clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Defensive observations from FSU football’s embarrassing loss to Clemson

One to forget.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get some things out of the way - Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is good. Really good. Easily the best in the ACC as a true freshman kind of good. So are their receivers.

For one quarter spanning over three drives, the Florida State defense rose to the challenge. They dominated Clemson’s offensive line. Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson couldn’t be blocked. Nose tackle Robert Cooper was excellent at anchoring the line of scrimmage, taking on multiple blockers and still causing pressure. Along with the presence of star defensive end, Brian Burns, the Seminole defensive line dominated up front, harassing Lawrence on almost every play.

They were reading Clemson’s offense well, flying to the ball, tackling well, and batting balls down. They didn’t get any help, though, as the offense went three-and-out three times in their first four possessions. However, at the end of the first quarter, the score was surprisingly 0-0. The defense was keeping FSU in the game.

But a bad roughing the kicker foul by freshman CB Asante Samuel, Jr. on a shanked Clemson field goal attempt on the Tigers’ fourth drive gave Lawrence a new series to work with. The Tigers capitalized, scoring their first touchdown. That proved to be the turning point in the game, and the cracks in the dam began to show.

Due to FSU’s offensive ineptitude, Clemson ran play after play in Florida State territory. The Tigers schemed the game well, getting uber-talented receivers like Tee Higgins matched up on FSU’s safeties. Issues with poor tackling and undisciplined play from FSU’s linebackers and secondary started showing up. Lawrence made it 14-0 on a perfect pass that made good coverage irrelevant.

Safety Hamsah Nasrildeen was later ejected in the second quarter for targeting on a Lawrence scramble:

Later in the same drive, young defensive back A.J. Lytton was called for defensive pass interference in the end zone. Clemson capitalized on that, too, and soon the Tigers were leading 21-0 despite just 4.6 yards per play.

After that, Lawrence found his rhythm and started dealing. Between his super-quick release, incredible arm strength, accuracy, and the talented Clemson receivers, the FSU defensive backs had no chance.

It didn’t help that FSU linebacker Dontavious Jackson went down with an injury.

But as a unit they kept battling and harassing Lawrence. Despite Clemson starting on FSU’s 36-yard line right before halftime, the defense held the Tigers to a turnover on downs.

Still, despite the defense playing largely lights-out football, or at least far above expectations, the score was 28-0 (CU only gained 5.5 YPP before intermission).

Then in the 2nd half, the floodgates finally blew open. On Clemson’s first drive, Lawrence found Amari Rodgers for a 58-yard touchdown, Clemson’s second big pass play of the day.

By the time the third quarter was over, Clemson had added 24 more points, scoring on five of their first six possessions of the second half. After holding Clemson to zero points in the first quarter, the Tigers had scored a whopping 52 points in just two quarters of play.

When the dust finally settled, Clemson was running their backups on the field. In total, Clemson ran 77 plays for 6.8 yards per play and scored 59 total points to FSU’s 10, tied for the biggest defeat in Florida State history:

Lawrence finished with 314 yards passing (8.5 YPA) and four touchdowns with no interceptions.

It was a statement game for the Tigers, and it left Florida State looking for answers.