Shaky outing 'learning experience' for D

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
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Tajh Boyd's third pass went for 60 yards, and with that, the shine was off Florida State's suit of armor.

After a year of hype about the Seminoles' impenetrable defense, Clemson found a work-around, racking up 37 points and 427 yards in a losing effort.

But there's a silver lining to the gaudy numbers, and Florida State's defenders have been quick to point it out.

"They were hitting a lot of big things on trick plays," Timmy Jernigan said. "We knew that was going to come. Teams aren't going to play us straight up."

Boyd's 60-yard bomb to DeAndre Hopkins was the first touchdown Florida State had allowed in 13 quarters. Clemson's final touchdown of the first half meant FSU had allowed more than 20 points for the first time in 11 games. Sammy Watkins' touchdown throw in the third quarter added an additional insult, but it was also a turning point.

After the trick play that had Watkins hit Andre Ellington for a 52-yard score, everything changed for the Seminoles' defense, which allowed just 31 yards of offense on Clemson's next six drives.

The key? The Seminoles forced Clemson to start playing it straight.

"When they got into their traditional offense and played straight-up football, it was nothing," defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said.

So the defense can take some solace that in a straight-up battle, it remained relatively stout.

On the other hand, those trick plays may well have provided a blueprint for how to exploit the FSU defense in the future, so the Seminoles aren't quite so quick to brush off the struggles as a fluke.

"It was a lot of gimmick stuff, but obviously if it worked, you're probably going to see it again," linebacker Vince Williams said. "We're going to have to address it."

From misdirections to reverses to Watkins' deep pass to Ellington -- the second time Clemson tried the play, actually -- the Tigers' bag of tricks was awfully deep. Future opposition isn't likely to have quite as many weapons, but that doesn't mean the underlying issues don't need to be addressed.

Jimbo Fisher said FSU's defenders were guilty of numerous eye violations -- looking in the wrong place and losing track of their assigned responsibility. That's a product of being punched in the mouth early, he said.

"It's anxiety to make a play," Fisher said. "All of a sudden, it doesn't go like you think it's going to go, or the defense hadn't faced any adversity, and sometimes you want to try too hard. You have to relax and stay within the scheme, which I thought they did in the second half."

It wasn't an ideal performance, and Dawkins said he's aware that some of the perception of invincibility may have dissipated with last week's performance, but he's not worried.

The next time the Seminoles see a few trick plays, he expects they'll be ready, and the task of rebuilding that intimidating reputation begins anew this Saturday.

"Now that we've seen those trick plays, we're better prepared for them. It was something good for us to see," Dawkins said. "This a game for the defense to come back and play another great game."

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