All the years of struggling to win in Death Valley are gone. Florida State punched their biggest rivals in the mouth on the first play, and never looked back, while Jameis Winston upgraded himself from freshman sensation to a leading Heisman trophy candidate, not to mention the Seminoles showing just how deserving they are to be in the contention for the national title.
Florida State haven’t won in Clemson since 2001, losing there five times in the process, usually by two touchdowns and more. However, this team that won the ACC title last season and went on to win a BCS game isn’t taking backwards steps this season, despite losing so much talent to the draft. The defense forced four turnovers out of Clemson, including a first quarter fumble by Tajh Boyd which was returned 37 yards for a touchdown, and also set the tone for the rest of the game, winning 51-14.
Clemson talked about national titles and setting a new decibel record during the game, but when you’re out for the count before the game even started, no student section is going to break any noise records.
Florida State were up 17-0 before Clemson knew what hit them: Telvin Smith stripped Stanton Seckinger and Terrence Brooks recovered for the Seminoles at the Clemson 34 on the first play from scrimmage. Clemson had moments of fighting back, but after Boyd found Sammy Watkins for Clemson’s first points in the game just before the end of the first quarter, the Seminoles respond with 34 consecutive points, crushing any hope for opposition or a comeback.
I’m gonna tell you, the key tonight was defense. Creating the turnovers, creating the opportunities. And just making those guys work for everything they got. Our defense is really grasping the whole system, and I couldn’t be more proud of those guys. Do we deserve to be in the top two? We deserve to be No. 1.
Winston put himself high up in the race for the Heisman with a 444 yards passing performance, connecting for three touchdown passes, including twice with Rashad Greene, finishing with 146 receiving yards. The three-headed rushing attack didn’t need to do much, finishing with 121 yards. Too much short yardage situations, and not a real need to slow down the game, as it never looked like Clemson were ever coming back from being knocked down so early.
The boxing and fight parallels aren’t unwarranted. Tight end Nick O’Leary had a defining moment as he ran over the failed tackle of Travis Blannks. O’Leary didn’t have any touchdowns, but he did catch five passes for 161 yards. LaMarcus Joyner, who tackled Boyd on his fumble-to-touchdown turnover was unstoppable all game long, rushing around the edge without a care in the world, or a tackle strong enough to stop him. They limited Boyd to only 17-of-37 for 156 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
The road ahead promises two more in-state big games for Florida State – playing Miami, who should be ranked higher than 10 next week, and the season-ending game vs Florida, who look like a complete mess at the moment. As of now, it doesn’t really seem to matter what the Coastal division will throw at the Seminoles, who look as good as anyone else in the nation right now, getting the biggest possible hurdle they had out of the way.