CLEMSON, S.C. -- Ann Bowden couldn't have drawn it up any better. Her husband won a game last night, keeping Florida State's title hopes alive. Her son won respect, pushing around the Seminoles for a half.
But Clemson just couldn't finish. The Tigers missed a 41-yard field goal with two minutes left and went scoreless in the second half of a 17-14 Atlantic Coast Conference loss in front of a record 86,200 fans at Death Valley.
This was the first father-son coaching matchup in major-college football. It was compelling -- just a bit too compelling for Bobby Bowden, who had to face son Tommy and all the trick plays the kid learned from dad.
"Mama's happy -- I know that," Bobby said. "She wanted a close [Florida State] win because I'm older and have more at stake. It was close -- too close for me."
"I told you -- she's not my mother, she's my father's wife," Tommy joked of Ann's allegiance.
Tommy, in his first season as Clemson coach, used a fake punt and a pass off a reverse to stay in the game. But Tony Lazzara's kick sailed left on the Tigers' last possession, precluding an overtime finish.
Top-ranked talent won out, with Heisman Trophy candidate Peter Warrick catching 11 passes for 121 yards. He was cleared to play Friday after resolving a criminal charge in Florida.
"The quarterback [Chris Weinke] wasn't throwing too good and the receivers weren't catching too good," Bobby Bowden said of his 11-point halftime deficit. "A lot of it was the distractions [from Warrick's arrest] but a lot of it was Clemson's defense, too."
Florida State (8-0) led for the first time since the first quarter with 5 1/2 minutes left on Sebastian Janikowski's 39-yard field goal. The Seminoles held Clemson (3-4) to 70 yards in the second half, after giving up 195 before halftime.
Florida State scored quickly in the second half, cutting the deficit to eight on Janikowski's 33-yard field goal. The damage could have been far worse because Warrick dropped a pass for a likely first down 10 yards from the end zone. Earlier in the drive, Warrick made a 16-yard catch for a first down after the Seminoles twice were penalized for illegal substitutions.
Florida State tied the score with its last drive of the third quarter. A late hit by Clemson turned a 14-yard pass into a 29-yard play, moving the ball to the 32. The Seminoles methodically gained two more first downs before tailback Travis Minor ran in from the 1 for the touchdown.
Behind 14-12, Florida State went for two points and was called for delay of game. Backed up to the 8 by the penalty, Weinke lofted the ball over the middle to fullback Dan Kendra to tie the score.
Clemson led 14-3 at halftime, the first time this season Florida State trailed at the half. While the offense was impressive, the Tigers' defense was utterly spectacular against a team averaging 40 points. In particular, linebacker Keith Adams and cornerback Dextra Polite owned the first half.
Adams had two sacks, but his best play was cutting off Warrick on a reverse. Adams stopped Warrick in his tracks, allowing defensive end Gary Childress to make a tackle for a 10-yard loss.
Polite made two huge plays, the last an interception in the end zone to end the first half. Earlier, he broke up a pass to Warrick, forcing a possession change leading to Clemson's second touchdown.
That drive -- 80 yards on eight plays -- started with Woodrow Dantzler's 49-yard completion to Mal Lawyer. Dantzler picked up 15 more on a throw to Rod Gardner. Dantzler read a blitz well on the play, but took a brutal hit from linebacker Bobby Rhodes. Clemson called timeout, allowing Dantzler to catch his breath. Four plays later, Dantzler sneaked in from the 1 for the 14-3 halftime margin.