Florida State football: Stock report after Week 4
It took overtime and several management mistakes from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney & Co., but the No. 4 Florida State Seminoles ascended to the top of the ACC with a 31-24 takedown of the Tigers at Memorial Stadium. The Seminoles’ win snapped a 7-game skid against Clemson and it was FSU’s first road win in the series since 2013.
Florida State (4-0, 1-0 ACC) did not take a lead in the game until overtime when Keon Coleman caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Travis, but that would be all the Seminoles needed after Clemson (2-2, 0-2) failed to get a 1st down on its overtime drive.
It was a mixed bag of results for the Seminoles otherwise. Travis struggled with accuracy at times, going 21-of-37, but he threw for 289 yards and accounted for 3 touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing). He showed toughness against a difficult Clemson pass rush despite an injured left shoulder and right hand. The running game was awful, gaining just 22 yards on 20 carries. Florida State’s revamped offensive line had no answers for Clemson’s rush defense.
Clemson gained 429 yards, but the FSU defense got a score from linebacker Kalen DeLoach and tightened up when it needed to during the late stages. There was a lot to unpack with this game, so let’s get started.
Player of the week: If FSU wins the ACC and makes the College Football Playoff, the DeLoach play likely will prove to be the most pivotal of the season. With the Seminoles trailing 24-17 late in the 3rd quarter and on their heels, DeLoach came in a perfectly timed delayed blitz to sack Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik, jar the ball loose and scoop it up for a 56-yard touchdown. That was just 2 plays after Phil Mafah put Clemson on the plus side of the field with a 46-yard run.
DeLoach, 1 of the few non-transfers among FSU’s starters, had 7 tackles and a pass breakup as well.
Low-key play of the game: FSU’s special teams have been excellent this year and Ryan Fitzgerald has been a big part of the success. The once-maligned kicker nailed a 48-yard field goal early in the 3rd quarter to tie the score at 17. This was a type of kick Fitzgerald might not have been allowed to attempt last season, but this year he has a new level of confidence to his game.
Biggest surprise: FSU’s run defense proved to be pretty solid. The Seminoles gave up the big run to Mafah and a couple of tough runs to Will Shipley, but for the most part the Tigers had to earn everything they got on the ground. Clemson rushed for 146 yards, but it was on 41 carries with a 3.6 average per carry. Take away Mafah’s big run and it’s 100 yards on 40 yards, an average of 2.5 yards. The reinforcements on the defensive line definitely have shown up in stopping the run game.
Biggest concern: FSU can’t seem to run the ball. The offensive line is average, but not as good as expected. Right tackle Jeremiah Byers took a beating from Xaiver Thomas for most of the game. The past 2 weeks the opposition has had a major advantage in plays and time of possession. Luckily the Seminoles have survived so far.
Developing trend: The FSU offense isn’t clicking. We’ve talked about the issues running the ball and Clemson’s defensive line deserves a lot of the credit for that. But the passing game was heavily regulated to jump balls at Clemson as Coleman and Johnny Wilson struggled to get separation for much of the game. The good news is things continue to work when they absolutely have to.
Also the FSU defense is starting to make plays. They have scored defensive touchdowns in 2 of the past three games and had six tackles for loss a week after recording 10 at Boston College.
Key stat: Clemson averaged 6.3 yards per play during the opening half. but less than 4 yards (3.7) in the 4th quarter.
First impression about Week 4 (bye week): The weekend off comes at a perfect time as FSU needs to reset after 2 big games this month that came with a lot of emotional buildup. The remaining schedule isn’t very difficult, but there could be some tricky roadblocks remaining. Right now it’s time to get healthy and work on tightening up some things on both sides of the ball. This could be a special season if the breaks continue to go FSU’s way.