NCF Nation: Noles-Tigers 110709

Video: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd

September, 24, 2011
9/24/11
9:36
PM ET


Heather Dinich talks to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd about the Tigers’ win over Florida State.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- It was a fleeting thought that lasted approximately “a few hours.” That’s how long Clemson receiver Xavier Dye quit the team earlier this season.

It lasted until coach Dabo Swinney sat Dye down in his office and told him he needed to work harder, not walk away. The result was a hungrier Dye who has since added something to Clemson’s offense -- including a 43-yard touchdown reception in the Tigers’ 40-24 win over the Seminoles on Saturday -- instead of taking a piece way.

“I put a lot of hard work into this program, and they’ve been good to me,” Dye said. “I couldn’t just walk out and leave all the guys I’ve been working with, bleeding with and all that stuff. I was able to stick around, man-up, keep working hard and help the team out as much as I can.”

He’s not the only one.

Dye is a small example of the big picture here at Clemson. Unlike recent teams of the Tommy Bowden era, this team does not quit under Swinney. It didn’t fold after a 1-2 start in conference play that included an embarrassing loss to now last-place Maryland, and it didn’t concede anything to Florida State despite trailing 17-6 in the first quarter. Clemson fans have been conditioned to expect impending doom, but with each win over the past three weeks, the Tigers have taken steps to convince doubters they’re capable of more this year. The reward -- a trip to the ACC championship game in Tampa -- is now just two wins away. Clemson needs only to beat NC State and Virginia -- two teams that have combined for three conference wins -- in order to win the division.
 
 Sam Sharpe/US Presswire
 Clemson's C.J. Spiller rolled up a school-record 312 all-purpose yards.

“It’s a new group of coaches, it’s a new message,” said offensive coordinator Billy Napier, whose group has now scored at least 38 points in four straight games for the first time in the history of the program. “We recognize the fact that our preparation is going to impact how we play on Saturdays. It’s a new Clemson. It’s an overhaul. The message is different, and our players more than anything see the opportunity that’s been there in the past. They believe in the message that’s being given to them every week.”

It was the program’s biggest step towards winning the Atlantic Division, and it’s been a long time coming for a program in search of its first ACC title since 1991.

“Our fans deserve this win, our players deserve this win, and the administration deserves this win,” said Swinney. “Championship teams find a way to win games, and that’s what we’ve been teaching these guys. And they found a win to win, despite many obstacles. That team rose up in the fourth quarter and refused to lose.”

Not that they didn’t try a few times.

The Tigers missed three extra points and two field goals. They scored four times in seven trips to the red zone. And they had two turnovers and seven penalties.

At halftime, with his team trailing, 17-14, Swinney asked his players, “Why the long faces?” He reminded them they had an entire half yet to play, and they responded to him.

C.J. Spiller looked Heisman worthy as he finished with a school-record 312 all-purpose yards, and the defense came up with four interceptions for 82 yards. The Tigers finished with a season-high 483 yards of total offense, and quarterback Kyle Parker tied a single-game freshman record with four touchdown passes.

“We did take a big step today,” said wide receiver Jacoby Ford said. “It just feels good to get over that hump. It’s something we haven’t been able to do the past few years. This is a team that really wanted it. We knew what was at hand. We just wanted to go out there and play to the best of our abilities and get the job done.

“It’s definitely not over until it’s over,” he said. “Our goal is to get to Tampa. We haven’t punched our ticket yet.”

This year, though, there seems to be less concern about the Tigers losing that ticket.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- In the end, Clemson had two things Florida State did not -- C.J. Spiller and defense. Both were the difference in a mistake-laden game and the Tigers were able to assert themselves as the best team in the Atlantic Division with a 40-24 win over the Seminoles.

Spiller had another Heisman-worthy performance, and Florida State finally ran into a defense that could force Christian Ponder into mistakes. While it was a sloppy game for both teams, the Noles made the more costly errors. Now FSU likely has to win its next two ACC games to become bowl eligible, as a win over Florida in the season finale is unlikely. Wake Forest, though, is in the same situation, and a lot of pride will be on the line next Saturday in Wake Forest.

Not only is Clemson bowl eligible, but it's in a great position to play for the school's first ACC title since 1991.

Clemson catches a break

November, 7, 2009
11/07/09
11:02
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- In the midst of an interception, Clemson safety Rashard Hall tried to throw a lateral to DeAndre McDaniel, but instead found Kavell Conner who ran it back 29 yards to put the Tigers in scoring position at the 24-yard line. It was an odd play, but this time, Clemson was able to make something out of the Noles' mistake.

For the most part.

Clemson missed another extra point, but still leads 27-24. And there's way too much time left in this game (nine minutes) for any Clemson fans to feel comfortable. This game has been filled with game-changing mistakes, and it's fitting for how the Atlantic Division has struggled this year.

FSU's Thomas opening things up

November, 7, 2009
11/07/09
10:25
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Florida State running back Jermaine Thomas accounted for 19 yards and a touchdown on six carries to help give the Seminoles a 24-21 lead here in the fourth quarter.

The Noles are starting to look better running the ball here in the second half, and it has helped. Florida State was 4-for-4 on third down conversions on that scoring drive. Thomas and quarterback Christian Ponder are making this Clemson defense work. Thomas is averaging 4.4 yards per carry tonight and is on his way to a 100-yard game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Florida State did a decent job in the first half of containing C.J. Spiller, but good luck finding a defense that can do it for four quarters -- especially one as troubled as Florida State's.

Kyle Parker found Spiller down the sideline for a 58-yard touchdown reception that put the Tigers ahead 21-17. Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier and coach Dabo Swinney promised this past summer they would get the ball to their playmakers this year, and they've delivered. Spiller and Jacoby Ford are the keys to this offense, and they're making use of both of those guys for big gains today.

Spiller is already in my top five Heisman list. The only question still hanging out there is how high he should be on it, and right now, he's stating his case to move up. The Tigers have to hang onto this lead for that to happen, though.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- First, an injury update. Chris Chancellor has a lower leg injury. He’s being reevaluated during the break. Now, a quick look at what happened in the first half here in Memorial Stadium.

Turning point: It was first and goal from the FSU 5-yard line, when Kyle Parker was sacked by Markus White for a loss of a yard and fumbled. Dekoda Watson recovered it, and Clemson’s chance at heading to the locker room took a hit. The defense gave Parker and Co. another opportunity on the ensuing drive with an interception, but Richard Jackson missed a 38-yard field goal. That fumble on the five-yard line was as close as the Tigers would get to reasserting themselves in the first half.

What Clemson needs to do: Eliminate the penalties and capitalize on their red zone scoring chances. Clemson has five penalties for 40 yards. That’s surprising, considering the Tigers entered this game averaging just 4.6 penalties per game, which was fourth best in the country. Earlier in the year, when Clemson was struggling, it was in the red zone. That appears to be the case again tonight.

What Florida State needs to do: Continue to run the ball and limit the mistakes. Jermaine Thomas has been a bright spot for the Noles, and his success helps Ponder with the play-action passes and opens up other options in the passing game. Right now, though, FSU has only been successful on 1 of 2 third downs. Their three turnovers have kept them out of a rhythm. Ponder’s two interceptions are uncharacteristic, but Clemson’s defense deserves some credit for that.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- About those turnovers. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker threw a costly one in the first quarter, as FSU's Jamie Robinson returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown for a 17-6 lead. Mickey Andrews threw his hands in the air in celebration, and it's about time his defense gave him something to cheer for.

So far, the Noles have done a good job of containing C.J. Spiller and putting pressure on Parker. That interception was his mistake, though, as he had a receiver wide open. It's those kinds of plays that will be the difference in this game.

Role reversal for FSU

November, 7, 2009
11/07/09
8:02
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It was FSU's Greg Reid, not Clemson's C.J. Spiller, who had the impressive return to start this game. Spiller was stopped at his own 25-yard line on the opening kickoff, but Reid took off for 42 yards to give the Noles great field position to start, and it's paying off right now as FSU is driving on the Tigers.

So far, FSU is trying to get things started with its running game. Ponder has run twice now, and that's going to open things up for the passing game. FSU looked good running the ball last week against NC State, but they've not had a strong ground game against the better defenses. Right now, they're moving it on the Tigers, thanks in large part to good field position to begin with.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- The tailgating is in full swing here in Death Valley, and it’s a beautiful evening for it -- finally. It has rained at some point during each of the first five Clemson home games this year. If the game lives up to the pregame excitement and buzz, it should be a great one. The Atlantic Division standings are on the line, and it’s Clemson’s division to lose. FSU has some momentum, though, and can still sneak in. The Noles will move into second place with a win.


Here are three keys to this game:

1. Pressure on Ponder. This is the biggest key. Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder has been one of the top performers in the country in recent weeks, but only he knows how much pain he’s truly in from the bruised ribs he suffered in last week’s win over NC State. Clemson’s defensive line is one of its deepest units and biggest strengths. Their backup defensive ends are good enough to start for some other ACC teams. Guys like Kevin Alexander, Malliciah Goodman and Andre Branch are still going to bring the heat. Clemson leads the ACC in sacks.

2. Turnovers and penalties. These could be the X factor. Clemson is the least penalized team in the ACC. Florida State is the worst. All Florida State needs in this kind of game is a little bit of help from a fumble or an interception. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker has shown marked improvement over the past couple of weeks, but he’s also got eight interceptions and 10 touchdowns this year. FSU has a plus-four turnover margin, but Clemson is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to interceptions with 15.

3. Will FSU’s defense show up? It was an emotional week with the announcement of Mickey Andrews’ retirement, so you’d think the Seminoles would be driven to play for him in one of their most critical games of the season. You don’t morph from one of the country’s worst defenses, though, into one of the best in a matter of four quarters. What the Noles need to do is stay fundamentally sound, make their tackles, stay away from penalties, and limit the big plays from Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller.

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