CLEMSON, N.C. – Whatever might have been ailing the Clemson Tigers over the past few weeks seems to have been cured.
Florida State, meanwhile, still has plenty of work to do as it continues on its journey back to national prominence.
The No. 2 Tigers, a one-point winner their last time out, returned to form at FSU’s expense on Saturday, scoring the first 42 points in a 45-14 victory over the Seminoles on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Tamorrion Terry and Khalan Laborn each scored second-half touchdowns for FSU, which lost for the first time in three games. The Seminoles (3-3, 2-2 ACC) must bounce back quickly, as another road date against a ranked conference opponent awaits next week at No. 19 Wake Forest.
“Disappointing loss,” FSU head coach Willie Taggart said. “I thought we had a good week of practice, had a good game plan, and we didn’t play the way we wanted to do, the way thought we should and would play.
“Clemson’s a really good football team. … We had to play our best in order to beat them, and we didn’t.”
As expected, James Blackman and Alex Hornibrook took turns quarterbacking the FSU offense, although neither found much success against a Clemson team (6-0, 3-0) that came into the game ranked sixth nationally in total defense.
The two combined for 150 yards on 17-of-35 passing, but also combined for three interceptions that the Tigers converted into 14 points. Hornibrook’s 64-yard touchdown pass to Terry midway through the third quarter put the Seminoles on the board.
Laborn followed up a little while later with a 40-yard scoring run that marked the redshirt sophomore’s first collegiate touchdown.
“We never quit,” FSU defensive tackle Marvin Wilson said. “All the way to the buzzer, we never quit.”
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence was 17-of-25 for 170 yards, three touchdowns and one interception before giving way to reserve Chase Brice in the third quarter. He found a favorite target in Justyn Ross, who caught five passes for 61 yards and two scores.
And running back Travis Etienne carried 17 times for 127 yards to lead a Clemson rushing attack that amassed more than 300 yards.
“We’ve got to do a better job of stopping the run and setting the edge,” said defensive end Janarius Robinson, who made four tackles for loss after serving a first-half suspension for a prior targeting penalty.
“Just got knocked back to earth,” Wilson said. “Got to get back in the lab, get back to it.”
The Seminoles finished with statistical deficiencies suggestive of the final margin. They gained 253 yards of total offense (compared to 552 for Clemson), had 10 first downs (31), a 2-13 mark on third down and four turnovers (two).
They had previously gone three consecutive games without giving the ball away, their longest such streak in four years.
“We just didn’t make the plays,” Taggart said. “We didn’t execute. Turned the ball over. We can’t turn the ball over and expect to win.
“Gave up some explosive plays there. Can’t do that. We didn’t play well. We didn’t execute at all.”
And FSU suffered another significant setback in the second quarter, when receiver Keyshawn Helton suffered a knee injury while defending a Clemson interception return.
The sophomore is FSU’s second-leading receiver.
“Unfortunately, Keyshawn hurt his knee,” Taggart said, “and he’ll probably be out for the season.”
Good news was in short supply on Saturday, but the Seminoles did receive a little when offensive linemen Jauan Williams and Cole Minshew returned to the lineup for a handful of snaps.
Williams, who entered the season as FSU’s starting left tackle, hadn’t played since injuring his ankle during the Seminoles’ win over ULM in Week 2. And Minshew, a 23-game starter, had missed eight consecutive games dating back to last season.
Otherwise, the Seminoles left Clemson without much more than a desire to move on.
“Got to come back,” Wilson said. “Twenty-four-hour rule. Just like a win, 24-hour rule. You don’t throw it all away. You’ve got to face it. You’ve got to be a man about it and get certain stuff corrected and go on to the next team.”