Florida State races past Clemson, 49-37

Seminoles use 35-3 second-half spurt to take control of ACC top-10 showdown

Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins reacts after Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel makes a large run late in the fourth quarter of the TIgers' game against Florida State in Tallahassee Saturday night.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins reacts after Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel makes a large run late in the fourth quarter of the TIgers' game against Florida State in Tallahassee Saturday night.

— Under Chad Morris’ watch, Clemson’s offense prides itself on a physical, bruising pace, designed to whip opponents into submission by the time JumboTrons roll to the 4th quarter.

Saturday night, Morris and the Tigers got a taste of their own medicine, thanks to a tour de force from Florida State’s offense.

Unfazed by a two-touchdown third-quarter deficit, No.4 Florida State used a 35-3 run to grab control and take a 49-37 win over the No.10 Tigers before 83,231 in an electric Doak Campbell Stadium environment.

“I don’t want to make any excuses,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “We got our butts handed to us, period, in the second half and fourth quarter. They went and got it. The momentum was huge, as was the energy of the crowd late in the game. Our team didn’t respond well down the stretch when we had opportunities.”

Tigers didn't capitalize on opportunities

None

Clemson dropped its first top-10 clash since 2000, and fell to 3-1, 0-1 in ACC play. The Seminoles improved to 4-0, 2-0 in league play, and gained a major foothold in the Atlantic Division race. The Tigers now must win out and hope FSU loses twice to make their second consecutive ACC title game.

“It’s a tough loss, a division loss as well,” Swinney said. “We don’t control our destiny any more. That’s the difficult part of it. But it’s far from over. We’ve got a lot of football left. It’s college football. A lot of things can happen. We’re still in the car, we just don’t have our hands on the steering wheel. All we can take care of is what we control.”

Brent Venables’ defense failed its first major test. The Seminoles rolled up 667 yards of total offense, the second-worst total in CU history.

senior quarterback E.J. Manuel completed 27 of 35 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns, adding 102 yards rushing. Senior tailback Chris Thompson had 14 carries for 104 yards and two scores.

By comparison, West Virginia piled up 589 in the 70-33 Orange Bowl rout, Kevin Steele’s final game as defensive coordinator.

Venables said he’ll evaluate “scheme, personnel, everything” and was most disappointed by allowing 287 yards on the ground.

“I’m terribly disappointed we didn’t do more as coaches to get the guys to play better,” he said. “We coaches them poorly and at times we didn’t play particularly well. That said, we had a chance in the second half to win the game. That’s when they started running the ball when they chose to.”

The offense also failed to carry its weight in the second half: after taking a 31-21 lead with 7:07 left in the third quarter, Clemson had four three-and-outs and an interception in a 15-minute span bridging the third and fourth quarters.

“I just think we got away from what we were doing,” said junior quarterback Tajh Boyd, who completed 20 of 36 passes for 237 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. “We started to press a bit. There are things we can’t do, we can’t put ourselves in situations where we press. That’s what we have to learn from.

“…I just don’t think we executed like we should have. All you can do is keep working.”

As the second half unfolded, Clemson seized momentum with a defensive stop and more offensive trickery.

In the second quarter, Sammy Watkins had missed a wide open Adam Humphries, just overthrowing a wide receiver pass. This time, he had perfect touch to an open Andre Ellington, who did the rest for a juking 52-yard run that gave the Tigers a 28-14 lead.

Florida State continued the track meet with a 61-yard gain to Kelvin Benjamin that set up Chris Thompson’s nine-yard scoring run, pulling the score back to 28-21.

Chandler Catanzaro’s 50-yard field goal – a career long and his 15th consecutive make, a program record, pushed the margin back to 10 points.

But the Seminoles responded in kind; Lamarcus Joyner returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to the Tigers’ 10. Two plays later, Manuel found Rashad Greene wide open in the left corner of the end zone, cutting the lead to 31-28.

Swinney chose freshman Bradley Pinion over senior Spencer Benton after Benton hit a kick short, a move that ultimately backfired.

“(Benton) just didn’t hit it good tonight,” Swinney said. “We put Pinion in and he about kicked it in the stands and then doggone if he don’t mis-hit it. That hasn’t been a problem. But we don’t make the tackle and they got huge momentum off the score.”

Following a Clemson three-and-out, the Seminoles just kept pushing, with another quick-strike drive.

A hold on tight end Nick O’Leary wiped out a 22-yard Thompson penalty; no matter. Rodney Smith beat corner Darius Robinson for a 29-yard touchdown, giving FSU its first lead of the night at 35-31.

Clemson quieted an electric Doak Campbell crowd almost immediately Saturday. Facing a third and 7 from his own 40, Boyd unleashed a perfect deep strike that went over the outstretched arms of safety Terrence Brooks and found DeAndre Hopkins in stride at the FSU 20. He coasted the rest of the way for a 60-yard touchdown – the longest of his career – and Clemson had a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

Florida State hit right back with a quick six-play, 85-yard drive, capped by Lonnie Pryor’s 13-yard touchdown run, tying the game with 4:06 elapsed from the clock.

The Tigers responded with an impressive long drive of their own that covered 10 plays and 79 yards, capped by Ellington’s six-yard burst off several tacklers.

Morris reached deep into his bag of tricks, calling a freeze screen that saw Clemson linemen stay in their stance as Boyd tossed a throwback to Ellington, who raced down the left seam for a 39-yard gain.

Facing a fourth and 1 at the FSU 15, Clemson tried a fake field goal, with Benton scooping to tight end Darrell Smith for a one-yard gain. The Seminoles challenged the spot, which was upheld, and Ellington found paydirt two plays later.

Florida State stopped the Tigers on their next drive, and Manuel found more success with short passing; tailback Chris Thompson juked safety Xavier Brewer for a 41-yard gain. Manuel then hit O’Leary for a 28-yard gain, and tailback James Wilder Jr. barreled in from five yards out to tie the game.

Another drive stalled before Clemson got its first big break of the night.

Benton’s high 32-yard punt clanged off Greene’s hands, with linebacker Spencer Shuey pressuring. Phillip Fajgenbaum recovered, putting CU in business at the FSU 31.

Boyd capitalized, finding senior tight end Brandon Ford on the left sideline; he juked Xavier Rhodes for a 17-yard score that gave Clemson a 21-14 lead.

Venables: 'Incredibly disappointed'

None

FSU had an opportunity to tie at the half, with a first and 10 at the CU 22 with 1:14 to play. But poor clock management and a false start penalty led to another Hopkins miss to end the half.

The game was far from over, however.

“We knew the way Clemson runs their offense that they were going to score a lot,” Thompson said. “We knew as an offense we had to pair up with them as far as touchdowns go. We knew every possession we ran we had to take advantage of it and get some points on the board in order to be successful.”

They were, and as a result, Clemson is on the outside looking into the ACC title race.

© 2012 OrangeAndWhite.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 10

Tiger79 writes:

Once again out Coached, out played and out classed in the second half on both sides. little and very poor adjustments. The Clemson we have come to know the past decade plus.

TrevorT writes:

Strong effort and a good game from the offense, but it's time to say it... The defense has not improved. They may be worse, and it's hard to imagine this unit won't cost us at least a couple more games this season. I just don't get it. They appear to have zero talent, skill, or heart. I have never seen a team where one unit plays so well and the other is such a joke. Still love my tigers, hope we can turn it around.

richardcd writes:

Did you really think we could beat Florida State with our defense? We gave up 633 yards and 35 points in the second half (35-3 run). It ain't the coach, it's the personnel. They can only get better, and they will. Great game for 3 quarters, but most games last 4 quarters

Meto writes:

Defense weak all year. Never threatened FSU quarterback, did little to stop the run. The problem lies squarely with the coaching. Great effort on part of offense. Great teams have great offense and great defense.

essoclub writes:

We know that our defense can't stop anyone - this should no longer be up for debate.

In Clemson's losses over the last two seasons, when the wheels come off - they really come off... See below for examples:

2011 loss @ N.C. State - Wolfpack score 27 in the 2nd quarter

2011 loss @ GT: Yellow jackets score 17 in the 2nd quarter

2011 loss vs. WVU: Mountaineers score 35 in the 2nd quarter

2012 loss @ FSU: 'Noles score 35 in the 2nd half

Unfortunately, our defense is not the only culprit. The offense is going to have to carry this team – that is abundantly clear. However, they failed to show up for the majority of the 2nd half against FSU and we are lucky that FSU did not hang 70 on us.

Here is a snapshot of five of Clemson's 2nd half drives against FSU:

06:15 (3rd Qtr): 3 plays for 6 yards, Time of possession: 57 seconds
02:37 (3rd Qtr): 3 plays for 6 yards, Time of possession: 64 seconds
13:25 (4th Qtr): 3 plays for –16 yards, Time of possession: 101 seconds
09:22 (4th Qtr): 2 plays (interception), Time of possession: 41 seconds
08:34 (4th Qtr): 3 plays for 4 yards, Time of possession: 53 seconds

The majority of the 2nd half was an across the board pathetic performance by the Tigers and the coaching staff. Zero adjustments at half-time, with the exception of a trick play.

FSU looked like a different team in the 2nd half, because good teams not only have top-tier players, they also have excellent coaches who make adjustments.

CUNo1Fan writes:

Yep our D stinks and it is the personnel. We have got to get better D players and some better O linemen - it has got to be a priority. The best skill players in the world won't do any good if we don't have the interior lines to move the opponent on both sides of the ball. We are still a young team for the most part and there are some top notch recruits for the D committed for next year so we will get there.

TrevorT writes:

in response to Meto:

Defense weak all year. Never threatened FSU quarterback, did little to stop the run. The problem lies squarely with the coaching. Great effort on part of offense. Great teams have great offense and great defense.

I'm not sure I buy that the coaching is primarily responsible for our defensive woes. If you watch our defense, we almost always have a man in position to make a play (unless it's our secondary which almost always bites on the simplest play fake or misdirection) I see no problem with the play calling on D. Our guys just don't make plays. They can't tackle well or ball hawk. There's no way you can tell me the defensive coaches aren't teaching technique. You can't convince me that our guys aren't being conditioned and motivated. I think that our problem is with players who are not skilled enough to do what they are being trained to do and who don't mind giving up when things start turning bad. I'm not sure what the solution to that is. I guess you have to just keep working with them and hope for the best. Maybe in defensive recruiting we need to be looking less at stats and more at attitude and aggression.

TRUTH4U2 writes:

From what I can tell. The way to beat Clemson is to get to Boyd. Pressure him and the offense falls apart. Examples USC, WVU last year. The change of FSU in the second half last night to bring pressure.

TRUTH4U2 writes:

in response to sennmanthetigerfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And there lies the problem. With the offense they run, they need a running QB.

CUNo1Fan writes:

in response to TrevorT:

I'm not sure I buy that the coaching is primarily responsible for our defensive woes. If you watch our defense, we almost always have a man in position to make a play (unless it's our secondary which almost always bites on the simplest play fake or misdirection) I see no problem with the play calling on D. Our guys just don't make plays. They can't tackle well or ball hawk. There's no way you can tell me the defensive coaches aren't teaching technique. You can't convince me that our guys aren't being conditioned and motivated. I think that our problem is with players who are not skilled enough to do what they are being trained to do and who don't mind giving up when things start turning bad. I'm not sure what the solution to that is. I guess you have to just keep working with them and hope for the best. Maybe in defensive recruiting we need to be looking less at stats and more at attitude and aggression.

I agree with T, it is not the coaching it is a lack of top quality players on the Defensive unit. They were simply manhandleded by the FSU O. Clemson has concentrated its recruiting on top notch skill position players and no doubt, we have them. What we have either not gotten or not concentrated enough on is the "meat" of the O and D - the lines and more so for the D - Linebackers. You can take an average to good O backfield and with a dominant O line score points and win games. Do the same on the D with a line and linebackers that can manhandle the O line, put pressure on the QB, and stuff the run = a champinship team.

Look at Alabama and the other top SEC teams, look back to the Danny Ford teams.

We need to make recruiting top D and O linemen + Linebackers a priority. Solid dominant "meat" players with the coaching staff we now have = contention for a championship every year.

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features