First of all, nobody can take away how good of a game plan the Clemson Tigers had for their game against the Florida State Seminoles. The offense was incredible led by true freshman Sammy Watkins and the defense did nothing but apply pressure to freshman quarterback Clint Trickett.
Here are the issues with this game. For starters, why did E.J. Manuel not play? A sprained left shoulder? Really? Not questioning his toughness, but if that was the only thing wrong with him, he probably should have played. Manuel was supposed to be the new leader to this team and to Christian Ponder's credit, if that was the only thing wrong with Ponder, he would have played through the pain. He had his elbow drained every week last season and that problem was much worse than a sprained shoulder on a non-throwing arm.
Then there's Greg Reid. The knee injury he suffered in the first quarter of the Oklahoma last week was apparently so severe that he was able to finish that game, but he wasn't able to play against Clemson. That's a little to confusing. Why would he finish that game, but sit out this one? Did he tweak the knee during practice? Even the announcers were confused with him sitting out. Is he saving himself for Wake Forest?
Now to the glaring issues. The running game is non-existent and that's because the offensive line is absolutely terrible when it comes to run blocking. The worst part is that left tackle Andrew Datko and right tackle Zebrie Sanders have so much experience, yet they still don't know how to run block. Then there's the pass protection. The last play of the game on 4th and 9, these tackles let Trickett get sacked. How can you not get amped up for a do or die play to keep the possible win alive?
Defensively, they should study this film the rest of the season and look at nearly every offensive series that Clemson had and pick out dozens of problems because the Florida State defense did not show up for this contest, especially the linebackers and secondary.
Can Florida State still win the ACC?
The defense gave up 455 yards to Clemson, but they gave up only 310 to Oklahoma. That's 310 yards to the No. 1 team in the country and Landry Jones is a far better quarterback than Tajh Boyd. On top of that, they gave up 141 yards and two touchdowns to Watkins, but held Ryan Broyles, arguably the best receiver in the country, to just 55 yards receiving and no touchdowns.
There's something wrong with that picture. Obviously having Reid out of the game hurt, but Mike Harris and Xavier Rhodes were still playing. Did they forget how to cover?
Linebackers Nigel Bradham, Vince Williams and Christian Jones didn't seem to have a clue who to cover and Brandon Jenkins still hasn't shown up this year. Put all of that together and end up with a loss, not to mention all of the senseless penalties that high school juniors can get away with committing, not Division I athletes.
Offensively, give all the credit in the world to Trickett. He passed for 336 yards and three touchdowns and his only real mistake was an interception that Clemson didn't get any points out of anyway.
Trickett had hardly any protection and no running game to rely on to help him offensively. Is Jimbo Fisher to blame for this? Absolutely. Florida State had 15 total rushing attempts, four of those by Trickett which means the 11 remaining attempts were by Chris Thompson. Clemson rushed the ball 49 times and along with that they controlled the tempo of the game. They controlled every aspect of that game.
Willie Haulstead and Bert Reed are still sitting out, but Kenny Shaw comes back and plays after being knocked out cold against Oklahoma. Maybe this team just doesn't have any guts. Is it too early to throw in the towel on the season? Florida State sure looked like that's what they were doing against Clemson.
Should Clint Trickett start the rest of the year?
Death Valley is a very tough environment, but with a backup quarterback and an injury depleted roster, it's easy to see that Florida State could have and should have won this game if the key players had played. No running game, terrible defensive performances and a lack of discipline played their part, but at the core, if Manuel plays this game, it's a safe bet to say they win.
Florida State needs to realize that when they put that helmet on, it's supposed to mean something. They aren't there just to wear the jersey, they have to realize what it means. It means being unconquered. It means that they are representing a program that was built from the ground up by a genius in Bobby Bowden.
A roster full of five stars isn't going to win games. These players don't know how to perform in big games. They don't know how to seize the moment and they certainly don't know how to handle pressure and unfortunately for Florida State, that's been the case this entire decade.
Florida State's season is lost, that's safe to say because they were supposed to be going to a BCS game and while it's too early to say that now, all signs are pointing to that being out of the question. They have a long way to go in order to get back to where they were and the classic saying of, "There's always next year" will be said again for the rest of this season.
It's a sad day for Florida State. The season looked so promising and now it looks lost. One thing they can take away from this experience is that Clint Trickett should start the rest of the season, he proved that much against Clemson.