They tried to set the national record for loudest crowd roar at a sporting event Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the noisy football bastion better known as Death Valley.
By the end, there were hardly any Clemson fans around to cheer. Most had fled for the exits. Florida State hit the mute button, scoring more points than any opponent has ever scored on the Tigers’ home turf.
The fifth-ranked Seminoles not only silenced the sellout crowd with a crushing victory over No. 3 Clemson, 51-14, but also positioned themselves in the national title hunt with an emphatic win that will move them closer to the top of the polls.
“We don't play against noise,” said the Seminoles' young standout quarterback, Jameis Winston. “We're playing against the Clemson Tigers. It was amazing, when we were out on the field that first snap. It was loud and we started smiling because we don't play against noise.”
The Seminoles spoke volumes in their second straight rout of a nationally ranked team.
Said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney: “Florida State might be the best team in the nation.”
For the time being, at least, the Noles (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) can feel content knowing they’re top dog in a conference that is suddenly shining brightly, with the University of Miami also climbing high in the polls.
Two weeks after crushing Maryland in a 63-0 blowout in Tallahassee, the Seminoles marched into Clemson having not won here since 2001. But they ended that Death Valley drought, pummeling the previously unbeaten Tigers (6-1, 4-1).
“It was an amazing night,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Winston, the talented redshirt freshman quarterback for the Seminoles, clearly out-performed his Clemson counterpart, Tajh Boyd, the much-hyped quarterback who was also regarded as a Heisman Trophy hopeful.
Winston gave no indication of his youth, ignoring the hostile crowd by passing for three touchdowns and running for another. With Winston directing the show, the Seminoles moved the ball almost at will against the overmatched Tigers.
And they wasted no time in making their presence felt.
On the game’s very first play from scrimmage, Telvin Smith’s hit on Boyd jarred the ball out of the quarterback’s hands, Terrence Brooks recovered, and the avalanche was set in motion.
Three plays later, Winston found Kelvin Benjamin for a 22-yard touchdown pass.
It was the first time all season that an opponent turned a Clemson turnover into points. But it would not be the only time it happened Saturday. After taking a 10-0 lead on Roberto Aguayo’s 28-yard field goal, the Seminoles went up 17-0 on a 37-yard return of a recovered fumble by Mario Edwards Jr.
Clemson managed to cut it to 17-7 when on a Boyd touchdown pass late in the first quarter.
Receiver Rashad Greene turned a short pass from Winston into a long touchdown play, spinning away from defenders before sprinting 72 yards to the end zone to make it 24-7.
FSU closed out the first half by scoring again after a Lamarcus Joyner interception, going up 27-7 on another field goal. In all, Clemson turned the ball over four times.
It continued going downhill for Clemson in the second half.
Winston and Greene hooked up again on a 17-yard touchdown play that made it 34-7, and the Seminoles put two more touchdowns on the board against the helpless Tigers.
Winston completed 22 of his 34 pass attempts for 444 yards. In stark contrast, Boyd was successful on only 17 of 37 throwing attempts for 156 yards.
Seminoles running back Devonta Freeman totaled 84 yards on 21 carries. Greene caught eight passes for 146 yards while tight Nick O’Leary hauled in five passes for 161 yards.
“Jameis has the ability to go to all five guys,” Fisher said. “Our system is open, and he's allowed to go to all five guys.”
The Seminoles even stopped Clemson at the goal line in the final quarter.
Aguayo capped the lopsided victory with a 20-yard field goal with four minutes to go. That gave FSU 51 points, three more than the previous high scored by a Clemson opponent on their home field.
As FSU players celebrated Saturday's big victory on the field, about the only fans left making noise inside Memorial Stadium belonged to the Seminoles.
“We never gave our fans a chance to get into the game,” Swinney said.