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Wow! That was ugly.
In a Top 5 matchup that was billed as potentially one of the better games of the season, Florida St. destroyed Clemson 51-14 at Death Valley. Somehow, despite the 37 point spread, it was not even that close. I, along with most other media, was anticipating a possible classic, but clearly it was not to be.
To say that Florida St. dominated this game would be quite the understatement. This was a systematic football dissection in every conceivable way. The Seminoles outgained Clemson 565 to 326, forced four turnovers and converted on eight of 12 third down opportunities.
The Seminoles did precisely what they needed to do, jumping out to a big lead in the first quarter, effectively taking the enthusiastic Clemson crowd out of the game. The Tigers were helpful in this regard, as Stanton Seckinger lost a fumble after catching a pass from Tajh Boyd on the first play from scrimmage. Florida St. wasted little time cashing in, scoring three plays later on a Jameis Winston to Kelvin Benjamin touchdown strike.
The Tigers were still feeling charitable later in the quarter, as a Boyd fumble was returned 37 yards by Mario Edwards for a score and a 17-0 first quarter lead. Clemson did put together a nice drive on the ensuing possession, with Boyd hitting Sammy Watkins for a three yard score. However, the Seminoles ended any possible suspense, scoring 34 unanswered points before a late garbage score by the Tigers provided the final margin.
The much anticipated quarterback duel never really materialized, as the redshirt freshman Winston thoroughly outplayed the senior Boyd. Winston finished 22 of 34 for 444 yards and three scores with one interception. He also ran one in from four yards out in the third quarter to put the Seminoles up 41-7. Winston was in complete control throughout, seemingly unaffected by the hostile surroundings, and placed himself squarely in the middle of the Heisman discussion.
”We don’t play against noise. We’re playing against the Clemson Tigers,” Winston said. ”It was amazing, when we were out on the field that first snap. It was loud and we started smiling because we don’t play against noise.”
Nick O’Leary and Rashad Greene both had big days receiving for Florida St. O’Leary grabbed five balls for 161 yards, while Greene contributed eight catches for 146 yards and two scores, including a 72-yarder in the second quarter. On the ground for the Seminoles, Devonta Freeman ran for 84 yards and a score.
For Boyd, it was a nightmarish evening from start to finish. The Seminoles defense was suffocating, applying consistent pressure all night and not allowing the Tiger receivers any room to operate. Boyd completed only 17 of 37 attempts for 156 yards and the scoring pass to Watkins. He was responsible for three of the four Clemson turnovers, which resulted in 17 points for the Seminoles. It was just a dreadful performance from Boyd at the worst possible moment. In addition to suffering his first loss of the season, Boyd’s own Heisman hopes were dealt a crushing blow.
After the huge win, Florida St. moved up to No. 3 in the current AP Top 25, and finds themselves at No. 2 in the initial BCS rankings. The Seminoles came to play in a big game, and appear to be a legitimate title contender. They will host N.C. State this week before No. 7 Miami (FL) comes to town in another big matchup the following week. If Florida St. can get past the Hurricanes at home, they have a very good chance of running the table.
For Clemson, this was just a brutal loss, and any chance at a possible BCS or ACC title is now a distant memory. Of course, there is much football left, and the Tigers can still finish strong. They will take to the road the next two weeks, beginning at Maryland, and will try and pick up the pieces.