|EJ Manuel recorded 482 yards of total offense and scored two touchdowns to lead Florida State. (US Presswire)|
FLORIDA STATE WON. After tailing by as much as 28-14 in the third quarter, Florida State scored five touchdowns on five consecutive possessions and held off Clemson late for a 49-37 win. The Seminoles were led by EJ Manuel and running back Chris Thompson - both seniors - in arguably the biggest home win of their careers.
HOW FLORIDA STATE WON: That matchup boasted Clemson's high-powered offense against Florida State's defense, but it was the Seminoles' offense that delivered the spark necessary to overcome the second half deficit. Florida State wore down Clemson's defense with their plethora of weapons on the outside, and hard running from Manuel, Thompson, and James Wilder Jr..
As Florida State opened up the playbook on Clemson's defense, Manuel emerged as the gas that makes the engine go. He finished the game 27-for-35 passing for 380 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 102 yards rushing on 11 attempts. The 480 yards of total offense account for nearly 72 percent of the Seminoles' team total. But while Manuel was the star we know, Thompson was the star we knew. The senior led Florida State in rushing in 2010, but missed most of 2011 after suffering a broken back in the early season loss at Wake Forest. After a year of rehab, working his way slowly back to the field, Thompson put his stamp on this season with 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
Florida State's nation-leading defense will be hurt statistically by the 426 yards and 37 points they gave up to Clemson, but it was their ability to make adjustments in the game that proved to be the difference during the 35-10 run to close the game. On five straight second half possessions between the late third quarter and early fourth quarter, the Seminoles forced four three-and-outs and intercepted Tajh Boyd. The averages may change their national ranking, but those numbers - particularly against Clemson - speak to the unit's dominance.
WHEN FLORIDA STATE WON: Early in the fourth quarter, the Tigers recovered a Florida State fumble while trailing 42-31. On the ensuing possession, Tajh Boyd was picked off by Nick Waisome on his second throw. On the very next play, Chris Thompson broke free for a 27 yard touchdown run to put the Seminoles up 49-31.
WHAT FLORIDA STATE WON: The must-win game puts Florida State in the driver's seat for the ACC Atlantic Division title and a return to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game. They likely proved to voters and pundits that they deserve to be a Top 4 team, but there are still plenty of potential pitfalls left on the schedule. While the win was impressive, the reality is that Florida State will not be "back" until they reclaim their spot as ACC Champions - a title they have not held since 2005. It was also the first time since 2000 that Florida State scored 49+ points against consecutive ACC opponents.
WHAT CLEMSON LOST: It will take a slip-up in two of the aforementioned pitfalls for Clemson to leap Florida State in the Atlantic Division standings and earn a shot at Orange Bowl redemption. Still, the Tigers should take a lesson from Virginia Tech and know that is not impossible for more than one team to reach a BCS bowl. The Tigers' were at an advantage defensive, lacking the experience and depth to keep up a strong start late into the game. Experience will come, and the unit can improve. This is a tough loss for Clemson fans, but as long as the Tigers don't let this loss travel beyond Tallahassee it should not ruin their season by any means.
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