QUARTERBACK- After shredding the Maryland defense last weekend, Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler came back down to earth against Florida State. The Seminoles limited the sophomore to only 102-yards passing on 9-22 attempts while holding him to 86-yards on the ground in 24 carries. Even with less than spectacular statistics, Dantzler deserves credit for avoiding critical turnovers in the face of a furious Seminole pass rush. In short, Dantzler wasn’t spectacular but he did enough to keep the Tigers in the game.
RUNNING BACKS- One needs to look only as far as the post-game statistics to see that Travis Zachery had a rough night against Florida State. Take away his longest run of the night (a 13-yard scamper in the second quarter) and Zachery gained a mere 32-yards on twelve carries. Quite simply, the holes weren’t there and the Seminole defense was much too quick for Zachery to escape to the outside. Zachery is an effective running back, but without blocking, he becomes average at best.
WIDE RECEIVERS- Peter Warrick is a great talent, but chances were that he wasn’t the best pure wide receiver in Death Valley on Saturday night. Rod Gardner has evolved into a nearly unstoppable force for the Tigers and a terror for opposing defensive secondaries. Florida State couldn’t stop the 6-3 Gardner from bullying his way past their smaller defensive backs for six catches. Despite only gaining 46-yards, Gardner snatched anything thrown his way. Mal Lawyer broke loose for a 49-yard reception while Brian Wofford went without a catch for the first time this season.
OFFENSIVE LINE- It was no surprise that the Tigers couldn’t move the ball on the ground against the athletic Seminole defense. The Clemson offensive line simply doesn’t have the experience or size to compete against a unit that can match their quickness. Regardless, the Tiger front five performed well enough to give Dantzler decent time and Clemson ended up with a respectable 126-yards on the ground against a team that had only allowed 80.3-yards in seven previous games.
DEFENSIVE LINE- The Clemson defensive front bounced back from two miserable performances against Maryland and NC State with a respectable outing against Florida State. While the Clemson coaches would have ideally like to have put more pressure on Seminole quarterback Chris Weinke, the Tigers did break through and rattle the junior on a few occasions. In short, they weren’t great, but the Tiger defensive line could have been a whole lot worse.
LINEBACKERS- After a relatively quiet performance against Maryland, Keith Adams returned to form again Florida State with a sack and two tackles for loss. Altroy Bodrick came through with another strong outing, recording nine tackles and a huge third down sack that pushed back a Seminole field goal attempt. While Florida State made adjustments to nullify the blitzing Tiger linebackers in the second half, the efforts of Adams, Bodrick and Chad Carson in the first half alone warranted a high mark.
DEFENSIVE BACKS- The Clemson secondary showed Saturday night that it is among the nation’s elite. Cornerbacks Alex Ardley and Dextra Polite combined to break up five passes while Polite thwarted a Florida State scoring opportunity at the end of the first half with an interception in the end zone. Robert Carswell again led the Tigers with 14 tackles as Clemson held the Florida State offense 91-yards below their season average.
SPECIAL TEAMS- On one hand, Ryan Romano booted eight punts for an impressive 42-yard average on Saturday night and the Tiger punt coverage was excellent. On the other, Clemson again failed to cash in on a late field goal attempt that would have sent the game into overtime. Herein lies one of the many differences between a #1-ranked program and team struggling at 3-4: When Florida State’s Sebastion Janikowsi misses a field goal, it’s a surprise. When Clemson kickers make a field goal, it’s a surprise. The Tiger’s have the snap and the hold down pat. Now it’s time to find a kicker.
COACHING- Fake punts, a receiver throwing to the quarterback on a reverse play, wild blitzing- the Clemson coaches emptied out their playbooks on both sides of the ball. It’s hard to criticize Tommy Bowden for being too conservative with two minutes remaining considering that the Tigers played like the Harlem Globetrotters for the better part of 57-minutes. None the less, Clemson fans walked out of Death Valley shaking their heads while trying understand Tommy Bowden’s decision to kick a field goal on fourth and one. With a better fourth down conversion percentage (60%) than field goal kicking percentage (50%) on the season, Bowden’s decision was perplexing, especially considering the circumstances. Regardless, Clemson came out of the gate looking crisp and the Tigers were able to hold their own against a vastly more talented team. In particular, Reggie Herring’s defense rose to the challenge of playing against the 13th best offense in the nation. Herring kept Weinke and the Seminoles guessing with cleverly disguised coverages and a variety of blitz packages. Once again, Clemson showed that it can contain passing offenses. Whether the Tigers can shut down a ground attack remains to be seen.
Grade: A- (B+ for offense, A for defense)