Dexter Lawrence did not play today because he is in a walking boot from his lingering injury. Kendall Joseph is not playing either, so JD Davis is the starting weak side linebacker. This pushed Jabril Robinson in the starting lineup while giving Huggins and Pinckney more time.
Both offenses started off sluggish, but Clemson has found their momentum while FSU has 46 total yards (12 coming on one Cam Akers rush).
Clemson’s crowd was energized when Clemson exploited the defensive line matchup early. Sam Blackman fumbled on a third down 12-yard sack and fumble recovery by Tre Lamar that gave Clemson the ball at the 20-yard line.
Kelly Bryant put the ball in the end zone on a 3rd and 2 inside run, as he and Etienne bowled over FSU defenders on five consecutive rushes (one pass to start the drive). That was his tenth rushing touchdown of the year.
FSU needed to create turnovers and score on short fields to win as an underdog, but instead Clemson forced the turnover and took advantage of the short field to score seven with 2:51 left in the first quarter.
Florida State let Clemson drive all the way to the three-yard line before recovering a Tavien Feaster fumble on a miscommunication.
Ray Ray McCloud made another momentum turning play when he returned the ensuing punt from FSU’s end zone 35 yards to Clemson’s 28-yard line. Travis Etienne finished what McCloud started by rushing 28 yards up the middle for six points untouched.
Clemson marched into the red zone again before a Kelly Bryant fumble forced the Tigers to settle for an Alex Spence field goal. The 26-yard field goal happened with 1:39 left in the half to make the score 17-0.
Clemson has had four chunk plays this half for a combined 111 of 183 yards. (two rushing, two passing).
Player of the Half: After starting slow, Kelly Bryant has taken advantage of Charles Kelly’s struggling FSU defense. He has completed 12 of 15 passes for 80 yards while rushing for 41 yards and a score. He has placed two longer passes in stride, improving on his performance last week where he missed several deep balls. He is responsible for three of Clemson’s chunk plays.
Bright Spot of the Half: The entire defense is taking advantage of Florida State’s horrendous offense. The front four are the catalyst by sacking Blackman 4 times, and the back seven are feeding off their energy. Clemson has demoralized Blackman by sacking him four times without two starters in on defense. Furthermore, FSU has not crossed the 50-yard line today.
Areas of Improvement: Stop the inexplicable turnovers near the goal line. Even though the Tigers scored on their next drive when they lost the fumble (Feaster) and nailed a field goal when they recovered (Bryant), it still lets FSU hang around. Clemson should be up 21-0, and the game is not as close as it looks.
Plan to Win: Run the ball with Etienne, Feaster, and Bryant in the second half to wear down the game clock and let the defense do the rest. FSU’s offense is incapable of a significant comeback, so don’t give them a short field and hope. Manage the game conservatively, but play aggressively on the field. No gimmicks, no tricks, just a grind it out win.