CLEMSON - Call it the ghost of the "Puntrooskie." Only this time it worked in reverse.
Trailing 17-7 midway through the second quarter and facing fourth and one from his own 39, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden rolled the dice and called for a fake punt. The deception worked to perfection, as Bernard Rambert took the direct snap and ran 61 yards for a touchdown, apparently pulling Clemson within 17-14 as most of the 85,000 fans in attendance roared their approval.
But the celebration would be short-lived.
Clemson had run the play with just 10 men on the field, only six of which were on the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped. Seven men are required to be on the line of scrimmage, and Bowden knew from the moment the play got off it was coming back.
"Jackie Robinson had gotten hurt and he didn't get on the line. He's a flyer," Bowden said. "It's the heat of the moment, are we going to punt, are we going to fake...he just didn't get in. It was an accurate call."
The mistake proved costly. After Wynn Kopp's 41-yard punt following the penalty, Florida State drove 64 yards in nine plays to get a 39-yard field goal from Xavier Beitia to make it 20-7 with 4:14 left in the half.
After Clemson went three-and-out on its next possession, Florida State made it 27-7 on a Chris Rix-to-Jovan Walker 31-yard touchdown pass.
The deficit proved too much to overcome. Clemson would rally, but never draw closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
"That hurt them big," Bobby Bowden said. "That would have made it 17-14, brought them to within three and gave them momentum. It shocked us, and that was a big play."
Known to use a trick play or two himself, the elder Bowden approved of his son's gamble.
"I loved the call...didn't everyone in the world know they were going to do it?," he said. "I know him good enough. If I could have gotten to my staff, I would have told them they were going to fake. I just didn't know they were going up the middle."