Seminoles dismantle Tigers, take over ACC driver’s seat

The Atlantic Coast Conference just might have a national championship contender after all.

In a rare night in the spotlight for a league starved for football success, No. 5 Florida State stole the show, becoming the first opposing team to score 50 points at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium in a lopsided 51-14 victory over the third-ranked Tigers on Saturday night.

The game was billed as a matchup between the ACC’s top two programs, each with a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback, a high-scoring offense and a stout defense.

The Seminoles, though, topped the Tigers in just about every aspect of a game that was hyped for a week and punctuated by a visit from ESPN’s College Gameday.

Faced with questions about how he’d handle his first taste of a truly hostile road environment, FSU’s Jameis Winston outdueled counterpart Tajh Boyd with four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) and a career-high 444 passing yards. Meanwhile, the Florida State defense forced four Clemson turnovers, including two interceptions and a fumble recovery at Boyd’s expense.

The Clemson fifth-year senior finished just 17-of-37 passing for 156 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked four times.

Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner forced a fumble on Clemson’s first play from scrimmage, knocked the ball out of Boyd’s hands later in the first quarter and grabbed an interception in the third quarter.

The Seminoles, who entered the game ranked seventh nationally in total defense, limited the Tigers to 326 yards of total offense, well below their season average of 514.5.

FSU receiver Rashad Greene had eight catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns and tight end Nick O’Leary added a career-best 161 receiving yards, including a 94-yarder in which he was dragged down at the Clemson 1-yard line.

The Clemson defense held the Seminoles to a field goal on that drive but couldn’t do much to slow down FSU the rest of the way. Clemson, which entered the game with the most sacks of any team in the country, got to Winston just three times. Junior Vic Beasley, the nation’s individual sack leader, was neutralized for just two tackles.

Winston threw two first-half touchdown passes and Joyner forced three Clemson turnovers on the way to a 27-7 halftime lead.

Joyner, a senior defensive back, caused two fumbles — including one on the first play from scrimmage — and picked off Boyd late in the second quarter. Florida State converted those turnovers into 17 points.

FSU defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., a 6-3, 277-pound sophomore, picked up a Boyd fumble and returned it 37 yards to give the Seminoles a 17-0 advantage that silenced a Clemson crowd hoping to break the world record for decibel-level at a football game.

Winston answered the bell with a 14-of-22, 242-yard effort in the first half that featured the two scores and also an interception. His 72-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass to Greene capped a four-play, 95-yard drive.

Boyd, meanwhile, often looked out of sync with his receivers and completed just 11 of his 24 attempts for 99 yards. His 3-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins, in which Watkins had to make a falling, acrobatic catch in the end zone, gave the Tigers their only points of the first half.

Photo courtesy of CU Athletics

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