No. 10 Clemson heads to No. 4 Florida State
Clemson’s offense sure looks ready for Florida State. The
10th-ranked Tigers’ defense? That’s anyone’s guess after another
so-so showing against Furman.
Clemson (3-0) beat the Paladins 41-7 and open defense of its
Atlantic Coast Conference title at No. 4 Florida State in
Tallahassee, a game that figures to go a long way in deciding the
Clemson’s offense has been every bit as explosive as a year ago,
especially with Sammy Watkins back from a two-game suspension. The
Tigers’ defense also looks like it did in 2011 – and that’s not a
Furman (0-3) held the ball for nearly 17 minutes more than the
Tigers, who gave up several big, chunky plays to their Football
Championship Subdivision opponent.
”That first half made me want to throw up,” Clemson defensive
coordinator Brent Venables said.
It may have made Florida State coaches lick their chops.
The Tigers tightened things up after the break and kept Furman
off the scoreboard the last two quarters. The Paladins managed only
117 of their 352 yards in the final two periods.
But unless things improve fast, Venables knows his players could
be in for big-time pasting against the Seminoles (3-0) at Doak
Campbell Stadium next week. ”They’ll break the scoreboard next
week if we don’t play better and more consistent,” he said.
That almost happened at the Orange Bowl last January when the
ACC champions gave up a bowl record amount of points in a 70-33
debacle to West Virginia. Venables was hired soon after that
defeat, brought in to plug the holes that sprung open in Kevin
Steele’s defense last fall.
Right now, Venables says it’s a work in progress. Clemson
entered this week 98th nationally against the run, a number that
figures to improve with just 110 yards given up in the Furman win.
But the Tigers gave up their most passing yards of the season as
the Paladins were 20 of 31 passing for 242 yards. That included a
wide-open 37-yard touchdown pass from Reese Hannon to Jordan
”We won. We have room for improvement, but that’s every game,”
Clemson safety Rashard Hall said. ”I thought we played a great
game, especially in the second half. We just have to get
Clemson’s used its quick-strike offense and just enough defense
to gain its second straight 3-0 start. The Tigers yielded 374 yards
in the Georgia Dome in a 26-19 victory over Auburn to start the
season, yet held the 2010 national champions to four field goals on
four times inside Clemson’s 30.
Last week, Clemson put up a 45-point first half that overwhelmed
Ball State on the way to a 52-27 victory.
In this one, Furman was able to maintain possession and keep
Clemson’s offense off the field. That meant more time for the
defensive mistakes to show through. Again, though, Clemson proved
stoutest with its back to the wall as it held Furman without points
on five of six trips the Paladins made inside the Tigers’ 30. And
that has Venables thinking about a unique strategy.
”Get them to third down, concede the third and medium because
we play pretty good on third down and in the tight zone,” he
Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC) put on an offensive show in
defeating Wake Forest 52-0 on Saturday. Chris Thompson had scoring
runs of 74 and 80 yards to spark the Seminoles to a 38-0 lead at
the half. He finished with a 197 yards rushing.
”We wanted to make a statement today,” fullback Lonnie Pryor
said. ”Our goal is to win the ACC and hopefully win a national
championship. They were in the way, so we won and hopefully we can
keep this thing going.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney likes his team’s progress from the
start of the season and expects more improvement as the year
continues. He was most disappointed at the blown assignment that
led to Furman’s touchdown.
”We’ve got to get out of the charity business and quit busting
some big plays that have given up touchdowns,” he said. ”You’re
going to play a team like Florida State, you can’t give them those
Clemson has risen up to the defensive challenge at critical
times last year. The Tigers held Virginia Tech to 13 points
combined in wins at Lane Stadium (30-3) in the regular season and
in the ACC championship (38-10).
Venables saw things pick up in the second half as his players
cleaned up their technique. ”Our positioning was better. Our
leverage was better. It was a better half of football,” he
But is it good enough to slow down the Seminoles, who look eager
to end Clemson’s recent run of success in the series. Florida State
has lost six of the past nine meetings with the Tigers.
Florida State is ”a good ball team. We know that,” said Hall,
Clemson’s safety. ”But then again, so are we.”