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Five questions, five answers: FSU snaps losing streak to Clemson in dramatic fashion

What are some of the biggest takeaways from the win? Where are some of the concerning areas on the Seminoles’ squad?

Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

In just the second overtime game in the on-field history between the two rivals, No. 4 Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC) and the Clemson Tigers (2-2, 0-2 ACC) battled it out in an overtime thriller that saw the Seminoles come out on top.

It was the first win for FSU in the series since 2014 and first victory on the road at Clemson since 2013.

While the win was a major one for FSU’s ACC Championship hopes (and potentially College Football Playoff ones), the Seminoles still got off to yet another slow start and didn’t lead at any point in the game until scoring first in overtime.

What are some of the biggest takeaways from the win? Where are some of the concerning areas on the Seminoles’ squad?

The Tomahawk Nation staff breaks it down below.

Okay, rather than saving it for last, go wild here — free space to react however you need to:

NoleThruandThru: Keon Coleman is HIM. Dude is just built for the biggest moments. Jared Verse doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his effectiveness against the run this year. Perfect form on the Deloach annihilation of Klubnik. And seeing Dabo screaming in the face of his coordinator on the sideline is the icing on the cake. Real coaching clinic there by Dabo at the end of the game/OT. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy (outside of Baton Rouge).

Tim: I do feel bad for that Clemson kicker and also for Disney+ as we will not get a second Clemson movie. Who do you think they would cast as Dabo?


Evenflow58: I don’t know. At this point I’m a glass case of emotion. Keon is all that has to be said there. I was really happy with the defensive line They really played well and shut down the running game. I also felt both sides of the ball were a bit disappointing for FSU. The offense only scored 3 points in the second half and the defensive secondary refused to play with inside leverage after giving up slant after slant. All-in-all it’s a win in a game that felt kind of like 2014. However, the road team won this time.

Perry Kostidakis: Speaking of 2014, it is hilarious that the only other time these two have gone to overtime has been then and this year, with extra time only possible in either games because of a last-second flub on the part of Clemson. Also, I am not a “dang refs!!!” person, but that was some real fine home-cookin’ all game long.

Jon Loesche: Why do we have to snap all the streaks against our rivals in the most blood pressure spiking ways as possible? 4th and 14 vs Miami in 2021, blowing the 14 point lead vs. Florida last year, now this. But this is still a huge win. FSU is going to get Clemson’s best shot every year because Dabo took 2013 and the 2020 cancellation personal and the Tiger’s season was on the line. Death Valley has become what the Orange Bowl was in the 80s and early 90s. All of the intangibles were lining up for heartbreak until Keon F’n Coleman.

Juan Montalvo: Keon. Frickin’. Coleman. I’m fairly confident saying he’s the best pure receiver FSU has ever had and that he will be a top 15 pick. The only reason I added “pure” is because no one in FSU history was better with the ball in their hands than Peter Warrick. The goal was to come out of September 4-0, and Keon scored 5 touchdowns in the two big games that have been highlighted since the schedule dropped. Season MVP so far.

Jon Marchant: This is not a national title contending team — there are major scheme issues on offense and defense especially. But you’re 4-0 and beat your two toughest opponents of the regular season, and that’s worth celebrating. This is a very good team that’s finally in the driver’s seat of the ACC conference and still in control of their destiny.

What was the key difference — be it player, play or matchup — in today’s win over Clemson?

NoleThruandThru: Patrick Payton woke up in a big way. He and Renardo Green made crucial plays at the most important moments for the defense. Major shout out to Kalen Deloach too- both #4’s had big games today.

LSK: The rest of the front seven woke up today; Patrick Payton was outstanding setting the edge and he’s starting to figure out the rest of his pass rush moves. Kalen DeLoach with maybe the most impressive play by a FSU linebacker since DJ Lundy of last week but seriously that was phenomenal.

Perry: I have to go with Kalen DeLoach’s sack-strip-scoop-score, because at that point in the game, Clemson was looking like it was about to maybe go up two scores and put it away. That was the first real blast of momentum and energy Florida State had at that point, even with a touchdown in the books.

Evenflow58: The front seven really kept FSU in the game. They did a really good job of shutting down the Clemson running game and created enough pressure and blocked balls to keep Clemson from getting easy yards. They rotated a bunch early and the backups weren’t terrible to the point that they could stay fresh late. Certainly tying our outscoring every other unit on the field in the second half is impressive.

Tim: It won’t be called this but it really was the Patrick Payton game, as said by David. Credit to Fuller, he brought pressure in the fourth with Payton, Shy Brown, and others. It sped up Clemson and helped lead FSU to the win.

Jon Loesche: Kalen DeLoach saved FSU’s playoff hopes with his game tying touchdown. Deloach doesn’t make that play, Clemson scores at least 3 and the game is over. When FSU makes the playoffs that is going to be the play everyone looks back on. Can’t go with anyone else.

Juan Montalvo: Players. This team has a ton of excellent players. Fiske, Coleman, Travis, Deloach - just so many guys who can flip the scoreboard, as Jimbo used to say.

Jon Marchant: The defensive front. Payton, Verse, Fiske, Farmer, and Lovett were all good today.

Is the defense capable of correcting itself over the course of the season, or are the issues baked in?

NoleThruandThru: I think we’ve seen enough proof of concept with Adam Fuller. The secondary has significant issues to address and the constant rotation of DL is puzzling- key players are on the sideline in important downs. If FSU hopes to truly take the next step into consistent title contention, it will need an upgrade at DC.

LSK: I think the issues are baked in because I believe they have a coordinator problem. Time after time quarterbacks that were poor against other, lesser talented teams are having their best day against Adam Fuller.

Evenflow58: I believe they are capable of fixing the issues they have to a degree and have two weeks before their next game to do so. Part of the problem is talent but the bigger problem against Clemson was giving up inside leverage. It makes sense as the rest of your defense should be inside of where you are as a DB but too often FSU was either spread out or blitzed or not aligned to make that theory a reality. I’m not knowledgable enough to know if that’s a coaching, schematic or player issue though.

Perry: We’ve seen FSU have in-season turnarounds on defense under this staff, but right now, things are looking ugly enough to the point where teams are going to be easily able to scheme around Florida State’s deficiencies. I’ve got faith in there being an uptick, but I can’t currently forsee a situation where this defense starts to fully take over games until it’s proven.

Tim: We may see some some improvement as the year goes along, similar to last year. This is result of your studs showing up and players more comfortable in the system. However, I think there’s a big enough sample size now to see this defense may need a new voice. Too many wide open plays, blown coverages, miscommunication that talent alone cannot overcome.

Jon Loesche: Cade Klubnik actually looked the the heir to Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence for the first time this season. Unfortunately, QB’s having career games is a recurring pattern under Adam Fuller.

Juan: I have a fairly cold take on this one - Fuller is ok-to-good, though not at the level of a Pruitt or Andrews type star coordinator, Chick Fil A bags of cash aside. Much like Mark Stoops’ departure led to a fresh DC who maximized talent over improving scheme, I think the guy who inherits Fuller’s group will be able to elevate them - which isn’t an indictment of Fuller as much as it is a recognition that the next level of play is very hard to get to.

Jon Marchant: Baked in. I don’t expect Fuller to make any adjustments, but I think they should play a lot more zone coverage. They give up way too many explosive plays in man coverage.

What did you like from the offense today?

NoleThruandThru: Jordan Travis is still seemingly in his own head more often than not, but my goodness did he step up when it mattered most. Keon is a beast but I’d like to see consistent effort. I also really like Kyle Morlock- once he gets a better understanding of how to adjust his routes situationally based on down and distance, the sky is the limit. We also saw far more of Good Johnny Wilson than Bad Johnny Wilson.

Tim: Not a lot. I really hope Robert Scott comes back healthy and we shuffle the tackles. I liked some of what you saw from Johnny Wilson. The drops today were more bad passes than his hands. I like that we are seeing his confidence return.

Perry: The touchdowns, maybe? Keon Coleman has continued to prove that he was an essential addition this offseason, making the difference in this one by finishing off major catches against a Clemson defense that was particularly stingy today.

LSK: I actually thought the pass protection was phenomenal; Xavier Thomas a former all-world recruit that picked a fine day to have his best day as a Tiger; they also really picked up the stunts well after the initial sack by Jeremiah Trotter.

Evenflow58: Um, they did win the game late. I think the WRs played relatively well and I don’t think the RBs were bad. No turnovers.

Jon Marchant: They weren’t great on the whole of the day, but zero turnovers vs a very good Clemson defense is awesome.

Jon Loesche: I’m hoping the staff specifically instructed Jordan to not take off and run due to his injuries. There were several times during the game where he could’ve taken off to make it a 2nd/3rd and short but chose to force a pass. Like NTAT said above, seems like he has been in his own head alot this season.

Juan: They made a lot of execution errors, but they did not make bonehead plays, if that makes sense. They beat themselves by not being at their best rather than shooting themselves in the foot. I’ll also add that I think Jordan Travis is considerably more hurt than this program is letting on. He missed multiple throws high in intermediate and deep areas, which usually is from not stepping into throws - which makes sense from a QB with a hurt lead shoulder.

Where does Florida State still need to improve the most on each side of the ball?

NoleThruandThru: The OL is concerning, particularly Jeremiah Byers. It appears the jump in level of competition might be too great for him. Getting back a healthy Robert Scott is more crucial than anything, because #63 has struggled quite a bit and it’s worrisome if he’s truly the best option at that spot.

On defense, the secondary is of primary concern. Kevin Knowles is a liability at times, Fentrell Cypress has been underwhelming, and we see fundamental coverage errors time and again with this group under Fuller. The slant is always open- hell, I could probably catch one at this rate. I worry about Riley Leonard and Duke carving this secondary up if adjustments aren’t made.

LSK: I’m concerned with the inability to get real push in the run game and I’m also slightly concerned with Travis’ decision-making when he’s not under pressure. He seems to need to be beat up to start taking what the defense gives him and that just shouldn’t be the case. This bye week is the perfect time to really hammer home the simple play is the winning play.

On defense this secondary is a very average unit led by a very average coordinator. Hopefully Akeem Dent is back soon they clearly miss him.

Tim: Biggest issue is they need to get healthy. You’ll see improvement with all your starters in place. Robert Scott could give them a chance to build up Byers. Never thought I would say this, but the defense really needs Akeem Dent in the secondary. And getting Jordan Travis healthy and comfortable may be the most important piece of all.

Perry: On defense, it really is the secondary for me — Fentrell Cypress is getting to the point where it seems as if teams are going at him, which is not what you want from a player lauded as one of the top transfer portal additions this year. Too many uncontested catches and open windows, and the inability of FSU’s defenders to close out tackles has turned far too many short completions to double-digit yard pickups.

Offensively, a break in tendency and less reliance on always needing to hit the deep shot — at some points, it feels Madden-esque where just because Florida State knows it has the guys, it’s going to repeatedly push the ball way further than needed. Travis’ health might be part of the reason the run game hasn’t evolved into a consistent threat, but that at least means the bye week is coming at a perfect time.

Evenflow58: While I think the defense can improve I think that results in only a score difference over the course of the game. I don’t think the offensive line is talented enough to improve much more and I don’t have a big problem with the receivers. Jordan Travis and Mike Norvell have to figure things out though. It seems that too often this offense boils down to a go route for an incompletion on first down and a counter on second that goes for a couple of yards. I don’t know if Travis is just deciding these receivers are open and throwing it or if it’s meant to be run like that. I understand why you’d consider them open (see Coleman, Keon in overtime) but Travis is able to consistently put the ball where it needs to be for these plays to consistently work. I’d like to see the run game improve but I just don’t know that the offensive line can do that.

Jon Marchant: On offense, where to start? This team can’t run the ball. Wouldn’t be as big of a deal because of these receivers, except there’s scheme issues with the pass game. And they showed today that they’re still going to struggle a lot with good pass rushers.

On defense, the secondary is poorly coordinated by Adam Fuller. They insist on playing man when they don’t have the players or technique to do so. I’d like to see more zone coverage going forward. Right now there’s just way too many explosive plays. It will cost FSU a game sooner or later.

Jon Loesche: As others have said, the offensive line continues to look really rough. Thankfully FSU won’t run into another defensive line of this caliber until a potential playoff date with Georgia or Michigan.

Cypress was really underwhelming in a game where he needed to live up to the hype out of the transfer portal. Dent needs to get healed up before Duke comes to Tallahassee in a few weeks.

Juan: Ditto on running the ball. I’m not sure if it can improve, but we can’t simply rely on Keon bailouts.