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October 19, 2013
CLEMSON, S.C. - Early in the third quarter Saturday night, as Florida State was scoring yet another touchdown to open the second half, the most audible noise in Death Valley was the FSU war chant.
It wasn't supposed to feel this routine, Florida State rolling to another lopsided win. Not against No. 3 Clemson, and certainly not on the road.
But that's exactly what happened. FSU's offense kept steamrolling on and the Seminoles stunned and silenced Clemson with a 51-14 win.
"It was nice and complete for us because it was something we needed to show everyone," senior safety Lamarcus Joyner said. "We believe as an organization. But does the world? I doubt it. SO this was an opportunity to show them, and I think we embraced that challenge."
Leading up to the game, much of the conversation focused on Clemson's raucous home atmosphere. But FSU took the air out of the crowd and out of Clemson with an opening blitz.
The Seminoles recovered a Clemson fumble on the opening play from scrimmage and needed just three plays to take an early 7-0 lead. The opening score came on a soaring, circus catch by Kelvin Benjamin. FSU's defense forced another fumble later in the first quarter and Mario Edwards returned it 45 yards for a touchdown as well.
"We talk about sudden momentum changes," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Being able to handle the momentum when you're on the road ... we were able to get it and keep riding it."
Lamarcus Joyner didn't give the FSU defense a boost as much as he single-handedly disrupted Clemson in the first half. The senior defensive back forced two fumbles and had an interception as well that killed Clemson's final drive of the night.
"Lamarcus is like the energizer bunny," Fisher said. "I'm glad he's on my side."
With Joyner causing havoc and FSU's defensive line getting into Boyd's face, Clemson's redshirt senior quarterback struggled in the first half with just 99 passing yards. Boyd finished with fewer than 200 yards passing for the game. Clemson coughed over the football five times and never found a consistent offensive rhythm.
"I just didn't perform the way I was capable," Boyd said. "As a leader it's my job to go out and lead and perform, and I just didn't do that tonight."
Fisher said FSU's rushing defense was the most critical factor in slowing down Boyd and the passing game, in essence making Clemson one-dimensional. The Tigers had 123 yards rushing on the night but only averaged 3 yards per carry.
"We were able to stop the running game, which got them in second and long a lot," Fisher said. "Then we were able to create some pressure and show some different looks in the secondary."
Jameis Winston and Florida State's offense faced no such problems. Winston racked up 242 passing yards in the first half alone and found consistent chemistry with Rashad Greene. Greene had seven first-half catches for 129 yards. Winston finished with 22-34 passing with a career high 444 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air. FSU's 51 points were the most by any opposing team in Death Valley, ever.
The result was a methodically dominant win, eerily similar to FSU's runaway wins against other teams. The only difference on Saturday was that stage was so much larger.
That type of performance in Saturday's type of moment - in the full front of the national spotlight, will likely catapult both FSU into the national title discussion immediately as well as vault Winston into the thick of the Heisman race.
FSU players didn't shy away from the challenge. Greene said the Seminoles were "second to none." Joyner also said he felt FSU could be the best team in the country. Even Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said FSU could be No. 1. Fisher, for his part, played coy.
"I'll let you all decide that," Fisher said. "But I love coaching the guys I coach."
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