What a game. I don't care how you slice it, who you pull for, last night's Clemson-FSU game was as good as it gets when it comes to college football.
As Jimbo Fisher said, it was two great teams throwing haymakers. Both offenses went back and forth exchanging touchdown drives and big plays. Clemson has their gadgets working, their misdirection testing Florida State's eye discipline while the Florida State ground game was too much for Clemson all night.
The resulting matchup has already been declared ESPN's game of the week and will get the replay treatment this week on ESPN U. Put it this way, no one was cheated last night.
Here are a few thoughts from the morning after:
-I feel like I jinxed Dustin Hopkins by writing about his drawing even with Sebastian Janikowski in all-time field goals at FSU this week. Hopkins missed both attempts on Saturday night, he's now missed three in a row dating back a couple games and also snapped his extra point streak against Savannah State.
Something seems a little off with Dustin Hopkins. Mentally, Hopkins is a strong kid but something seems to be going on with him because he's been a bit inconsistent during the beginning of his senior season. The harsh reality is Hopkins likely cost himself a Groza last night. Hopefully he doesn't end up costing the Seminoles a game down the line.
-Seminoles fans may remember Terrance Brooks for the blown coverage against DeAndre Hopkins to start the game, but credit him with a great performance after that. Brooks lead the team in tackles with 12 and was all over the field for Florida State all night. Remarkably 11 of the tackles were solo. When a safety makes 11 solo tackles law of averages says he probably saved at least one TD. I plan to re-watch the game this morning, I'll keep track and let you know.
-Chris Thompson continues to look like a new man. He's come back faster and stronger, with more confidence than ever. Watching Thompson run is truly dynamic, he's become a major playmaker both on the ground and in the passing game.
Unfortunately Thompson's best run of the night was called back. He pinballed for about 25 yards and a score in the third quarter before a holding penalty brought it back. The penalty isn't what sprung Thompson though, great running at the next level was.
-James Wilder Jr. also showed why he's going to be such a weapon for the Seminoles in his career to a national audience last night. If people knew Wilder before it was for his father or his issues over the summer. Last night people saw the talent. It's tought not to notice a kid explode through the line, barrel through a couple defenders and then carry the entire Clemson secondary ten yards out of bounds. Or watch him push the pile on the goalline a few plays later.
Wilder is brutal, to a tired defense he can be lethal. After Thompson's speed a guy with Wilder's power is tough for any defense to handle.
-Are people still worried about the Florida State passing game? 380 yards in the air was a pretty solid statement from the receivers and EJ Manuel about the state of the air game. Greg Dent (5-72) and Chris Thompson (8-79) lead the way with yardage while Rodney Smith and Rashad Greene added touchdowns. The pass was there for Florida State pretty much all night.
-The single biggest play of the game may have been Kelvin Benjamin's 64-yard shovel sweep on the first offensive play after Clemson had gone up 28-14. The play reinvigorated the crowd, got the Seminole bench up and started the comeback effort. Likewise, Lamarcus Joyner's 90-yard return the play after Clemson went back up by 10 was huge in securing momentum. The Seminoles answered big plays with big plays. Even after an EJ Manuel fumbled snap, Nick Waisome quickly got the ball back with a pick and the very next play Chris Thompson went for a score. That's how good teams answer.
-Nick Waisome is fast becoming one of my favorite Seminoles because he's highly quotable. When asked about his pick last night he said:
"If they took a picture of my eyes [on that play]," said Waisome, gesturing huge circles with his hands like a cartoon wolf. "They were probably HUGE."
-Finally, Tank Carradine continues to make a name for himself and shoot his draft stock up the boards. 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL's and a bunch of disruption. I think Carradine may have outplayed Bjoern Werner last night (certainly statistically) though in fairness Werner did injure his hand and was in a finger splint after the game. And that's to take nothing away from Werner either, he was excellent. But Carradine was a standout. In the preseason when Werner and Brandon Jenkins said Carradine was on their level, we now know that was not camp-speak.
Keep checking back for updates. I'll have things going up throughout the course of the day...