Off To The Races

Florida State receivers -- namely Craphonso Thorpe -- had a field day against Notre Dame's pass defense last Saturday. The smallish Irish corners could not contain the speedy Thorpe in man coverage. They also did not have an answer for the height and leaping ability of FSU split end P.K. Sam.

All Thorpe did was finish with seven catches for a career-high 217 yards and two scores in the 37-0 victory. It was the most-ever receiving yards against the Irish.

Sam, meanwhile, chipped in two receptions for 54 yards, including a score on a well-timed fade. His other reception was a jump ball near midfield following a wonderful Chris Rix scramble and throw out of his own end zone.

Like other teams before it, Notre Dame flooded the box in an effort to stop FSU's ground game. Bad choice, since the Seminoles' passing game clicked wonderfully for the most part from the game's opening play.

Rix and Co. should be tested far more thoroughly Saturday, when the third-ranked Seminoles (8-1) tangle with struggling Clemson (5-3) at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Clemson's starting secondary also is smallish in stature, averaging around 5 feet, 10 inches. However, the Tigers' pass defense is considered a team strength, ranking third (187.4) in the Atlantic Coast Conference behind FSU (179.3) and Maryland (185.7).

Of course, Clemson will also be extremely wary of the Seminoles' ground game, which accounted for 272 rushing yards in last season's 48-31 victory. But nothing is guaranteed, especially after Notre Dame's defensive choice surprised the Seminoles.

"Mainly with how Cro has been playing lately, we thought they wouldn't play that way," Sam said of the Irish's man coverage.

"They rolled into a lot of single safeties and we are able to take it deep. That was surprising to me because somebody with that speed, they would show him so much one-on-one coverage. I guess they were going to live and die by it. A lot of people have been trying to shut down the running game lately, and Cro pretty much killed them."

Sam, the Seminoles' second-leading receiver (38 receptions for 559 yards and three touchdowns) behind Thorpe (42-856, nine scores), believes FSU simply has too many weapons for opponents to scheme against.

"First play (against Notre Dame), it looked like cover two, but they rolled the safety, leaving single safety and man on the corners, and it worked out perfectly," Sam said.

"Later they were playing two-man under. I run more of the curl routes and they wanted to take away the corner (routes). When you have so many weapons like that. … Cro had a monster game."

Clemson's secondary of Tye Hill (5-10), Justin Miller (5-11), Travis Pugh (6-1) and Jamaal Fudge (5-10) will face a FSU passing game close to churning on all cylinders.

Rix has completed 39-of-65 passes (60 percent) for 666 yards in the last two games, marking the third time during his career he has thrown for 300 or more yards in consecutive games. He also found eight different receivers against the Irish, marking the eighth time in nine games this season that eight players caught at least one pass.

Thorpe, of course, is on fire.

He has 16 receptions for 387 yards and five scores in his last three games against Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Virginia. Of his career-high nine touchdown passes this season, seven have been at least 25 yards. His effort against Notre Dame was highlight material as time and time again he ran free from smaller Irish defenders.

While Thorpe sprinted, Sam jumped.

"That's the advantage of being a tall receiver," Sam said.

"I wish we would use that play more but when you have so many weapons you just try to get everybody the ball. When they call my number, I just have to make the best of it."

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