In the first five minutes of the game the Tigers looked like the team many expected them to be this year on offense- explosive. In jumping out to an early 10-0 lead Clemson rolled up 132 yards of total offense halfway through the first quarter. Then the same problems that plagued the team all year long crept back up again, including poor play on the offensive line and poor decision-making at quarterback. Before the end of the quarter Florida State tied the score on its way to a 20-17 halftime lead. Outside of a 15-play 88-yard drive that ended in a field goal in the third quarter, the Tigers wouldn't get on the board in the second half until the game was essentially over- scoring a touchdown with two minutes left to get within seven before FSU pushed it back to 14 just a few plays later. Back up QB Willy Korn got in for a series but after a failed double-reverse resulted in a big loss, that was essentially it for him for the game. Michael Palmer and C.J. Spiller scored on spectacular plays to give the Tigers a passing grade ... but barely.
For the first time since the season opener, Clemson's defense dropped the ball. Florida State's 266 rushing yards pretty much tells the story but a closer inspection of the film will reveal no pressure on QB Christian Ponder on all of the game's critical plays and missed tackles galore. It would be too much to expect the Tigers to continue to be as dominant as they've been defensively in recent weeks, but Saturday's performance didn't appear to be in the cards either. Third down continues to be a problem - FSU converted 5-of-10 attempts while the Tigers converted on just 2-of-15. Ouch. And what about the middle of the field? There are appeared to be huge holes once FSU's wide receivers caught slant patterns within seven yards of the line of the scrimmage.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Kicker Mark Buchholz converted on his only two field goal attempts in the game, making him now 11-of-12 for the season and Jimmy Maners also had one of his better days a punter, drilling two punts for 50+ yards. Also - long snapper Charles Roediger set the Tigers up inside the FSU 10-yard line with a fumble recovery on a muffed punt. There's no "A" grade awarded because of the lack of productivity in the return game - as just one punt was returned and Clemson averaged just 15.4 yards per kick return.
The open sequence of plays were scripted beautifully but after that Clemson's offense struggled more than anything else. Why keep calling double reverses and end-around plays against a defense that has the speed to compensate for such play calls? Also- will Korn ever get more than courtesy glance in meaningful situations?
The first five minutes of the game left you wondering how bad Clemson was going to pummel the 'Noles on this beautiful sun splashed afternoon, but almost instantly a 10-point lead evaporated before the second quarter even arrived. Credit the team for never giving up as there were still plenty of big collisions late in the fourth quarter when the game was over, but once again it was a series of costly mistakes that will leave Clemson fans scratching their heads. Will the Tigers ever be able to put it together for four quarters? It's been more than a year since it's happened.
GRADES: 'Noles Get Revenge
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