For those of you who missed Bowden Bowl IX and/or have lives, here’s a recap.
The home underdog Clemson Tigers, having pretty much dominated the Florida State Seminoles, held a 24-3 lead late in the third quarter. They lined up for a routine punt, but the center’s snap flew over the punter’s head, forcing him to chase down the ball. Rather than simply fall on the ball, or attempt some high-risk desperation play, the punter made a bee line toward his own end line, conceding a safety to the Seminoles. Seriously, he sprinted about thirty yards to accomplish this.
The ESPN announcing team immediately lauded this as a brilliant play.
I realize that taking an intentional safety can be a strategic move in certain situations, but was this really one of those situations?
Absolute worst case scenario, Florida State scores on the errant snap, making the score 24-10. Clemson gets the ball back, and can conceivably milk the clock a few minutes in to the fourth quarter. Instead, the safety makes the score 24-5, but Clemson now must kick the ball to FSU from the thirty yard line, giving the Seminoles (who already had some momentum going in the second half) superior field position in their quest for a touchdown to cut the score to 24-12.
As it happened, the 'Noles did score a touchdown (their first of the game) on the drive, but inexplicably attempted a 2 point conversion. The attempt failed, leaving the score 24-11.
The rest of the game* is what it is, but seriously, can anyone justify the announcers’ contention that the Clemson punter made a smart play? It looked to me like he was trying to save his own skin, rather than making some stategic decision.
*Following their maiden touchdown, The Seminoles’ defense throttled the Tigers deep in Clemson territory, and on the resulting change of possesion scored another touchdown to cut the lead to 24-18. However, Clemson earned the momentum back, used the clock, and seemingly retook control of the game with five minutes left. FSU had one last chance in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, but Clemson’s defense was up to the task, and the Tigers escaped with a wipe-yer-brow 24-18 win.