It didn’t start well offensively for the ’Noles and it only got worse from there. Breaking it down into the good, the bad, and the ugly, well, there’s not much of the former, a lot of the middle, and plenty of the last. In the end FSU fell to the Tigers 45-14.
For a few plays here or there the pass protection wasn’t bad. That’s pretty much where the good starts and ends. On other drives the offensive line was simply overwhelmed in both the run and pass game. Cam Akers didn’t cross 30 yards rushing until the fourth quarter, finishing with 34 yards on nine carries and a fumble. There wasn’t much hope that FSU would be able to block Clemson, but North Carolina did average 5.5 yards per carry against this Tigers defense. Unfortunately for the ’Noles, Clemson got their issues cleaned up over their bye week and gave Florida State their “A” game. FSU probably needed Clemson’s “C” game to even stand a chance.
As a whole FSU just couldn’t do anything right. There were opportunities there, not only to move the ball but to also score on big plays. Receivers were open. But the quarterback play was awful today. James Blackman threw two interceptions, including a pick six taken back by Derion Kendrick in the third quarter after staring down and then overthrowing Cam Akers. That was after he threw an interception up for grabs deep into double coverage that was luckily called back by defensive holding. Blackman overthrew several other receivers on the day. His first interception was just unfortunate luck, coming on a throw tipped at the line of scrimmage with his defender open downfield. As if that wasn’t bad enough, on Blackman’s tackle attempt following that interception he collided with receiver Keyshawn Helton, who was subsequently carted off the field with an air cast around his leg.
Alex Hornibrook wasn’t any better. He quickly quit or bailed on several plays and clean pockets, taking sacks when he didn’t need to and making several awful throws that were either late or behind his receivers. He threw an interception in the first quarter on a terrible throw at least five yards behind the receiver coming across the middle of the field deep. If he connects, it’s a touchdown. Hornibrook did connect with Tamorrion Terry on a 63-yard touchdown late in the third quarter with FSU down 42-0 and Trevor Lawrence already done for the day. Even that was a bad throw off-target from where the ball should have been, but it was even worse defense by Clemson.
The bottom line is both quarterbacks would have had more touchdowns had they not consistently missed throws. That’s not to say FSU would have won, but it would have kept it closer. Neither quarterback threw for 100 yards in this contest— they combined for just 150 yards on 35 attempts.
At halftime it was 28-0 Tigers and the game felt like it was already over. Clemson had run a whopping 52 plays to 27 plays for FSU. The Tigers had 19 first downs to 3 for FSU. Clemson was averaging 7.1 yards per play while FSU was clocking in at a Wiley Coyote-like 2.3. The Seminole quarterbacks had combined for 17 passes for 47 yards and two interceptions. Plays and opportunities were there to be made, they just couldn’t connect. Everything that could go wrong, did.
The rest of the game was largely more of the same until Clemson started subbing in their backups. A 40-yard touchdown run by Khalan Laborn with under three minutes left in regulation is little solace. Florida State finished with 253 total yards and four turnovers, with many of those yards coming in garbage time.
It was nice to see the kids still fighting deep into the fourth quarter. This is just one of those games where there’s just not that much to take away from it — you burn the film and move on to next week. One silver lining: late in the game, offensive linemen Jauan Williams and Cole Minshew, both hurt previously, saw action. That could be big for the Seminoles moving forward.