Florida State announced itself Saturday night as the lead dog in the ACC. Perhaps the 49-37 win over Clemson will lead to even bigger things down the road. As for the game itself, we know that quarterback EJ Manuel was the star of the night. Manuel's multi-faceted style helped light up the scoreboard for 35 second-half points and 667 total yards of offense. Let's take a look at some of the other storylines from the game that came to life when reviewing the tape.
Skill position blocking
Before getting too deep into this topic, it is important to note that the Seminole offensive line was stout in the win over Clemson. Manuel was sacked just once, and the rushing game averaged over seven yards per carry. But more than just the five in the trenches, blocking was executed at a high level by Florida State's skill players.
It's safe to say that the level of dependability running back Lonnie Pryor brings to the table will be sorely missed after 2012. Whether it was a cut block on Chris Thompson's option pitch touchdown or a backside block on the touchdown throw to Rashad Greene, Pryor was in on seemingly every scoring play. With an offensive line that is now gaining confidence and handling its assignments, Pryor's value is becoming more and more apparent in the open field.
Another player worth noting is tight end Nick O'Leary. Although O'Leary made some mental mistakes Saturday, he did more than just release into routes and catch passes. The sophomore made some key cut blocks and seals, like this perfectly executed cut in the first quarter. While O'Leary is still growing in versatility, Saturday showed flashes of the progress he's made as a blocker.
Finally, the Seminole receivers again showed physicality to help runs with potential turn into runs of impact. It's hard to isolate just one play down for the purposes of a visual aide, as typically a camera shot does not capture the work of a receiver, but go back and check out some of the longer runs from Saturday and consistently the Seminole receivers are largely doing their job of either taking a defensive back with them on a clearout route or engaging their man with effective blocks.
This is a tough category for Florida State simply because Clemson's schemes were off the charts in terms of creativity and "gadgetry". Jet reverses, shovel flip passes, toss passes, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris tried every way he could to neutralize the straight up advantage of the Seminole defense. To Morris' credit, it worked on a few occasions.
One of the prime examples was this touchdown throw from Sammy Watkins to Andre Ellington. Clemson set this play up by throwing a perimeter bubble to Watkins just prior to the trick play, hoping to get the Seminoles to take one false step. In man coverage, the Tigers isolated Ellington against linebacker Christian Jones, who took the bait. With Ellington's speed and a highly accurate throw, the Tigers hit the Seminoles with what appeared to be a devastating blow to begin the second half. Check out the scheme below.
The good news for the Seminoles comes on two fronts. One, they'll not likely see an offense like this one again. Two, they've seen an offense like this one and can put it in the memory bank. The fact that Morris called this type of game is a compliment to FSU's athleticism. At the same time, the defense will be looking to avoid these types of coverage breakdowns as future opponents will likely implement creative ways to put points on the board.
Play(s) of the game
In a game that was this wild, one that featured different chapters within each quarter, it's impossible to call one play bigger than the rest. Instead, here are three.
First Quarter: Carradine sacks Boyd on 2nd and 11
This was a pivotal moment in the game of momentum. Clemson was already up 14-7 in the first quarter and found itself on FSU's side of the 50. With the crowd growing stale, Carradine came unblocked and sacked Tajh Boyd to put the Tiger offense in third and obvious. The Seminoles took the subsequent possession the distance to tie the score at 14.
Third Quarter: Joyner returns kick 90 yards
Again, here is a momentum shifter. After Clemson hits a 50-yard field goal to extend its lead to 31-21, Lamarcus Joyner helped FSU steal the momentum back with a burst up the left sideline for a 90-yard return. Manuel hit Rashad Greene for a score two plays after the return, putting the pressure back on the Tigers to match the score.
Third Quarter: Manuel to Smith TD
Florida State was poised to take its first lead, and after a booming run from a suddenly physical Chris Thompson went all the way to the end zone, the crowd's frenzy was quickly quieted by a holding call. One play later, Manuel found senior receiver Rodney Smith with a perfectly placed throw to the back right part of the end zone.
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