CLEMSON, SC - Rod Gardner was a marked man Saturday night. Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler was looking for him most of the night.
So was Florida State.
Florida State was ready for Gardner, who leads Clemson in receiving. Gardner caught five passes for 41 yards against the Seminoles. It wasn't easy, though.
"They play press man and I knew I would have an opportunity to make plays," he said. "Without the holding and pulling, they wouldn't have made I through. But I have to give them credit. They won the game."
Florida State put three different defenders on Gardner in the first half. The three defenders and a wicked wind kept Gardner from doing much damage early against the Seminoles. He adjusted and was a problem for Florida State all night - especially on Clemson's final drive that nearly tied the game.
Gardner, a quarterback in high school, took a reverse and completed a 16-yard pass to quarterback Woody Dantzler on second-and-10 from the Clemson 42.
"We just put that play in this week," said Gardner. "Every week we put in a different play. They like honing in on the ball. We got a first down on the play and I thought it was going to be over then."
On the next play, Florida State was called for holding Gardner and Clemson had another first down at the FSU 34. The drive ended on a missed field goal and the Seminoles escaped with a 17-14 win.
Tay Cody, Clevan Thomas and Mario Edwards took turns defending Gardner. Gardner, who is 6-3, spent most of the night against 5-11 Cody. Early in the game Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler completed an 11-yard quick pass to Gardner that took the ball to the Florida State 31. Clemson couldn't convert the field position into a score, but Gardner wasn't finished - by a long shot.
The threat of Gardner on the outside kept the Seminoles occupied and opened up alleys for Dantzler. Gardner caught a 5-yard pass on third-and-4 on midway through the second quarter that gave Clemson a first down at the Florida State 43.
Meanwhile, Dantzler was able to scramble for 24 yards on the same drive.
A fake punt kept the drive alive. Six plays later after the fake, Gardner caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Dantzler to give Clemson a 7-3 lead.
It was Gardner's second touchdown catch of the year. He shook off Thomas at the line of scrimmage and then headed to the left pylon. Dantzler hit him with a perfect timing pass to give Clemson the lead.
On Clemson's next drive, Florida State was looking for Gardner but was surprised by a wide-open Mal Lawyer. Lawyer caught a 49-yard pass from Dantzler.
Three plays later, though, Gardner caught a 15-yard pass that gave Clemson a first down at the Florida State 12. It took three more plays for Clemson to take a 14-3 lead on a 1-yard dive by Dantzler with 2:09 left in the first half.
"You've got to look at this game from a positive standpoint," said Gardner. "We competed to the end until the field goal. We have to look at the fact that we played hard and we competed all the way across the board. Everybody on the team should have their heads up."