CLEMSON, S.C. – Brian Burns harassed the quarterback, forced fumbles and otherwise spent much of the afternoon in the Clemson backfield.
But for all the plays Burns made during Florida State’s 31-14 loss to the Tigers, the sophomore defensive end finished the game wishing he had made more.
Burns was one of many Seminoles feeling miffed at what they felt was a missed opportunity on Saturday afternoon. After a slow start, FSU rallied in the second half, and had the ball and a three-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter before Clemson shut the door and pulled away.
It was Burns’ fumble recovery that gave the Seminoles their best chance to take the lead.
“Still feel like I could’ve done more. I felt like I could’ve done a lot more,” Burns said. “I really think we should have won this game. … This was a game we let slip. Again.”
Although he might say otherwise, Burns certainly did his part.
From Clemson’s first drive, it was clear that Burns had found another gear. He forced an early punt by sacking Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant for a four-yard loss on third-and-9, and then went on to finish with two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
It was a stunning return to form for Burns, who by his own admission has endured something of a sophomore slump this season.
A year ago, Burns was one of Florida State’s most pleasant surprises. Playing as a passing-downs specialist across from star senior DeMarcus Walker, he racked up 9.5 sacks – the most of any freshman in the country – and Freshman All-America honors from ESPN, USA Today and the Football Writers Association of America.
Along with his performance, though, came increased expectations for an encore.
And, like the rest of his teammates, Burns found life without Walker to be tough. While he was asked to do more this season – FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said he thinks of Burns as a linebacker who can rush – sacks are still Burns’ No. 1 trade.
And he entered the Clemson game having notched 0.5 sacks, while FSU’s pass rush managed 14 sacks during that same span.
Burns’ effort against the Tigers, though, was a lot more like what he and the Seminoles had in mind.
Along the way, he put his name alongside some elite company: No Seminole had forced two fumbles in a game since then-sophomore Jalen Ramsey did it in 2014.
“This is just something that’s overdue,” Burns said. “I should have been doing this a long time ago. God got a plan, I’ve just got to keep pushing.”
An angry and productive Burns would be a welcome addition as the Seminoles look to run the table the rest of the way and reach a bowl game for the 36th consecutive season.
Burns insisted Saturday that he’s focused only on next week’s game against Delaware State, and then Florida and ULM after that.
But he also insisted that he’s planning on more performances like the one had on Saturday.
“Yeah, it finally feels good to break out, because I’ve been struggling,” Burns said. “It’s a great feeling and I’ll just keep going from here.”