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Tigers Hit Their Stride in Tallahassee: Clemson vs. FSU Second Quarter Review

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“I thought when I signed up to Florida State I would never lose like this in my life,” defensive tackle Marvin Wilson

Clemson v Florida State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Clemson beat Florida State by as many points as anyone ever has on Saturday, and gave the Seminoles their worst loss at home ever. The Noles decades long bowl streak is in a perilous position in Willie Taggart’s first year on the job. A combination of offensive struggles, injuries and good old-fashioned shooting themselves in the foot helped turn this game into a rout before the end of the second quarter. The second half featured quite a bit of Clemson’s backups beating Florida State’s starters. Clemson is going to be recruiting off this all winter.

Is it unfair that sack yards as counted as negative rushing yardage? Sure. Still, according to the box score, Garrett Williams and Christian Wilkins ran for more yards and touchdowns than the entire FSU team.

It was that kind of day, and continues an impressive streak of Clemson performances. After as turbulent an early season as a playoff contender can have the Tigers have cruised past Wake Forest, NC State and FSU. Trevor Lawrence has stepped up as a full-time starter, throwing for over three hundred yards for the second game in a row. Amari Rodgers and Tee Higgins both caught two touchdowns, with Rodgers pitching in some long punt returns as well.

Entering the second quarter the game looked very different. Neither side had scored and Clemson had only four first downs. Of the Tigers 82 yards 41 had just come on a 41 yard completion to Justyn Ross. FSU’s defense came off the bus ready to play. For the second week in a row a defense was selling out to stop Clemson’s running game. FSU’s linebackers were filling the second they got anything resembling a run read. Clemson was able to take advantage of this with RPO’s (such as the pass to Justyn Ross that set up Clemson’s first score).

The Tigers almost bogged down after that, with Lawrence throwing a ball out of bounds under pressure on the next play. A ball batted down at the line of scrimmage and a throw to Ross being broken up left Clemson in fourth down. The field goal kick appeared to be blocked before one of many FSU penalties bailed Clemson’s offense out. A few plays later Clemson has third and five at the goal, with Lawrence lofting a ball to Higgins for the score. Higgins and Rodgers are running “smash,” once Rodgers man sits down to cover the hitch route Lawrence knows Higgins has a favorable angle and gets the ball out quickly. Higgins did a fantastic job adjusting to the ball in the air and bringing it down.

FSU came out using unbalanced formations to try to open some holes in the running game. FSU was able to move the ball running counter off a jet motion, but an illegal formation set them back. FSU converted the 2nd and 11 when Mullen bailed out in single coverage, with the receiver settling in open space. Nothing opened for Francois on the next play and he scrambled out of a sack for no gain. Venables was dropping his ends into coverage pretty often, where they can use their length to disrupt passing lanes, while linebackers and safeties blitz or spy Francois.

A blitz on third and nine almost gets to Francois, who threw a prayer of a pass up without noticing K’von Wallace sitting deep. FSU’s receiver tackled Wallace and broke up what looked like an interception.

Clemson was almost able to take advantage of FSU’s linebacker play with a wheel route off of play action. Like a lot of quarters teams FSU’s response to trips is to put the corner in man coverage on the backside receiver, with the safeties taking the vertical routes from the slot receivers to the trips side. With Ross coming across the formation (dragging the corner out of the play) and the linebacker covering Choice stepping up there’s a window here and FSU is lucky to the pass isn’t caught.

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A short gain on inside zone put Clemson in 3rd&8, with Ross making a falling catch on the sideline to get a first down. Clemson went back to attacking the wide side of the field with “smash” on the next possession, with Renfrow uncharacteristically dropping the ball on the corner route.

A pair of handoffs and bubble screens got Clemson to the three yard line. Clemson returned to one of their favorite RPO’s on the goal line. The offensive line, running back and tight end are all blocking for an inside zone handoff. The wide outs to the two receiver side run a bubble screen, and the backside receiver runs a fade/comeback. Lawrence likes the one-on-one matchup and Higgins is able to make a physical play for the touchdown.

FSU ran hitches from a bunch trips formation and almost got a big gain when Nyquan Murray breaks a tackle, Murray gets tackled soon after a first down. Clemson got pressure from a four man rush on the next play, with Francois managing to scramble out of the pocket and gain five yards. Francois half heartedly ran a play action fake on 2nd & 5 before throwing a hitch to the boundary for 3rd & 1. FSU was able to get just enough push to convert on third on one.

FSU ran a screen and go which Francois badly overthrew. A dive that goes nowhere and a seam route overthrown under duress almost leads the Noles to go three and out. A roughing the passer call bails FSU out, and they capitalize on this stroke of luck by fumbling in the backfield. FSU is almost able to complete an out route underneath to the strong side of the field against soft coverage, but it’s dropped. False start takes us to 3rd&20. Francois pass gets tipped and Lamar comes down with it, I don’t think many fans knew he had that return in him.

Trevor Lawrence pulls the ball on a dart read, gains a few but takes a hard hit. FSU loses a defender to targeting. Clemson runs switch routes to both sides of the field but the pass to Higgins is incomplete. Pass interference takes us to the two yard line. Play action roll out and Lawrence throws the ball out of bounds, intended for Williams. Choice almost falls forward for the touchdown off a speed option (Lawrence really pitches the ball fast, he’s not making defenses respect him on these runs).

All of this was to take you to the greatest moment in program history. The beef package. Two tights, Dexter Lawrence as a lead blocker, and the singularly talented Christian Wilkins in the backfield.

What do we even have IPTAY for if this doesn’t wind up a statue somewhere on campus? Touchdown.

The following drive opens with Akers hit at the line and falling forward for a gain of two. Clemson drops eight and nothing’s open underneath, comeback to the sideline dropped. Wilkins split the double team on 3rd&8 and hit Francois instantly, with his pass falling incomplete at the numbers.

Clemson gets the ball at their 27 yard line with just 2:23 left in the quarter. Lawrence completes the corner route on smash (the third time it’s come open this quarter alone) to Trevion Thompson for a gain of 17 yards.

Out route to Rodgers complete and he’s able to fight forward for just enough for a first down. Lawrence hit as he throws and the corner route to Renfrow complete. Anchrum got beat by Burns and is lucky not to give up a sack. Six man rush, Choice steps up and slows down two linebackers who got through free. Cervenka got caught with no one to block. Ross is open and able to take the ball to the eleven yard line.

Power handoff to Choice off of jet motion, FSU gets good penetration but Choice is able to find a hole and almost fights his way to the end zone. Clemson came out in 22 I formation again, this time giving the ball to Williams who is able to churn forward for another touchdown.

FSU goes three and out and Clemson turned the ball over on downs on the next drive. FSU would wind up ending the first half taking a knee as fans streamed for the exit. Clemson to receive the second half kickoff.