The Daily Nole

Column: Valiant Effort, but FSU Blew It at Clemson

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During what has been a disastrous season for Florida State, it is encouraging the team hasn’t lost its fight.

After losing 35-3 at Boston College on Oct. 27, FSU bounced back to beat Syracuse last week and put some fear into No. 4 Clemson on Saturday after falling behind 17-0 at the break. The Seminoles got as close as three before falling 31-14 on Saturday.

While the effort was valiant for an FSU team that has continued to persevere, make no mistake about it: the opportunities were there for Florida State to walk out of Death Valley with a victory and the Seminoles blew it.

Many will point to James Blackman’s interception on the first play of a drive after FSU forced Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant to fumble at his own 40-yard-line with the Tigers leading 17-14. The pass was picked off and returned 38 yards by Clemson safety Van Smith and from there, it took the Tigers six plays to find the end zone and secure the victory.

Although that play will draw the most scrutiny, there were plenty of other incidents that could have kept the contest from coming down to that. While it is true that Clemson could have taken a 24- or 28-point lead to the locker room had it not been for a pair of fumbles inside the FSU 5-yard-line, but the Seminoles didn’t exactly take full advantage of those opportunities.

FSU defensive tackle Demarcus Christmas recovered the first fumble with more than eight minutes to play in the first half to thwart that scoring drive, but the Seminoles had four players around the second fumble before a Clemson player was anywhere near it and still couldn’t recover it. The game probably doesn’t play out the exact same way, but assuming it does, FSU would have taken over after the Bryant fourth quarter fumble with the contest knotted at 14. It’s very possible that the approach at that point is different.

That however, is only the beginning of the miscues. On the opening drive of the second half for FSU, the Seminoles reached the Clemson 24-yard-line where they faced 3-and-1. After running back Jacques Patrick was stopped for a 1-yard loss on third down, Blackman delivered a catchable ball to Auden Tate that would have, at worst, set FSU up with 1st-and-goal around the 5-yard-line, but the ball bounced off Tate’s fingertips.

On Florida State’s first drive of the fourth quarter, Blackman bought time before firing a 3rd-and-14 bomb for Nyqwan Murray for what should have probably been a walk-in touchdown. Murray slowed down on the route before having the pass go through his hands and the Seminoles wound up punting. One could say that both throws — mainly the first — could have been better, but when a 170-pound true freshman quarterback is standing in against a relentless pass rush and continuing to make throws, capable pass-catchers have to help him out.

The positive takeaway from Saturday’s contest is that FSU hasn’t mailed it in for the year and showed that it can still be competitive on the road with an elite program like defending national champion Clemson. The fact of the matter however, is that the Seminoles have been competitive with good teams all season long and rarely have they been able to finish games out.

That’s something that good teams with winning cultures do. Neither of those two items apply to Florida State in 2017.

Despite the campaign having been a disaster, FSU looks poised to do everything it can to prolong it and the final three games are winnable. The Seminoles should have little trouble with Delaware State next week before taking on rival Florida, who has an identical 3-6 record, and closing with Louisiana-Monroe in a contest originally canceled by Hurricane Irma, but was rescheduled earlier this week.

FSU will need to win as many games in its final three games as it has through the first nine to prolong the nation’s longest bowl streak, but the slate isn’t that daunting. To run the table, Florida State will have to have some things go right, which has not been a theme in 2017.

What has been a theme is finding a way to lose the close games. The Seminoles had every opportunity to break the status quo on Saturday at Clemson, but instead, ended up with more of the same.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

One Comment

  1. mmccscribe

    November 12, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Clemson fans also argue that their guys “blew it” on several plays that could have put the game away for them in the first half. This is really a poorly argued position. A lot more credibility accrues from telling the entire story.

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