No. 3 Clemson stung with record home defeat

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had few inspirational words and no
get-up-off the mat speeches, not after his third-ranked Tigers’
record-setting defeat.

The Tigers (6-1, 4-1) had come in hoping to take control of the
Atlantic Coast Conference and cement their place among the BCS
contenders. Instead they left with a 51-14 loss to No. 5 Florida
State, which scored the most points in Death Valley history on
Saturday night.

”We know we’re better than how we played, but nobody cares
about that,” Swinney said. ”We got our butts handed to us.”

The Seminoles (6-0, 4-0) quickly turned the ACC top-five
showdown into a beatdown. They led 17-0 in the opening quarter,
scoring touchdowns after two fumbles that stunned the crowd and put
Clemson’s fast-paced offense led by quarterback Tajh Boyd on its
heels.

”We never could swing the momentum back in our favor and
turnovers were a huge part of that,” Swinney said. ”You can’t win
when you play like that.”

Clemson hadn’t played like this for much of the past two
seasons. It had won several key games since its last ACC defeat (at
Florida State in 2012) including victories over Southeastern
Conference powers LSU and Georgia.

The Seminoles proved the biggest challenge of all. Boyd, who
came in a Heisman Trophy candidate, finished 17 of 37 for 156 yards
and two interceptions and was completely outclassed by Florida
State freshman Jameis Winston, who passed for 444 yards and three
touchdowns, plus ran for a fourth TD.

Boyd said the loss was ”West Virginia-esque,” referring to the
Tigers’ last embarrassment, a 70-33 loss to the Mountaineers in the
Orange Bowl after the 2011 season.

”We didn’t play up to our capabilities and that’s the most
disappointing thing,” Boyd said.

Winston and the Florida State defense took the Tigers out of it
early and the Seminoles kept going.

Rashad Greene caught eight passes for 146 yards and two scores,
including a 72-yard sprint that made it 24-7 in the second
quarter.

”We have high expectations for ourselves,” Greene said. ”So
we try and get our plays in and do as much as we can and score as
much as we can. We were prepared and we just went out there and
executed.”

Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary punctuated the victory in
the third quarter, running over Clemson’s Travis Blanks as he tried
to make a tackle. O’Leary, the grandson of Jack Nicklaus, finished
with five catches for 161 yards, including a 94-yard catch in the
final quarter when the Seminoles were backed up to their 1. That
set up Roberto Aguayo’s 20-yard field goal that broke the Death
Valley record for points by an opponent.

Not long after Clemson made its grand entrance, sprinting past
Howard’s Rock and down the hill onto the field, orange balloons
filling the sky above Memorial Stadium, Florida State took control.
On the first play from scrimmage Florida State’s Telvin Smith
stripped Stanton Seckinger and Terrence Brooks recovered for the
Seminoles at the Clemson 34.

Two plays later, Winston lofted a pass deep down the sideline to
the 6-foot-5 Benjamin, who went up high for the perfectly thrown
ball and landed with it inside the pylon for a touchdown less than
2 minutes into the game.

Winston has been even better than advertised in his first season
as a starter, hard to believe considering the hype. But this
opponent and this setting represented by far the biggest challenge
of his young career. Turns out, it was just another showcase game –
for Florida State’s defense, too.

LaMarcus Joyner forced Clemson turnover No. 2, coming free on a
backside blitz and knocking the ball free from Boyd. Edwards
scooped and scored, covering the ball with two arms as he crossed
the goal line with a Clemson player trying to strip it from behind.
It was 17-0 with 3:07 left in the first quarter and Death Valley
suddenly didn’t seem so daunting.

Winston beat a Clemson blitz with a quick pass to Greene, who
slipped a tackle and was gone, 72 yards for a touchdown that made
it 24-7 midway through the second. Greene made a hush gesture to
the Clemson fans. He didn’t need to. He had already quieted
them.

Joyner’s interception of Boyd in Florida State territory turned
it into another field goal to take a 27-7 lead at halftime.