- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
Slumped over a table, surrounded by reporters, EJ Manuel took the blame for Saturday's 37-26 loss to Florida. Given his four turnovers, he was right to do so.
But it wasn't all about Manuel, of course. As Jimbo Fisher said, it was a game of momentum, and the Seminoles had their share of big plays and disastrous ones, and Manuel was only at the forefront of a few.
1. Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine. The defensive end duo had a spectacular night, combining for 17 tackles, four sacks, five TFLs and a fumble recovery. Werner nearly singlehandedly turned the momentum in the third quarter with his dominant play, but in the end, even they couldn't stop the bleeding. Werner was held without a tackle in the fourth quarter, and Carradine left with an apparent knee injury, which Fisher declined to comment on after the game was over.
2. Kenny Shaw. FSU may have finally found its answer at punt returner after Shaw racked up 66 yards on three returns to go with a five-catch, 58-yard receiving day. Shaw's 26-yard return in the third quarter set up Florida State's first touchdown of the day.
3. Dustin Hopkins. It's little solace for anyone, but Hopkins turned in another strong performance and set yet another NCAA record. Hopkins booted two field goals, both of more than 50 yards. His 53-yarder in the third quarter was his 87th field goal of his career, tying Georgia's Billy Bennett for first all-time.
1. Manuel. There's no sense in piling on, and Manuel freely admitted his mistakes. Still, there's no ignoring his contributions to the loss, which were significant. The three interceptions matched a career high, previous set in just his second career start. The fumble came on a play when he should have slid. He missed a key throw to Nick O'Leary in the third quarter that may have gone for a touchdown, and he took a sack in the fourth to ensure FSU wouldn't be in field-goal range. Manuel's last game at Doak Campbell Stadium may well be his worst memory there.
2. The run defense. Florida State had been so stout against the run for two years now that what Florida did was all the more shocking. The Gators' 244 yards on the ground was the most allowed by an FSU defense since 2009, and Mike Gillislee's 140 yards were the most by any runner against the Seminoles since 2010. FSU struggled to keep containment, with a number of Florida's big runs coming via missed tackles and poor assignment football.
3. The ACC. Florida State lost to Florida. Clemson fell to South Carolina. Georgia Tech was smoked by Georgia. And so, for another season, the ACC has virtually no credibility on the national stage. Overall, the conference finishes the regular season with a woeful 7-19 record against non-conference teams from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences, including a 1-5 mark against the SEC. None of the six AQ non-conference teams the ACC beat will be playing in a bowl game.
13hDavid M. Hale
2dDavid M. Hale