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TALLAHASSEE, FL -- Last weekend's goat, is this weekend's hero.
Dustin Hopkins, who missed a game-winning field goal attempt last week, nailed a 55-yarder on the final play of regulation to give FSU an thrilling 16-13 win over the Clemson Tigers.
"When I was going out there, some players came up to me and were just reassuring and I knew that they had my back after the miss," Hopkins said. "It was good to know the team was behind me either way."
For the third straight game, Florida State was inept on both sides of the ball for a half. And for the third straight game the final result came down to the wire. The only difference this time around is that FSU's sluggish half came in the first two quarters - and that FSU won this time.
For the first time since FSU's Gator Bowl win over West Virginia last January, E.J. Manuel took over as the starting quarterback. The sophomore completed 15-of-24 for 210 yards, but his main contribution came via the run. Manuel racked up a team-leading 71 yards on the ground and scored FSU's lone touchdown on an 8-yard carry in the fourth quarter.
"That was huge for us," Manuel said of getting the win and breaking the two-game losing streak. "That past three games have really come down to nail biters and I am just thanking God we were able to pull this one out."
When the Seminoles went to the locker room, the offense had managed just 71 total yards, and only eight of those came from the run. On the other side of the ball, Clemson was able to control the ball and ate up huge chunks of time dominating the time of possession 20:08 to 9:52.
Despite the huge disparity in time of possession, Clemson managed just 10 points in the first half. The only touchdown came on the Tigers' first drive - a 12-play, 82-yard drive that was capped off on a 26-yard run by Jacksonville native Jamie Harper.
Thanks in large part to a 53-yard hook-up from Manuel to Rodney Smith on the first play from scrimmage, FSU answered with a 28-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
Clemson tacked on three more following a Greg Reid fumble on a punt return. Despite Clemson having its way with FSU early on, the 'Noles found themselves down just seven points, 10-3, at the half.
on the first drive of the third quarter FSU cut into Clemson's lead with a 7-play, 52-yard drive that ended in a 39-yard Hopkins' field goal.
Clemson blew two huge chances on its next two drives to extend the lead. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who had a field goal blocked in the first quarter, missed a 38-yard attempt midway in the third quarter. On the Tigers' next drive, Kyle Parker had his team inside the redzone but a lob pass for the end zone was intercepted by cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
That's when Manuel went to work with his best drive of the game leading FSU to a go-ahead touchdown. The sophomore quarterback put together a 12-play, 85-yard drive that ended on an acrobatic 8-yard run
Down three, Clemson had a final chance in regulation to either win the game or send it into overtime when it took possession with 4:11 left. Parker led the Tigers down to the 12-yard line. On fourth down, Catanzaro kicked a field goal from 29 yards out to tie the score with 53 seconds left.
Thanks largely to a pass interference penalty, Manuel was able to move FSU into range for Hopkins' game-winning kick. A huge celebration followed the kick as Hopkins was mobbed by his teammates.
* Former Seminole All-American LB Derrick Brooks had his jersey retired at halftime.
* Wide receiver Willie Haulstead suffered a mild concussion.
* Running back Jermaine Thomas suffered a sprained right knee (initial diagnosis). He will undergo an MRI on Sunday.
* Florida State announced at halftime that A.J. Alexander, Jamar Jackson and Jajuan Harley have all left the football team.