Clemson had a two-touchdown lead four minutes into the 3rd quarter, but Florida State’s ability to disrupt Clemson’s offensive flow, and Clemson’s inability to generate any stops on defense meant Florida State would (easily) come-from-behind for the 12-point victory last Saturday night.
— Chad Morris thrives on challenges like those posed on Saturday night: Clemson put up 37 points and over 400 points on a defense entering the game first in the nation in five categories (pass defense, rush defense, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense, and total defense). My pre-game prediction (FSU 38 Clemson 23) didn’t give enough credit to Clemson’s offense. When you score 37 points on the road against a top-ranked defense, you can normally expect to walk away with a win. Not in Clemson’s case.
— Clemson’s secondary is not good: And, it’s not just lack of depth. Starters Xavier Brewer, Darius Robinson, and Rashard Hall were not talented to keep up with Florida State’s physical, speedy wide receivers. E.J. Manuel threw for 380 yards. I’m not ready to name him a Heisman candidate. Let’s see how he performs agaisnt an ACC defense not called Clemson. Tigers’ true freshman Travis Blanks will be a good player, but he was often out of position Saturday night as the hybrid linebacker-safety.
— It wasn’t all Kevin Steele’s fault: Clemson gave up over 600 yards to Florida State Saturday night, more than what the defense allowed against West Virginia in last year’s blowout loss in the Orange Bowl. It starts up front. Clemson’s defensive line is anything but dominant or nasty. Clearly, the Tigers are missing the likes of Da’Quan Bowers, Andre Branch, and even Rennie Moore. Today during player interviews, the lone senior on the defensive line, Malliciah Goodman, affirmed my thoughts of the mental attitude of this otherwise young line. He was calm, cool, and poised. That’s what you expect out of a quarterback, not a defensive end that allowed more than 200 rushing yards and over 600 total yards. You are what your leaders tell you to be. From the outside, the leadership of Clemson’s defense, in terms of players, is lacking.
— Florida State’s defense got better later: Clemson had three straight three-and-outs in the second half after not having any in the first half. FSU’s defensive line got a lot more aggressive and somewhat dominated the Tigers’ offensive line. Boyd looked flustered, and the crowd at Doak Campbell didn’t exactly help things, either. Sammy Watkins got pushed around, and often found himself on the ground. Clemson was just out-physicaled.
—There are positives to take away: Clemson’s offense, namely. Morris’ play-calling was fascinating. He got Sammy the ball in the backfield. He went deep often and early. Sammy threw the ball, twice. Tight end Brandon Ford caught two touchdown passes. Running back Andre Ellington had four receptions for 82 yards. Clemson converted on 4th and short on a fake field goal attempt. The mix of run and pass was nearly perfect. Chandler Catanzaro made a career-long 50-yard field goal in the first half, and has made tremendous strides in his game this season. He’s 3-for-3 in attempts of 40 or more yards on the season. I’ll also include this as a positive: Clemson is one of the youngest teams in the nation with only 11 scholarship seniors. Maybe that will console Clemson fans, just a little.
Next week, Clemson travels to Boston College to play the Eagles (1-2) who are coming off of a bye week. The game will be at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2.