day to be a Clemson Tiger. We're very, very happy, but we're not satisfied," he said.

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