Tigers pick Ponder apart

CLEMSON - Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's opinion of Christian Ponder hasn't wavered after the 40-24 win over Florida State in Death Valley Saturday night.

"He's a big-time quarterback now. He's special," Steele said.

Ponder finished by completing 21 of his 31 passing attempts for 264 yards and a touchdown. He also threw four interceptions.

Coming into the game, Ponder had just three interceptions. Rashard Hall credits the pass rush from front four and the play by the linebackers.

"That gave us an extra edge," he said.

Steele said it was tough getting into Ponder's face with pressure because of quick hitting throws.

"The ball was coming out of his hand really, really quick," Steele said. "I thought our secondary did a good job of playing the football. My hat's off to them for making plays."

Coty Sensabaugh grabbed his first career interception with Florida State threatening to score at the Clemson 20-yard line. On the ensuing Seminole possession, Byron Maxwell intercepted Ponder.

His third pick could have turned disastrous when Hall attempted to lateral the ball to an unsuspecting DeAndre McDaniel.

"That's a no-no," Steele said. "I thought it was a fumble, but somebody later on told me he tried to pitch it. We don't do that at all."

Hall was glad Kavell Conner was nearby to pick the ball up.

"I saw DeAndre. I pitched it a little too hard, fortunately Kavell had my back," Hall said.

He joked last week that anytime he makes an interception, McDaniel is right there behind him to grab another. Sure enough, McDaniel snatched a Ponder pass in the fourth quarter in Florida State territory.

"I hope he gets 1,000 a game," Hall said. "Keeping up with that guy, don't try. I just try to do my best."

McDaniel's interception was his eighth this season, tying the Clemson single-season record. He pulled even with Robert O'Neal (1989) and Justin Miller (2002). As McDaniel made his way down the Florida State sideline, he pointed at Ponder, who was waiting to make the tackle.

"May the best man win," McDaniel said. "I knew it was going to be me and him."

Thinking back to his pick six against Miami, McDaniel had no intentions of cutting back to reach the end zone. He knew there were lineman breathing down his neck.

"I got enough of the linemen when the Miami lineman grabbed me in the end zone. I wasn't going to cut back to him," McDaniel said. "It was just going to be me and (Ponder)."

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