Clemson Defeats Florida State—Thoughts on the Contest

Jackson's Epic Fail reaches climax.

Since FigureFour is stuck in South Korea, with the site down earlier, he asked me to post this for him.

Due to some personal logistics, posts over the next short period from me may be slightly out of place from a timeline standpoint but will continue to include the standard smartass comments, rants, and raves as before.

First and foremost, let me go ahead and state that we are all very happy that Clemson was able to find a way to win against the ‘Noles.  This football team did not quit and played hard all night.  Parker played well for the most part and was able to create opportunities by staying composed all night, especially when under pressure.  Defensively, Clemson gave up 17 points to a very good Florida State offense, with the majority of the Seminole’s damage occurring in the first half.  Steele and his players did what they have done all season and this unit showed more depth with Bowers out for the contest and Chancellor and Butler being sidelined during the game.  CJ Spiller had another big game, leading this squad with 310+ all purpose yards.  Clemson should have won this football game by a much wider margin.  The Tigers left quite a few points on the field Saturday night and really played well enough to score a boatload of points.  Clemson was its own worst enemy, but fortunately these issues can be resolved.  Let me go ahead and also say that this isn’t your father’s FSU football team…one of those teams would have beaten Clemson Saturday night.

Even though Clemson outplayed FSU all night, Clemson was still extremely fortunate Saturday night.  I never dreamed that Christian Ponder would throw four interceptions in a football game.  While you hate to take away from these picks, two of these interceptions were gifts, and mistakes that the Seminole signal caller has not made this season.  Florida State also had an opportunity to stretch their 1st half lead to 24-7 (assuming a TD drive) but could not hold onto the football.  This turnover came at a critical point in this football game, as FSU had tons of momentum, had moved the ball well early, and looked poised to turn this game into a track meet.  Instead, Clemson was able to take advantage of this game changing moment and cut the lead to 17-14.

Clemson blew its fair share of opportunities to put this game away.  Clemson’s McLain committed a false start penalty 4 inches from the goal line.  This drive eventually ended one play later with a Kyle Parker fumble.  You always want your offensive linemen aggressive and firing off the ball, but Clemson cannot afford such penalties here.  Another dumb moment was the ineligible man downfield that negated a TD.  Allen was obviously covered up and either he or the WR on his side should have been off the line (leaving Allen uncovered and eligible to go downfield).  Mistakes make playing hard are one thing, not lining up properly is another.  Regardless of who was incorrectly positioned, Allen has to identify that he is covered up (just look at the official’s arms) to make an appropriate adjustment.  This mistake was not a product of ability nor was it caused by a unique situation.  This was simply inattentiveness and carelessness in doing something so simple (and critical) as beginning a play lined up in the correct position.  Later on in the contest, Jacoby ford dropped a nice pass from Kyle Parker around the goal line.  Ford more than likely would have scored if the catch was made.

Clemson’s offensive line returned to getting whipped pass blocking.  Even Hairston got blown by on several occasions.  Parker had a FSU defender in his face all night, and fortunately able to read blitzes and move away from the rush most of the evening to be effective passing the ball, with the exception of the poor Parker pass that was picked off and returned for six points.  While Florida State’s defense is quick, footwork by CU’s linemen was not good and needs to improve.

There were lots of bright spots out of the offense yesterday.  Spiller had a career high for rushing yards and was able to score on yet another play over 50 yards.  Spiller did not look to 100% for the contest but was still able to show off his vision, shiftiness, and pure speed.  Ellington really impressed me again.  I was ecstatic to see him get important carries, make big plays, AND HOLD ONTO THE FOOTBALL.  Ellington is a slashing back who is extremely quick and should make his fair share of plays while at Clemson.  Xavier Dye—this is what we all expected out of Dye since coming to Clemson from Byrnes a few years ago.  Dye caught the ball well and showed off his athleticism and speed, making several big catches and picking up quite a few yards after the catch.  Dye, who almost quit the team earlier in the season, even found the end zone.  Ashe also played pretty well.  Clemson may have found two receivers (other than Ford) that can be trusted in key situations.  Kyle Parker is definitely maturing and played well under pressure all night.  Parker made accurate throws while eluding FSU blitzers and linemen all evening.  The only terrible play on his part was the INT.  Palmer was running a post pattern and the ball was nowhere near the post.  I am not sure if this was a communication error or just a poorly thrown ball, but the end result was 6 for the opponent.  Otherwise, you can see the potential in KP and how far he has matured.  He showcases his cannon arm is improving his decision making week after week. 

Special teams were pathetic all night.  Florida State consistently created lanes and creases on their kick returns.  At times FSU was able to utilize punt and kick returns to start drives into a short field.  Clemson has to shore this up (although it should be noted that this is not nearly as bad as under the old special teams by committee strategy employed by Tom Bowden).  Place kicking was atrocious.  Missing two short field goals and three extra points is not acceptable.  We had been praising Jackson for most of the season; that obviously changed after the FSU game.  With Richard Jackson missing two field goals and two extra points and Spencer Benton also missing an extra point, I am at a loss.  I can even go out and drill these through the uprights, so there is no excuse for a college athlete on scholarship to botch such a scoring opportunity.

Defensively, the Tigers committed a few errors that should be correctable.  First, we did not wrap up very well.  I saw a lot of arm tackles as well as defensive backs placing a shoulder hit on the ball carrier with no effort to wrap the man up and drive through.  Nothing pisses me off worse than poor form tackling, and we saw some bad things against the ‘Noles.  FSU’s rushing attack gained entirely too many yards.  Their zone blocking techniques and quick running backs coupled with Clemson linebackers being out of position and tackling gaffs allowed a viable rushing attack from FSU.  The threat of a run allowed FSU to execute play action passes successfully over the course of the game.  I was pleased with Hall’s interception, but would request that he refrain from attempting laterals on future picks.  While it turned out well for Clemson, this could have been a real disaster if the ball would have bounced into one of the Seminole’s speedy WR’s hands.

I was impressed with the leadership shown by Kevin Steele and Dabo Swinney.  Over the course of the game, the defense got frazzled after giving up scores.  The head coach and defensive coordinator were able to successfully calm down this unit and keep them from self-destructing.  The defense stayed calm and forced Florida State into mistakes and most importantly kept them off the scoreboard during the final period.

The defense did a good job containing FSU’s potent offense and was able to force 4 int’s and 1 fumble.  These turnovers were huge momentum breakers and gave the offense necessary possessions to put the game away.  Clemson gave up very few really big plays defensively.  I liked to see members down the depth chart step up with key losses up front (Bowers) and in the secondary (Chancellor and Butler). Clemson was able to successfully play man coverage for most of the evening without getting torched by the speedy Seminole receivers.  Seeing McDaniel truck Christian Ponder after a pick at game’s showed how good he really is.  McDaniel made a nice break on the ball and stepped in front of the pass.  McDaniel then showed off his physicality by lowering his shoulder and plowing right over the ‘Nole signal caller.

What overall will we take from this?  First off, I cannot believe how bad FSU’s defense really played.  What is so surprising is that they are that bad with those athletes.  FSU is fast defensively.  The problem appears to lie with fundamentals and coaching.  Clemson was able to move the ball well against this defense, finally breaking it open in the 4th quarter.  Clemson will need to put these games away earlier if it wants to be considered a legit program.  The Tigers struggled in the Red Zone and will need to cut down on mistakes here to assure more points are scored.

Clemson is now two wins away from an appearance on the ACC Championship Game, passing the test against FSU.  The players and coaches were jacked up for the FSU game, and we all hope that this team plays as hard against both NC State and UVa.  These games are games in which the Tigers will be favored.  It is Swinney’s job to keep the boys motivated and this stretch run will give us an indication whether or not this team can play at a consistent level to polish off the season.  This is extremely critical for me after dealing with the roller coaster known as Clemson Football ’99-’08.

Clemson will need to find the killer instinct that it lacked in optimal scoring situations.  To have the ball inside the 10 and come away with no points is inexcusable.  Clemson has to take advantage of such opportunities and find a way to punch the football in for six points.  Good to great football teams take advantage of such opportunities and make the opposition pay when given the chance.  Clemson’s woes against the ‘Noles arose from concentration lapses/bonehead plays.  The opportunity for success was there (TD called back for not lining up properly, TD drop by Ford, jumping off-sides at the goal line, missing chip shot field goals).

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