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.