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Game Review: Clemson at Florida State

How many different ways can you lose a game? It seems like we tried them all as our Tigers let a golden opportunity slip through their fingertips Saturday night. With their best player, Heisman winning signal caller Jameis Winston on the sidelines, our boys did everything they could to give the game away to the #1 team in the land and succeeded.

You know, you guys really SHOULD be getting used to this feeling
You know, you guys really SHOULD be getting used to this feeling
Ronald Martinez

1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Total
(1) Florida State 3 0 7 7 6 23
(22) Clemson 0 10 0 7 0 17

The ACC was ours for the taking Saturday night, but we blew it because we couldn't beat Diet Florida State. Dabo Swinney proclaimed us national title contenders after beating LSU in 2012, but we have hardly looked the part since. Championship teams don't piss away opportunities repeatedly. Make no mistake, there would have been an asterisk next to this game in the minds of many if we had won. Whether you agree or not, that's how it would have been. I wouldn't have cared, though. We would have moved into playoff contention and would have been in the driver's seat to win our division. It's exponentially worse that we didn't win an asterisk game.

The way our defensive line dominated their offensive line almost makes you wonder if it would have made a difference who played at quarterback in the first half. Jameis Winston is a special talent though. The game likely wouldn't have been as close with him at the helm. It was apparent early on that Sean Maguire was struggling and Winston being sidelined was making a difference. I have to believe that Jameis wouldn't have been sacked that many times. He would have eluded one or two of those sacks and thrown it out of bounds or scrambled for no gain/a short loss. Credit Brent Venables for having a great plan of attack and harassing the rookie early and often. Our pressure was getting to him in the first half and resulted in 3 sacks and numerous bad passes due to hurried throws. Vic Beasley lived up to his billing in this one with two sacks and Martin Jenkins chipping in with one. The Noles could only muster a field goal in the first quarter due to this great defensive effort.

One positive out of this game is that our own quarterback situation has been decided. After Cole Stoudt stalled out on three drives, Deshaun Watson was inserted into the game. The missed field goal should have never even happened because Cole missed a wide open Stanton Seckinger in the end zone while facing zero pressure. He just looked nervous. Watson would have made that throw all day with 2 guys in his face and one hanging on his back. After Deshaun came in, Cole Stoudt wouldn't see any further playing time. So I guess most of us were right after all about Deshaun Watson being the right man for the job. Imagine that.

The coaching staff has egg on their faces in my opinion after pulling this move. They can't say Deshaun's performance early on warranted giving him the starting job for this game because they didn't do that in the Georgia game. Why wasn't he given the chance to start then, when he led us on a touchdown drive his very first time stepping onto the field? I call bull. Cole Stoudt was given the starting position purely to reward his loyalty to the program. That's all there is to it. As I suspected, the staff knew we weren't going to win with him in the game so they were forced to admit their mistake and start the better guy. Then they played it off after the game, like he showed out so much that they decided to give him his shot.

On his first drive, he hit almost every receiver on our roster and brought us into field goal range. Even our head case of a kicker Ammon Lakip seemed inspired enough to hit his only field goal of the night and tie the game up. Once again Watson looked like a totally different animal at quarterback. He turned a play that should have been a loss of yards into a gain, as mobile quarterbacks do. His athleticism negates our offensive line's poor pass protection. Cole Stoudt cannot do that. With the exception of one almost interception, he looked very crisp on the night. He hit Germone Hopper on a 28 yard bomb to put us in a position to get the go ahead score on a 1 yard D.J. Howard touchdown run.

After the half, Clemson's once dominant defense gave up a bunch of yards through the air leading to a Seminole touchdown to tie the game at 10. It looked as though they had made the correct adjustments and were about to break the game open. This was aided by a substitution infraction in which our head coach inexplicably needed a referee to help him count out 12 men on the field. Sadly, I wasn't even surprised when this happened. I have come to expect such in-game ineptitude from Dabo. After all, he is gonna Dab, right?

The defense did continue to get pressure on Maguire after that. A Stephone Anthony sack forced them to punt. Another stellar drive by Watson gave us an opportunity to go ahead after having a review overturn a 19 yard touchdown catch by Seckinger, which placed the ball at the 1 yard line. It looked like the correct call to me. In this situation you would expect us to run a QB sneak or run iso or jumbo formation at the 1 yard line. Why we were lined up in the shotgun is beyond me. This was the first of two times this coaching blunder would happen in this game. To make matters even worse, Dabo didn't throw the challenge flag to review this play when Davidson clearly landed in the end zone. It's his job to be aware of what's going on at all times.

After a Florida State offsides penalty, the moment we all have come to expect and had subconsciously been waiting for came. We Clemson'd. Ryan Norton had been snapping the ball high all night and this time he snapped it right past Deshaun, resulting in a 23 yard loss. I really hope Jay Guillermo is not that badly injured, because Ryan Norton is not the answer at center. He and Ammon Lakip need to walk the plank after this game. Speaking of which, on the very next play our wonderful field goal kicker did his best Jad Dean impersonation and shanked a crucial 40 yard field goal. This kid seems to clench up whenever there's pressure. If it's against SC State he can nail them. If it's a pivotal moment in the game, he's missing it. The anti-Catman if you will.

Fortunately Jayron Kearse gave us another opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by intercepting a Sean Maguire pass and taking it to the Clemson 36 yard line. Watson would hit Mike Williams on a 39 yard pass to the Florida State 2. The catch by Williams was what I would describe as a Nuk Hopkins special. Deshaun would run it in and once it again it looked like we were about to do the unthinkable. Up 17-10, the football gods had other things in mind as Florida State lucked up and saw Mackensie Alexander trip and fall so Sean Maguire could drop a 74 yard pass into Rashad Greene's bread basket to once again tie the game up. Typical because Alexander had locked Greene down all night and then this happens. At least it seems we have found a lockdown corner now. After our next drive ended in a punt due to conservative play calling from our favorite overpaid offensive coordinator, Maguire tried to gift us the victory in the form of another interception by Jadar Johnson. However we were not done giving out gifts of our own. On a drive that can only be explained as pulling another Clemson, we get all the way down to the Florida State 14, and C.J. Davidson coughs the ball up on and Eddie Goldman strip. Sure wish we could have closed on that guy.

Lucky for us, Jimbo Fisher did not channel his inner Bobby Bowden and sat on the ball. We had yet another chance to win it in overtime. Fisher knew what everyone else watching knew though. That they had a field goal kicker and we did not. Advantage them. In the end special teams would do us in again. An incomplete pass and an Eddie Goldman sack led us to a fork in the road. Lakip would miss this one because too much was on the line. Dabo made the right decision in this situation. It's a decision that wouldn't have to be made if we had a field goal kicker. The incorrect decision however, was to line up in the shotgun again, this time on 4th and 1. Especially with our offensive line. Once again, you have a mobile quarterback. Run a QB dive. Put a fullback in and run I formation. Whatever you do, put Deshaun Watson under center. The excuse that they "weren't comfortable" with playing him under center is bogus. Watson did not start playing football yesterday. He's not some YouTube sensation we gave a walk on spot to. I find it hard to believe they only practice with him in the shotgun. I find it even harder to believe they've never practiced a QB sneak with Watson. He's our starting quarterback but you're not comfortable with him? What does that even mean? Once again the whole world saw that Chad Morris is the most overpaid moron in college football. If this doesn't change everyone's opinion of him then I don't know what will.

The defense, who played outstanding for the entire game, totally quit on us in overtime. Instead of forcing FSU to kick a field goal and trying to block it, they let Karlos Williams run it at will. He punched it in after only two tries. A 13 yard run and a 12 yard scamper later and we had done it. We had Clemson'd and choked in spectacular fashion as only we can. The Tigers out gained the Seminoles through the air and on the ground. We held them to a whopping 13 rushing yards. We also won the turnover battle, but could not capitalize on the Jadar Johnson pick. Our lost fumble was very costly on the other hand. If C.J. Davidson doesn't fumble on that drive then maybe we ice the game. We even won the time of possession.

FSU took advantage of our mistakes. That's the difference between a championship team and us. And that is what makes this loss hard to understand and even harder to swallow. I had this one penciled in as a loss before the season started. Nothing changed after the South Carolina State game. I even had us losing a close one after Jameis Winston was suspended for the first half. It wasn't until they announced he would be suspended for the entire game the night before that I expected victory. They had almost no time to adjust their game plan. We were given a chance to upset the #1 team on the country in their own house and score some revenge from last year's blowout.

We did not blow them out though. We played patty cake with them all game long and choked anytime we were presented with an opportunity to pull away. I can't tell you how many times I breathed a sigh of relief and said to myself, "Okay, now we've got this." I know I said I would take a competitive loss any day over a blowout but this one felt different in that it shouldn't have really been close. We had them on the ropes without their star player in the game and we had several opportunities to put them away. This game isn't any less embarrassing than the Georgia game. We were the laughing stock of Twitter and "Clemsoning" was the # 2 trending term on Twitter last night. 

Championship teams find a way to win and we aren't one. We will not be one either until some changes are made. First of all Danny Pearman needs to be given his walking papers. Even the most hardline sunshine pumper will agree. It should have actually been done a long time ago. Robbie Caldwell can be shown the door as well. I've seen very little improvement on the offensive line since he's been here if any at all. The offensive line once again whiffed on a bunch of blocks and the running game was non-existent. Kalon Davis looked like the best guy out there Saturday night.

I'm also one or two more stupid, game losing decisions away from calling for Chad Morris's head too. He makes 1.3 million dollars a year. He needs to do better. At the very least he should be able to figure out what a bunch of us "quackers" are already screaming at the TV for him to do. They are the coaches, they should know better than us. Maybe we will be vindicated just like we were last week when South Carolina beat Georgia the way we should have. Maybe after NC State upsets them on a 4th and 1 conversion in which they actually line up under center and run a QB dive instead of lining up 7 yards back, someone will listen to us. I will give him credit for one thing and that is playing the more talented young guys. We played Choice and Gallman more than D.J. Howard which is a plus. Although it is pretty apparent that we have no running game at this point which is what I was afraid of before the season started. Would have liked to seen more of Artavis Scott. Maybe get him going on some jet sweeps to keep the defense honest.

I won't delve into the strength and conditioning issues or the offensive line recruiting issues as they've been beaten to death on this site and most everyone knows it needs to change at this point. I am starting to lose faith in Dabo to be the one to get it done. He just doesn't seem to have the kill or be killed mentality it takes to win a national title in this era of college football. He seems like a lost little boy out there sometimes. He's no Nick Saban or Gus Malzahn that's for sure. I said we would win 10 games this year and that is still very attainable. Especially now that we have made a decision that should have been made before the season started and will be starting Deshaun Watson at quarterback.

The rest of the ACC is garbage. I don't want to hear any talk about the Georgia Tech or Boston College games. Those better be wins. We will do our usual song and dance routine, win out and lose to South Carolina. Then we'll beat Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl and Dabo will be tooting his 10 win season and beating an SEC team in a bowl game horn again. That being said, as long as Watson and the rest of the team continues to improve, we do have at least puncher's chance against South Carolina at home this year. We will need to test that secondary though which scares me. We've seen nothing out of this offensive coaching staff so far this year to think that they will even recognize that is their weakness and attempt to exploit it. They'll do it against Wake Forest sure, but they always seem to have brain farts in the big games. I think we can all agree that this season is a total failure without a win against the Chickens now that the rest of our season goals have gone out the window. We live for one thing only now. If we can't do it this year then we need to find a head coach that can figure out a way to meet our goals. That's all there is to it.