Leroy Butler scoffed at the notion of having butterflies in his stomach as Florida State aligned itself for the audacious bit of Bobby Bowden trickery that came to be known as the puntrooskie.
"I didn't have butterflies," Butler said after the game. "I had pterodactyls in my stomach."
"We sold the farm, and it worked," said Bowden.
Twenty five years ago this week, a third-ranked Clemson team ran down the Hill at Death Valley with an opportunity to carve its name firmly into the national championship conversation.
Instead, the 10th-ranked Seminoles stole the show with a play that, while it cost Clemson its top-three ranking, elevated the stature of rivalry and is still being talked about a quarter-century later.
This was big-time football at its best, as the late Steve Ellis - The Orange & White's first editor and then long-time Florida State beat writer for the Tallahassee Democrat - told in the book he later wrote with Bowden: 'Tales from the Seminole Sidelines.'
Following is an excerpt from Ellis' account:
'Bowden brought us the “puntrooskie” — a play introduced to him by a graduate assistant — and then used chairs to diagram to the media after that 1988 win over Clemson to show how he gosh-dang pulled it off.
FSU was backed up to its own 21-yard line, on fourth down, with a minute and 30 seconds left to play and the score tied at 21. Bowden called the famous trick play, a fake punt. The snap went to up-back Dayne Williams and he slipped the ball to Leory Butler, who ran 78 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.
No play epitomized Bobby Bowden's audacious nature like the "Puntrooskie" at Clemson in 1988.
FSU's season had gotten off to a bad start. The #1-ranked Seminoles had been blown out in Miami 31-0 in the opener. They were #10 after shellacking Southern Miss 49-13.
The 2-0 Tigers of Coach Danny Ford were ranked #3.
Both teams took the field with new pants. Clemson sported orange bottoms in which they had compiled a 14-1 record in big games. Burt Reynolds had donated white pants to his alma mater as a throwback to when he played in the 50s.
The steady rain that started the night before and continued throughout the contest made those new pants dirty quickly.
Clemson dominated the first half. Pounding the ball on the ground, the Tigers racked up a 232-71 yardage advantage. FSU didn't make a first down rushing in the opening 30 minutes.
QB Rodney Williams' 7-yard keeper with 2:45 left before intermission culminated a 99-yard drive that put the home team up 14-7.
With its O struggling, Florida State needed a lift and got it from its best player.
Every time Deion Sanders went back to return a kick, the Clemson bench and fans taunted him with chants of "Prime Time."
Early in the third quarter, Deion took Chris Gardocki's punt and ran straight upfield through a gaping hole in the coverage 76 yards to tie the game. He yelled to the crowd, "How do you like me now?"
After getting the ball back, the Seminoles drove for the go-ahead TD. QB Chip Ferguson hit Victor Floyd for 34, then Terry Anthony for 10. Several plays later, Ferguson threw to 6-4 TE Bruce LaShane for 36y to the 1. FB Dayne Williams pushed it over for a 21-14 lead.
Clemson blocked Richie Andrews' FG attempt late in the quarter to keep it a one-score game. At that point, Andrews had yet to make a FG in a Garnet and Gold uniform.
With 7:28 to play, Clemson started a drive from its 34.
Using up five minutes, the Tigers moved through the mud to the 19. From there, FB Tracy Johnson ran it in to tie the game and send Death Valley into an uproar.
A clipping penalty on the kickoff set FSU back to its 15. After Dexter Carter gained 6 on first down, LaSane dropped a pass. Ferguson's next pass should have been intercepted, but two Clemson defenders collided going for the ball.
that made it fourth-and-four on the 21 with 1:33 to play. It looked like the best the Seminoles could hope for was a tie in those days before OT.
Bowden saw it differently. He considered it an excellent time to run the trick play he had promised the team at halftime that they would use.
Nebraska had run the "Fumblerooskie" against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl. The QB took the snap under C and put the ball on the ground behind the LG, who waited a few seconds as the offense moved to the right, then picked up the ball and ran to the left for a TD. After that, "rooskie" meant a trick play throughout football.
An FSU graduate assistant recalled the play being run from punt formation at Arkansas State. So Bowden had the punt team practice it for the opener with Miami. However, the blowout loss provided no opportunity to call it.
Some Seminole assistants wanted to run the play in the first half when trailing 14-7, but Bowden decided to keep his ace up his sleeve. Bobby later explained his thinking: "No, it will score, and the score will be 14-14, and they'll go into the half mad. It will be better off if they go in ahead and they'll get overconfident. And this way, we can go in and get all over the kids.
"Bobby told the team at halftime, "Men, keep your head up. We got the Puntrooskie." The Seminoles charged out with more energy.
As the punt team took the field, Bowden told junior Butler, the one designated to pick up the "fumble" and run, "Do it."
Butler recalled his reaction: "We're at around the 20-yard lie. We're going to do this play. Are you kidding? Nervous ain't the word."
Bowden remembers feeling all alone. "I made the call and there wasn't anybody around. One of the coaches was hiding under the bench, and two went inside. Can you imagine if the play doesn't work at our 21-yard line?" His philosophy was, "Boys, you can call it a 'Bowdenrooskie' if you want to. So if it fails, I get all the blame and not y'all."
Bowden was confident the play would work because it had fooled his own team in practice not once but twice.
If ESPN had instituted its ESPY Awards that year, what happened next would have won for Best Play.
Butler lined up at blocking back alongside the other blocking back just behind the center. The third back, Dayne Williams, stood two steps behind Butler while punter Tim Corlew awaited the snap as usual.
The center snapped the ball to Williams while Corlew jumped high to his right to make the D believe the ball had sailed over his head. The rushers took the bait, chasing after Curlew.
Meanwhile, Williams handed the ball forward between Butler's legs. LeRoy was supposed to stay hunched over in blocking position for three seconds to give the defenders time to clear out. "I got to the one and a half, and then I said, 'You gotta go, man.'"
He picked up the ball and began running down the left sideline. There was no one between him and the end zone except the punt returner, Donnell Woolford, who had run forward after Corlew's deception.
Woolford ran Butler down at the 1. "I was shocked," said Woolford. "I've never seen anything like that."
Dayne Williams plunged over on first down, but FSU was penalized for delay of game. Bowden decided not to take any more chances and sent Andrews out to kick the FG with 0:32 left. Because of the earlier block and the fact that Richie had never made a FG in a game, the 3 points was not a sure thing.
But Andrews booted it through. Clemson had time for several desperation plays that failed.
FSU had won on what ESPN's Beano Cook dubbed "the greatest play since My Fair Lady."
Danny Ford admitted afterwards that his staff considered calling timeout before the 4th down play to warn the punt return team about a fake.
It eventually came to light that the play had been leaked to Clemson. A few days before the game, Butler told his high school coach in Jacksonville about the rooskie. The next evening, the coach had some friends over to his house. During chit-chat, the coach told his guests what Butler had said. A Clemson graduate in the group got word to Ford's staff.
Ford after the game: "We knew they had a fake and we talked about it. We wanted to save our timeouts for our drive for a winning FG." You could hardly blame them. Who would think Bowden would be so crazy as to try it at that point in the game at that spot on the field?
Clemson S Gene Beasley said, "The man [Bowden] has no conscience. I couldn't have called that play." Tiger receiver Ricardo Hooper summed up the game. "Basically, we got out-tricked." '
The opening loss to Miami proved to be FSU's only one of the season. A 13-7 victory over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl culminated the 11-1 season to earn FSU a No. 3 behind Notre Dame and Miami in the AP's final poll.
Clemson, meanwhile, dropped to No. 11 as a result of the loss to FSU. The Tigers won their next three games - 30-13 at Georgia Tech, 10-7 at Virginia and 49-17 at home against Duke - but then went on the road to N.C. State and suffered one of the most disappointing setbacks of the Ford era - 10-3 to coach Dick Sheridan's Wolfpack.
The Tigers didn't lose again that year. They beat Wake Forest 38-21 at Winston-Salem, outscored Maryland 49-25 at College Park, and then took care of their Gamecock business, 29-10, at Death Valley.
Back in the top 10 at No. 9, Clemson closed out its season with a 13-6 victory over Oklahoma in the Florida Citrus Bowl - Barry Switzer's final game as a college coach before he took over as head coach of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.
From a Clemson perspective, it was small consolation for the pterodactyl that got away.