Defense shredded in loss at Clemson

Don't blame the offense. Clint Trickett had a big day throwing the rock, and the young receivers came to play. But the Florida State defense was manhandled in a 35-30 loss at Clemson. FSU is now 2-2.

Florida State has gone from top-five team to chasing Clemson in the ACC Atlantic Division in two weeks. Right now, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher would settle for a few less mistakes and a little more character.

No. 11 Florida State fell to a ranked opponent for the second straight week, its second-half rally falling short in a 35-30 loss to No. 21 Clemson on Saturday.

The Seminoles (2-2, 0-1 ACC) were fifth in the country last week and had the chance to make a statement about their direction against top-ranked Oklahoma, but also fell short, 23-13.

''It hurts because you wish you could've responded to adversity from the week before,'' Fisher said. ''But I've been on championship teams, great teams that lost two in a row.''

Improving a running game that produced 29 yards against Clemson and cutting down on the penalties (11 for 124 yards) are a must for Florida State. The Seminoles were also stung for nine of 17 third-down conversions by the Tigers.

The best thing ahead for Florida State might be the week off. Quarterback E.J. Manuel missed the game because of a shoulder injury. Receiver Bert Reed and cornerback Greg Reid were also out because of injuries.

''We've got to focus on us and ways we can get better,'' linebacker Nigel Bradham said.

The Tigers opened 4-0 for the first time since 2007 and got a leg up in the ACC Atlantic Division by holding off last year's divisional-champion Seminoles.

It was the Tigers' fourth game this season with 455 yards or better and Boyd's second straight with 300-plus passing yards.

''I'm super excited about how our players keep growing this offense and executing, and we're only four games into this offense,'' Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. ''It's crazy.''

Clemson again struck best through the air. Boyd had 344 yards on 23 of 37 passing. Freshman Sammy Watkins continued his stellar year with eight catches for 141 yards and his fifth and sixth touchdown catches of 24 and 62 yards. Andre Ellington added 71 yards rushing, tied for the most the Seminoles have allowed this year.

Yet, Boyd said Clemson has had to overcome the doubters this year, those who feel the Tigers haven't progressed that far from their 6-7 season of 2010.

''We believe in ourselves so much as a team,'' Boyd said. ''We're watching ESPN, and all three people say we're not going to win the game. We feed off of that.''

Manuel's backup, freshman Clint Trickett, kept the Seminoles in this, though, with 336 yards and three touchdown passes.

His 9-yard touchdown throw to Kenny Shaw brought Florida State to 35-30 with 7:21 to go. The Seminoles had one final chance ,and Shaw, taken from the Oklahoma game in an ambulance after a crunching hit, was open at midfield on the final drive but didn't make the catch. Trickett was sacked by lineman Rennie Moore on fourth down, and the Tigers ran out the clock.

''It's not going to be hard'' to rebound, linebacker Vince Williams said. ''It's just part of the process. This is one game. That's how we look at it.''

The Seminoles play next at Wake Forest on Oct. 8.

Some thought Boyd and the Tigers would wilt under Florida State's defensive speed and pressure. Clemson got a bonus, though: several critical mistakes by the 'Noles.

A pass-interference call on cornerback Xavier Rhodes kept the Tigers' opening drive alive on third and 7, and Watkins finished things off three plays later with a 24-yard touchdown grab.

Florida State's defense stuffed Ellington on third and short to force a punt on Clemson's second series, but a penalty on safety Lamarcus Joyner for running into punter Dawson Zimmerman gave the Tigers back the ball. Boyd found DeAndre Hopkins for a 50-yard strike to the Seminole 2, as the Death Valley crowd chanted Hopkins' nickname: ''Nuuuuuke.''

Boyd scored from a yard out to put Clemson ahead 14-3.

The Seminoles were called for another pass interference on Clemson's final scoring drive of the first half, and Boyd made them pay once more on tight end Dwayne Allen's 12-yard scoring catch for a 21-10 lead.

Trickett, who took all the snaps in practice this week, was effective in some spots and lost in others.

He launched a beautiful ball to Rodney Smith for a 57-yard catch, the Seminoles' lone TD in the first half. But on the Florida State's next series, Trickett threw right to Clemson linebacker Quandon Christian deep in Seminole territory.

Boyd's awful decision to throw the ball while stumbling to the ground gave Florida State a touchdown, when defensive end Bjoern Werner easily picked it off and returned it 25 yards to cut things to 21-17.

Ellington regained control for the Tigers when his 1-yard scoring run ended an 11-play drive withi 3:03 remaining.

While Florida State tightened up its defense in the second half, it kept hurting itself with penalties.

Trickett, the son of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, was 24 of 38 with an interception and two sacks, both in the second half.

Smith had four catches for 118 yards. The Seminoles again couldn't get much going on the ground with 29 yards rushing.

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