EJ Manuel: Win vs. Clemson Shows Growth of Florida State Quarterback

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer ISeptember 23, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 22:  EJ Manuel #3 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates after defeating the Clemson Tigers 49-37 at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Trace back to E.J. Manuel's freshman season at Florida State and you understand just how far the Seminoles' leader has truly come.

Manuel exploded against No. 10 Clemson on Saturday in ACC action, going 27-of-35 for 380 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 102 yards on 12 carries, lifting No. 4 Florida State to a spectacular 49-37 victory.

More importantly, he didn't throw a pick and he led the Seminoles back from a 28-14 deficit in the second half.

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said, via ESPN:

They were mixing up looks and bringing in blitzes from everywhere and he made plays when he had to. I don't remember him making a bad decision all night.

And to think, in a span of three games during his freshman season, he threw two touchdowns to six interceptions against Wake Forest, Maryland and Florida.

Kinda shows you that hard work pays off, doesn't it?

Saturday's game was nothing new for Manuel this season, of course. Coming into the game, he had gone 42-of-59 for 525 yards and six touchdowns to one interception in three games. He's been a game-changer for the 4-0 Seminoles, who now stand alone atop the ACC Atlantic.

Manuel, ranked as the No. 2 quarterback recruit by Rivals.com in 2008, has shown great strides even if you look back to a strong 2011 campaign.

Last season, Manuel averaged 8.6 yards per attempt while tossing 18 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Somehow, he's found a way to make that season look like mere child's play.

Facing an explosive Clemson offense on Saturday, the Seminoles—despite exhibiting a strong defense in their first three games—knew their offense would have to put up some points.

Manuel and Co. did that and more, racking up 667 total yards and collectively rushing for 287 yards, including 103 yards by senior running back Chris Thompson. 

The senior signal-caller has become a leader Florida State can trust. You know, kind of like the guy he took over for, Christian Ponder.

One thing's for sure: This is undoubtedly E.J. Manuel's team now. The sky is the limit for the Seminoles this season.


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