Florida State started slow yet again, falling into a 14-0 hole before crawling their way back into the contest. After Dalvin Cook’s 70-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, it appeared as if the ‘Noles were on their way to a signature home victory. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson then pulled off more of his late game heroics, throwing the go-ahead touchdown with just over two minutes remaining.
QB Deondre Francois quickly led the ‘Noles offense into field goal range, but two straight false starts followed by two consecutive sacks sealed Clemson’s victory in Tallahassee. While Florida State’s performance on Saturday night left plenty of reason for optimism, it also showcased everything that has gone wrong for the ‘Noles in 2016.
#1: Dalvin Cook is still a legitimate Heisman candidate
Cook is on pace to break several Florida State and ACC rushing records after his 169 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 19 carries against Clemson’s talented defense. Dalvin ripped off runs of 43 and 70 yards on back-to-back carries, and his final touchdown with just 3:23 remaining looked to be the game winning score. Cook became just the third Florida State running back to rush for four touchdowns in a game and has rushed for 1,069 yards on the season. Cook is on pace to break his own FSU record of 1,691 yards (accomplished in 2015) and a big game against NC State could see #4 become Florida State’s all-time leading rusher.
#2: Florida State is still a talented football team
Consider this, aside from the choke job against UNC, Florida State’s only two losses came against two of the nation’s top teams, Clemson and Louisville. Also consider that FSU was in prime position to beat Clemson despite missing its top two safeties (Derwin James and Nate Andrews) and losing its #3 safety to a questionable targeting penalty in the second half. Despite the fact that Bobo Wilson went down due to a foot injury, Florida State’s young receivers finally saw the field and performed quite well (sophomore Nyqwan Murray led the ‘Noles in receiving). Florida State’s 5-3 record is disappointing considering the lofty expectations for this team, but FSU has played a murderer’s row of teams through eight weeks, something many others cannot say.
#3: The offensive line just isn’t good
Call it how it is: Florida State’s offensive line is not a good unit. After a disappointing 2015 season followed by a summer full of hype, the ‘Noles OL simply hasn’t improved after numerous players and coaches convinced fans otherwise. Deondre Francois is truly lucky not to be injured after taking numerous beatings this season. Much of FSU’s success in 2016 has come in spite of the offensive line play, which makes Dalvin Cook’s season all the more impressive. Clemson’s defensive line is arguably the best in the country, but the numerous false starts (two of which occurred on the final drive) are a product of bad coaching. Nothing is official, but it appears as if Rick Trickett could be coaching for his job in these last five contests.