Clemson vs. Florida State: Final Grades for the Seminoles' Win over the Tigers
Florida State may have looked sloppy in the first half against Clemson. However, the Seminoles lived up to their top-five national ranking in the second half as they pulled away to come up with a huge 49-37 victory.
That win put them in the driver’s seat in the ACC Atlantic division, and it was a major hurdle to overcome in the race for a conference championship.
QB E.J. Manuel was the star of the show.
Manuel entered the Heisman conversation with a huge performance, but he wasn’t the only Seminole who played at a high level.
Here’s a look at how Florida State graded out in tonight’s big win.
Quarterback Grade: A+
E.J. Manuel looked like a true Heisman contender in his first spotlight game of the 2012 season.
Manuel thrived on the big stage in front of a national prime-time audience, as he completely torched the Clemson defense.
The athletic dual-threat signal-caller completed 27 of his 35 pass attempts for 380 yards and two touchdowns, while also adding 102 yards on the ground.
Not only has Manuel now entered the Heisman conversation, it may be time to start talking about him as the potential No. 1 pick for the 2013 NFL draft.
Running Backs Grade: A
Chris Thompson and James Wilder Jr. combined for 256 total yards of offense and scored four touchdowns.
Thompson showed off his game-changing speed and explosive playmaking ability on a few different occasions.
Once the speedy senior back found a crease in the defense, there was no stopping him.
The coaching staff decided not to use Devonta Freeman tonight since he's still grieving the death of his brother. But the Seminoles rushing attack was just fine without him, as Thompson and Wilder both stepped up and proved to be key offensive difference-makers.
Wide Receivers Grade: B
Big 6'5'', 243-lb freshman receiver Kelvin Benjamin made the most explosive play by any Florida State receiver against Clemson when he took a shovel pass 64 yards deep into Clemson territory, which set up a Seminoles' score.
Rashad Greene and Rodney Smith were the two wide receivers who found the end zone, though.
Junior Greg Dent also contributed in a big way, hauling in five passes for 72 yards.
Tight Ends Grade: B
TE Nick O'Leary proved to be a valuable contributor in the passing game against Clemson.
O'Leary hauled in three passes for 48 yards, and also contributed in a big way as a blocker in the running game.
Offensive Line Grade: C-
Florida State's one weak link against Clemson was clearly the offensive line.
The front-five had numerous penalties called against them, including false start and holding penalties that killed a few drives.
Plus, it wasn't exactly the best game for center Bryan Stork, who was to blame for a fumbled snap in the fourth quarter.
Defensive Line Grade: B-
Florida State's defensive line got pushed around in the first half, and the unit allowed Clemson RB Andre Ellington to look like a star early on in the game.
However, the Seminoles front-four really tightened up in the second half.
Ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine both continued to look like beasts against the Tigers.
Linebackers Grade: B-
Just like the defensive line, Florida State's linebacker corps has to assume some of the blame for letting Clemson's offense drive down the field without much of a problem in the first half.
The Seminoles linebacker corps looked much better in the second half, though.
Christian Jones was the most impressive linebacker of the game.
Jones stuck his helmet in on some key stops in the running game, and he also looked surprisingly strong in pass coverage. He was able to stick with speedy receivers like Sammy Watkins on crucial passing plays late in the game.
Defensive Backs Grade: B-
Florida State's defensive backfield had its fair share of truly terrible plays against Clemson, especially in the first half.
There was the 60-yard bomb to DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown on just the fourth play of the game. Then later, there was of course the trick double-pass play from Sammy Watkins to Andre Ellington for a 52-yard touchdown.
Overall, though, the Seminoles secondary made some key plays down the stretch that helped Florida State seal the win, with the most notable being Nick Waisome's late interception.
Special Teams Grade: C+
Florida State's special teams certainly didn't look very special tonight.
Dustin Hopkins missed both of his field goal attempts. Plus, Rashad Greene fumbled a punt return that allowed Clemson to score a touchdown.
The outstanding 90-yard kickoff return by Lamacus Joyner and the well-placed punt by freshman Cason Beatty that pinned Clemson at its own 9-yard line helped make up for those key mistakes, though.
Coaching Grade: B
During the live in-game grades portion of this slideshow, I talked about the adjustments that defensive coordinator Mark Stoops had to make at half time after a poor performance in the first half.
Stoops made all the necessary adjustments he needed to and the Florida State defense came out and played with a lot of passion and persistence in the second half.
Overall, the Seminoles certainly weren't the most disciplined football team tonight. But they got the job done on the big stage, which is something they weren't able to do against Oklahoma last year.
Coach Jimbo Fisher finally has a statement win to put on his head-coaching resume.
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