FSU Fifth Quarter: Clemson

FSU Fifth Quarter is a weekly column recapping the week that was in Florida State football. Offense, defense, and special teams are broken down, and highly-coveted tomahawk helmet stickers are awarded based on performance. Nothing comes easy around here, and like Coach Fisher says, “You gotta earn it.” The name of the column, “Fifth Quarter,” pays tribute to one of the greatest Seminole victories of all-time.

“In the 1994 installment of their annual rivalry, the Florida Gators blew a 28-point fourth quarter lead, resulting in a 31-31 tie affectionately known by Seminole fans as “The Choke at Doak.”  The selection committee for the Sugar Bowl knew fans wanted a rematch to determine a winner. Prior to kickoff, scoreboards in the Superdome read FSU 31, Florida 31 entering the fifth quarter, and thus the “Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter” was born.” The Seminoles won 23–17.

 

In case you missed it…..

         Florida State 49              Clemson 37

The unstoppable force vs. the immovable object. The Clemson offense vs. the Florida State defense. Saturday night’s game in Tallahassee seemed more like a heavyweight title fight than a football game. I know, the old “boxing match/trading punches/throwing haymakers” analogy is cliche and way over used, but that is honestly the only way to describe what went down at Doak Campbell Stadium with America watching. Clemson would strike, FSU would answer. The Tigers pulled ahead by two scores in the third quarter and the Noles didn’t flinch, scoring 35 straight points en route to an eventual 49-37 victory over their conference and division rivals from the Palmetto State. FSU QB EJ Manuel racked up more yards by himself (523) than the entire highly-touted Clemson offense, and Clemson All-American wide receiver Sammy Watkins was held in-check with six catches for 24 yards. With the win, the Seminoles improved to 4-0 on the year and are currently ranked #4 in the AP Poll.

Offense

Coming in to the 2012 season, many (including me) questioned just how far the Seminoles could go with such a young and inexperienced offensive line. After the first four games of the season though, it has been the offensive line that has been the driving force behind (or in front of) the success of the Seminoles. The offensive line paved the way for over 200 yards rushing for the fourth straight week in the Noles victory over Clemson on Saturday. Trailing 28-14 in the third quarter, senior Seminole signal caller EJ Manuel put the Noles on his back, leading the Garnet and Gold to 35 straight second half points and the win. Manuel finished with 380 yards passing, two touchdowns and also added 112 yards rushing on 11 carries. His 492 total yards of offense eclipsed the entire high-powered Clemson team total of 426 yards. Manuel was the first FSU quarterback to throw for 300 and rush for 100 since former Heisman winner Charlie Ward did it against Maryland in 1992.

The Seminole running backs (and Manuel) gouged Clemson for 287 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. The Noles were led by senior tailback Chris Thompson, who ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Tampa (Plant HS) native James Wilder Jr. punished the Clemson D with nine rushes for 65 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t his total yards, it was how he earned them. The 6’2″ 233 pound bruiser seemingly could not be taken down, and it seems that he broke the will and took the manhood of the of the Tigers in the second half. It was Wilder’s third game this season with multiple scores.

For the third time this season, Florida State eclipsed 600 yards of total offense finishing Saturday night’s game against Clemson with a season-high 667 yards. It is the most total yards of offense since tallying 771 yards against Clemson in 2000.

Overall Rating: Offense was firing on all cylinders against the Tigers, out-gaining the high powered Clemson unit by over 200 yards.I can overlook the QB-Center exchange fumble late in the game. 5 Tomahawks.

Defense

The Clemson offense will no doubt prove to have been the toughest test this season for the Florida State defense. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd brought plenty of weapons on offense, led by All-American sophomore WR Sammy Watkins, senior RB Andre Ellington and speedy wide-out DeAndre Hopkins. This was the first true test of the year for the Seminole D, and while 37 points may seem like a bunch to give up, consider that Clemson has one of the most high powered offenses in the entire nation. The Tigers came out swinging (another boxing cliche, I apologize) and scored within the first two minutes of the game when Boyd hooked up with Hopkins for a 60-yard TD strike. Hopkins’ touchdown in the first quarter was the first opponent touchdown in 13 quarters and the first this season. Clemson brought their bag of tricks with them to Tallahassee, running double reverse pass plays, fake field goals, and utilizing WR Sammy Watkins as a running back.

After falling behind 31-21 midway through the third quarter, the Seminole defense clamped down hard, allowing only a garbage time touchdown late in the fourth quarter when the second teamers were getting some work. All-American Sammy Watkins was held in check all night, blanketed mostly by sophomore CB Nick Waisome. Watkins finished the night with six catches, only 24 yards and zero touchdowns on the night.

Overall Rating: Clemson gave FSU everything they could handle and more, but the Noles still came out on top. Shutting down All-American Sammy Watkins is no easy task, The D didn’t panic and stepped up in a major way after falling behind 28-14 in the third. Shades of old school Florida State defense. 4 Tomahawks.


Special Teams

Not too much to say here, other than had the game been closer, the Seminoles may have lost because of the poor special teams play. Senior kicker Dustin Hopkins missed two field goals on his home field, and WR Rashad Greene muffed a punt return that led to an eventual Clemson touchdown. Freshman punter Cason Beatty was solid on the night with a long of 40 yards. The bright spot was sophomore safety Lamarcus Joyner, who had five kickoff returns for 185 yards. His 90-yard return in the third quarter set up a Seminole touchdown and proved to be a major turning point in the game.

Overall Rating: Two missed field goals by senior kicker Dustin Hopkins at home? Rashad Greene’s fumble didn’t help the special teams rating this week, either. Tighten your game up. 3.5 Tomahawks.

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