CLEMSON — Fumbles, interceptions, missed tackles, blown assignments, even an ejection.
The comedy of errors wasn’t so funny for third-ranked Clemson in a blowout 51-14 loss to No. 5 Florida State on Saturday night. The Seminoles — as folks like to say in comedy clubs — killed. And the Tigers died the most agonizing of deaths in Death Valley.
“There’s a group of men in that locker room who are hurting. The coaches are hurting. The fans are hurting,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “But I can tell you this: There’s a group of guys and coaches in that locker room that aren’t going to give up. They didn’t give up tonight. We’ve got a lot of football left to be played.”
A game that was the fourth meeting between top-five teams in ACC history turned out to be a huge letdown for the guys in orange. Florida State (6-0, 4-0) out-finessed, out-muscled and out-everythinged the Tigers (6-1, 4-1) in a dominating performance.
“It was one of the better wins, and we’ve got a lot more to go,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
The Seminoles returned a fumble for a touchdown, picked off a pair of passes and had four sacks on defense. And they ran past and over the Tigers, who had no answer for freshman quarterback Jameis Winston and the rest of FSU’s high-powered offense that piled up 565 yards.
“We had minor mistakes, and we didn’t finish as a complete team. It hurt us,” said Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, who had eight catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. “They executed better than us, and they got the win.”
The loss leaves Clemson regrouping in the Atlantic Division, where FSU took over possession of first place. And it makes the Tigers’ chances of reaching the conference championship game very slim.
“As a Clemson player, it really hurts. But we’ve still got more at stake. We’ve got five or six more games left,” Watkins said. “The only thing we can do is lead the young guys. We’ve got to lift our heads up and keep leading.”
Things were so bad for the Tigers that they could not get into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter when FSU staged a goal-line stand with a stop at the 1. Things got even worse when Winston completed a 94-yard pass that set up a final field goal for the Seminoles, who became the first opponent to score 50 or more points in Memorial Stadium.
“You want your playmakers to step up in games like this,” Morris said. “They played hard, but we missed some plays that could have been made.”
Florida State jumped to a 17-0 lead and never looked back. The Tigers never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way as the Seminoles pulled away. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd went 17-for-37 for 156 yards with two interceptions. His fumble turned into the FSU touchdown.
“We all know what Tajh is capable of doing. We’ve seen him play here at a very high level,” Morris said.
“It was one of those nights.”