In a game where it was time to show up or shut up, the Florida State Seminoles showed up in dramatic fashion.
All week, the buildup to the game against Clemson had talk of whether or not Florida State was finally back—and by all signs, it's finally their time.
Led by senior quarterback E.J. Manuel, the Seminoles showed their true colors by putting up 35 second-half points after entering halftime down 21-14. That offensive outpouring locked up the 49-37 win over the Tigers.
All signs pointed to another Florida State collapse. In the past decade, the 'Noles would have shrunk in the face of turmoil, but not this team. Manuel put the squad on his back—with the help of running backs Chris Thompson and James Wilder Jr.—and led articulate scoring drives in the second half showing his true potential; potential that FSU fans have been waiting three years to see.
Manuel completed 27-of-35 pass attempts for a career-high 380 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding 102 yards rushing. This was truly a Heisman-caliber performance and one that will stick in the minds of Seminole fans for a long time.
While Clemson was pulling out everything in their offensive playbook in the first half—including a trick play where wide receiver Sammy Watkins connected on a pass with running back Andre Ellington for a 52-yard touchdown—the Florida State defense finally held their ground in the second half, allowing the Tigers to score just 16 second-half points.
Defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine were finally able to provide pressure on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. Nick Waisome and Xavier Rhodes figured out how to contain Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, limiting the duo to just three total catches in the second half.
The story of the game was Manuel. The leader of the offense proved why he's in the Heisman talks by delivering a star-studded performance, but it was the combination of Thompson and Wilder Jr. that sealed the victory. Thompson chipped in 103 yards on the ground with a pair of touchdown runs while Wilder Jr. bruised his way to 75 yards rushing on just nine carries while adding a pair of touchdown runs.
The offense put up a total of 667 yards, and while the defense struggled most of the first half, it was the offense that finally showed why this team is a title contender. This was the game that all eyes were on. This was the game that would prove whether or not Florida State even belonged at the top of the rankings and in the BCS National Championship conversation.
With a signature win now in place for Manuel, the sky is the limit for the rest of the season.
With away games at South Florida and N.C. State in the next couple of weeks and contests against Boston College and Duke before their much-anticipated trip to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech, it is hard to think this team won't run the table the rest of the year in the ACC.
Will Florida State achieve their goal of finally winning the conference championship and representing the ACC in the title game?
It seems that it's up to them to determine their fate, but if Saturday night is any indication, this team is ready to rise and conquer what they have waited so very long to do. This is a team to be reckoned with and it seems, as of right now, the only thing standing in their way is themselves.