Simply put: nothing worked. The first play from scrimmage looked like an easy pitch-and-catch for a first down and ended with a costly turnover. Clemson never recovered. Tajh Boyd was out of rhythm throughout the night, completing just 17 of 37 passes for 156 yards and two interceptions. When he wasn't pressured, Clemson's receivers had problems creating separation against FSU's physical secondary. The Tigers were also dominated at the line of scrimmage as running lanes were few and far between. Dropped passes continue to be an issue as Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams and Martavis Bryant all dropped critical passes on the evening. And the four turnovers - including a fumble returned for a touchdown destroy any hopes of the Tigers keeping this close. But the worst thing of all was the domination at the line of scrimmage. FSU looked hungry, played aggressive and made play after play.
Simply put: nothing worked. The Tigers gave up 566 yards of total offense and made Jameis Winston look exactly like what he is - a Heisman Trophy front-runner. And, much like the offensive side of the ball, FSU dominated the line of scrimmage. Kelvin Benjamin set the tone early, making a variety of circus catches, including the first touchdown of the game. Then it was Rashad Greene's turn. Then tight end Nick O'Leary, who recorded an unbelievable 161 receiving yards on just five catches. One by one, Winston found all of his wide receivers for big plays. Clemson's defense had no answers as the redshirt freshman picked the Tigers' secondary apart with relative ease. Much like the offense, there was very little to feel good about on this side of the ball. No pass rush. Poor tackling. Bad coverage.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Adam Humphries had a 45-yard punt return and Chandler Catanzaro connected on both of his extra points. Bradley Pinion averaged just 38 yards per punt, and was called for a face mask penalty on the opening kick of the second half. Outside of all of that, it was an average performance for Clemson's special teams.
The turnover on the first play from scrimmage set a nasty tone in a huge game against one of the best teams in the country. Unfortunately, it was just a sign of things to come. If that play could somehow be erased, would the outcome have different? Probably not, but at least momentum wouldn't have been given away so early. The team said all the right things all week long, but it was clear at halftime this appeared to be an awkward continuation of the Boston College game. Also, the most disappointing aspect of Saturday was the physical beating Clemson took at the line of scrimmage. Credit Florida State for simply being better. And hey, for all we know that team will win the National Championship this year. It doesn't take away the pain of a loss like this, but it's the truth. That's one of the best FSU teams ever seen inside of Death Valley. It didn't appear Clemson was necessarily flat, but where was the focus? The Tigers were taken out of the game early and honestly never responded.
You don't me to remind you, again, how bad Saturday night was. It was terrible- one of the worst home losses in Clemson history. The question is how will Clemson respond after a loss like this? Despite the blowout, Clemson will be favored in each of its next four games- including the next two weeks at Maryland and Virginia. Winning those contests will set the Tigers up for one more colossal matchup at the end of the year in Columbia, with potentially a very big bowl game on the line. But there are problems that must be fixed quickly. A banged up secondary was exposed by an ultra-crisp passing attack and Florida State's physicality wasn't matched. Also, where's the rhythm with this offense? It's been missing now for the last eight quarters. And mentally, how will this team recover from a loss like this? There are no easy answers but with five games left, there is still plenty of time to put together a strong season. But that can only happen with a win next at Maryland. Some how, some way, this team has to pick up the pieces and find a way to scrape together a gritty road win.
GRADES: This one hurts
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