- David M. Hale, College football
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The hype built for months, but really, the questions about Florida State's resurgence had been offered for nearly a decade. On Saturday, however, the buzz finally intersected with reality, and Florida State issued an emphatic statement, toppling No. 10 Clemson 49-37.
From EJ Manuel's marquee performance to the second-half defensive resurgence, there were plenty of heroes. And throughout Clemson's torrid first half, marked by self-inflicted wounds by FSU, there were some goats, too.
Here's a look at who played the biggest role in digging Florida State's early hole and who made the biggest impact as they climbed back out.
1. EJ Manuel: In his long career at Florida State, Manuel's mark had been made by consistency rather than greatness. The big stage had largely eluded him. He's faced a ranked opponent just four times as a starter. But when Manuel got his chance for a signature game Saturday, he made the most of it, completing 27 of 35 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 102 more yards. He became the first FSU quarterback to throw for 300 yards and run for 100 since Charlie Ward in 1992.
2. Nick Waisome: If there was one distinct advantage for Clemson on paper entering Saturday's game, it was the likely matchup of All-American wideout Sammy Watkins vs. first-year starting corner Nick Waisome. Turns out, Watkins was the least of Florida State's concerns. Sure, he tallied six catches in the game, but none went for more than 12 yards and Waisome -- along with freshman Ronald Darby and, on occasion, Xavier Rhodes -- held Clemson's talented sophomore to just 24 receiving yards in the game. Waisome capped the performance with a fourth-quarter interception that set up an FSU touchdown and effectively secured the win.
3. The offensive line: Through four games, Manuel has been sacked just four times, and the running game is clicking on all cylinders. Even after beating Clemson, FSU's offensive line still hasn't been tested by a team with an elite pass rusher, but the improvement thus far have been nothing short of monumental. Manuel was sacked just once Saturday, while the running game averaged 7.2 yards per carry.
1. Dustin Hopkins: The preseason favorite to win the Groza Award as the nation's top kicker has had a rough start to the season. While FSU hasn't needed Hopkins to nail a crucial kick late, he's already seen his streak of 145 straight extra points snapped in Week 2, and on Saturday he missed two first-half field goals.
2. Terrence Brooks: Clemson's high-powered offense managed to expose a few flaws in Florida State's vaunted defense, but no one looked quite as bad as Brooks. The FSU safety was burned badly on Clemson's opening drive when he got turned around on DeAndre Hopkins' 60-yard touchdown catch and bookended the night by failing to defend a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Ford in the fourth quarter. In the end, Brooks finished with a career- and game-high 12 tackles -- but that was largely because Clemson kept picking on him again and again.
3. The offensive line: Yes, the line makes both categories this week. Overall, it was an exceptional effort, and it's clear the unit has taken a big step forward from a year ago. But if there was one complaint to offer about the offensive performance for the Seminoles, it was the myriad of flags -- and that started with the guys on the line of scrimmage. From a false start on center Bryan Stork to flags on tight end Nick O'Leary and left tackle Cameron Erving, the offense managed to shoot itself in the foot often. Overall, FSU racked up 11 penalties in the game -- one more than it had tallied in its first three games combined.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The hype built for months, but really, the questions about Florida State's resurgence had been offered for nearly a decade. On Saturday, however, the buzz finally intersected with reality, and Florida State issued an emphatic statement, toppling No.