CLEMSON, S.C. — If No. 4 Clemson is going to leave Tallahassee, Fla., with a win on Saturday night, there is one thing it has do above all else.
It has to contain Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis.
“It will be a huge challenge this week,” Clemson defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin said.
Granted Travis is not the first difficult quarterback the Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) have faced this year. They survived Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman, while getting after NC State’s Devin Leary.
But Travis is a different kind of quarterback than Hartman and Leary. Travis can have as equal success throwing the football as he can running it, and that can make for a long night at Doak Campbell Stadium if Clemson cannot contain him.
Travis, who has improved immensely as a passer, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. In last week’s game at NC State, he broke containment and ripped off a 78-yard run.
The Seminoles’ quarterback prefers not to run the football, but when he does take off, he is very effective in doing so. He also uses his legs to extend plays, which is one reason why the Seminoles (4-2, 2-2 ACC) lead the league in explosive plays.
“Obviously, his ability to extend plays and him being a major factor in the run game with them makes it difficult,” Goodwin said. “His experience and how he has grown as a passer as well. He is going to be a tremendous challenge. We have to do a great job with scramble lanes and zone drops underneath.
“We have to have vision, so we can come up and tackle as well.”
Clemson’s best chance to slow down Travis will be to get pressure up the middle, which makes getting defensive tackle Bryan Bresee back big this week. Defensive tackle Tre Williams and defensive end Xavier Thomas returned last week, so the Tigers should be at full strength on the defensive line for the first time since the season opener.
If Clemson can push the pocket, then it will be important for defensive ends K.J. Henry, Justin Mascoll, Myles Murphy, and Thomas to shrink it from the edges and not allow any escape lanes to come open, where Travis does most of his damage through the air.
Through the first half of the season, Travis is completing 62.8 percent of his passes for 1,407 yards. He is averaging 234.5 yards per game with nine touchdowns to three interceptions.
Slowing down Travis will be even bigger considering running back and the team’s leading rusher, Treshaun Ward, is doubtful to play after injuring his shoulder in last week’s loss at NC State.
“They do a real good job in the run game, and they can attack you from downfield as well,” Goodwin said.
Florida State ranks second in the ACC in rushing yards per game, averaging 204.1 yards.