A good first half that produced 210 yards and 24 points, and a bad second half that produced 82 yards and no points averages out to a "C" for the Tigers. Granted, Clemson lost 51 yards of offense on the bad punt snap, but it was still ineffective for the most part. Tailbacks C.J. Spiller and James Davis looked great most of the night and wide receiver Aaron Kelly made some very big catches, while taking some big hits.
The play of quarterback Cullen Harper was serviceable. He didn't make mistakes, though he got away with one or two balls he tossed up for grabs. The offensive line struggled at times, especially up the middle and on the right side in giving Harper decent protection. This is an area that is of immediate concern and has to be fixed for the Tigers to produce any consistency offensively.
Just like it did for the majority of the games last season, the defense was very solid. The difference in this game is that there were only two seniors on the field, neither of which is going to be the fourth-pick overall in the NFL Draft. While the offensive line of Florida State is going to struggle all year and the team could finish fifth again in the division, the Tigers defense still produced the big plays and stops when it needed to.
There are still going to be times this season when the youth of the secondary hurts Clemson, but just imagine how good this unit is going to be next year. It really could be one of the best in school history and rival those of the 1980s. Speed is the operative word when describing this unit. There aren't too many nationally that are faster.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
If not for the 52-yard kickoff return by Spiller, a crucial punt by Jimmy Maners late in the game that pinned the Semioles at their own 4 and solid kickoff coverage, this grade would be an ‘F' for the Tigers. The special teams were more or less responsible for all of Florida State's points.
A blocked punt resulted in three points, while a bad snap ultimately resulted in eight points, and a big punt return by the Seminoles led to seven more points. Every year it's something with this area. Clemson fixes the problem from the year before and something else emerges and bites the Tigers.
The coaching of defensive coordinator Vic Koenning shined through on this night. He knew he had a decisive advantage in the trenches and he used it all game to ensure that his smaller corners were never taken advantage of by Florida State's big receivers. It's hard to get the ball to them when there's no time to throw. Offensively, coordinator Rob Spence got conservative and failed to get the ball to receiver Aaron Kelly, until he had no choice to do so late in the game.
While many might think this grade should be higher, the Tigers were exposed in some areas offensively. Besides, they should also keep in mind something current South Carolina coach Steven Spurrier once said on a post-game radio interview while at Florida. The Gators radio announcer told Spurrier that his team had a great game in a 40-some point blowout of the Wildcats and without hesitation gave a dose of reality. "Well, keep in mind it was only Kentucky," he said.
Clemson would be well served to keep that in mind. It was only Florida State, the same team that went 3-5 in the ACC last year and finished fifth in its division. It was a nice win and one that could prove to be crucial in Clemson's quest for the division title. But this Seminoles team isn't very good. Members of the national media and scouts from NFL teams sitting in the press box were openly mocking Florida State and how bad it looked.
Nonetheless, there's no denying Clemson's defense is for real and teams will struggle mightily all year to score. But unless the offensive line of the Tigers improves, they will, too.
GRADES: Clemson 24 FSU 18
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