The Florida State Seminoles outlasted the Clemson Tigers, 49-37, in what was an incredible display of offense by both sides.
Defense was obviously not a theme in this game, despite the fact that FSU has one of the better defenses in the nation.
Clemson came out of the gate red hot, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter. Tajh Boyd launched a 60-yard bomb to DeAndre Hopkins to start the scoring in a sign of things to come.
Florida State was able to answer almost every time Clemson scored. Two touchdown runs in the first half kept the Seminoles in this game as the rest of their offense caught up with the scoring trend in the second half.
In the second half, FSU's defense woke up and began to play to their potential. FSU was able to penetrate Clemson's offensive line much more effectively, putting a ton of pressure on the Boyd and the Tigers offense.
Florida State matched Clemson's entire first half output in the third quarter alone. E,J. Manuel threw two touchdown passes in the quarter while Chris Thompson accounted for the third.
After putting up a big fat donut for much of the fourth quarter thanks, Clemson was unable to keep up with the Seminoles' offensive explosion despite a late touchdown that was far too little and late.
The win for FSU couldn't have been a better sign for the program moving forward. We all know what they can do defensively, but now FSU has an offense to be reckoned with that can pick up the slack if the defense has an off night.
Tony Barnhart of CBSSports.com set the stage for this game by referencing what happened when these two teams met last season:
Nobody has better skill than Clemson. Boyd, Watkins torched FSU a year ago 35-30. But FSU defense has held 11 straight under 20 pts.— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) September 22, 2012
The thoughts of ESPN's official Twitter page:
There’s a track meet going on right now. It’s called Clemson vs. FSU.— ESPN (@espn) September 23, 2012
Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports gave props to Clemson's offensive coordinator for his approach against FSU's defense:
Clemson has popped FSU's touted D for TD drives of 75 and 79 yards first two possessions. Love what Chad Morris has dialed up.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) September 23, 2012
J.A. Adande of ESPN let us know why this game was still worth watching despite it being out of reach in the fourth quarter:
Only thing keeping this FSU-Clemson game on the screen is wanting to see what these #FSU running backs do next.— J.A. Adande (@jadande) September 23, 2012
Grades for Key Florida State Players
E.J. Manuel: A+
Manuel was nothing short of brilliant in this game for the Seminoles.
Manuel was 27-of-35 for a career-high 380 yards and two touchdowns through the air, both in the Seminoles' 21-point third quarter. On the ground, Manuel ran the ball 11 times for a sensational 102 yards.
Florida State was expected to be leaning on their defense in this game, but Manuel took the game into his own hands once it was clear that his team's defense wouldn't be able to hold off Clemson's potent attack.
Thanks to Manuel, the Seminoles were able to bail out their defense to win this showdown. This game will at least put Manuel in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Chris Thompson: A+
Thompson's work against Clemson was a huge boost for Florida State's offense.
The running back carried the ball 15 times for 103 yards, good for 6.4 yards per carry. Thompson also got into the end zone twice.
But his production didn't stop there, as Thompson also caught eight passes for a team-leading 79 yards.
In the fourth quarter, Thompson's 27-yard score sealed the deal for FSU. With Thompson in the mix, FSU has one hell of a one-two punch heading their offensive attack.
Florida State's highly touted defense didn't look as advertised until the second half.
The Seminoles allowed 426 yards in total, and on top of that, FSU allowed Clemson to beat them with big plays numerous times.
A 52-yard reception by Andre Ellington and a 60-yard reception by DeAndre Hopkins to start the game proved that the Seminoles do have weaknesses on the defensive end.
But the fourth quarter was a different story for FSU. When they needed it most, the Seminoles defense was able to completely shut down the Tigers offense after they looked unstoppable throughout the first three quarters.
Grades for Key Clemson Players
Tajh Boyd: B
Boyd was on pace to have a game worthy of an "A" grade, but then the fourth quarter happened.
Boyd was 19-of-35 for 232 yards and three touchdowns, one of which occurred after the game was well out of reach. On the ground, Boyd ran for 44 yards on 18 carries. No doubt Clemson would have liked to get a bit more production out of so many carries by its quarterback.
The Clemson signal-caller tried to force a pass in the fourth quarter, hoping to make something happen. But Boyd would be intercepted instead, effectively ending the game for the Tigers.
The stalling of the Clemson offense and increased aggression on the part of the FSU defense halted Boyd's overall production through the air, and it was clearly the difference in this game.
Andre Ellington: B-
Ellington did get into the end zone twice, but his production on the ground left a lot to be desired.
The Clemson running back carried the ball 14 times for just 55 yards and one touchdown. Through the air, Ellington caught four passes for 87 yards and a score. However, 52 of those receiving yards came on one play.
Despite a promising start, Ellington was never able to fully get Clemson's rushing attack off the ground, which didn't do the Tigers offense any favors.
Sammy Watkins: D
Watkins is supposed to be one of the best receivers in the country, but didn't look like it Saturday night.
Watkins did manage to throw a touchdown pass and even ran the ball six times for 42 yards. But his five catches for 19 yards was a major disappointment for Watkins, who crushed the FSU defense in 2011.
There's no doubt Watkins is a great all-around player, but Clemson must make sure he shines where he's needed most and only his coaches can put him in position to do that.
Player of the Game
This one was easy.
Manuel was the center of the Seminoles offense in this game, throwing for 380 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing for 102 yards on the ground.
Manuel has certainly put himself into the Heisman conversation after this game and is a quarterback opposing defenses must prepare for if they hope to beat FSU.