Quite simply, the Florida State Seminoles offense was brilliant against Clemson on Saturday night. In the weeks leading up to the game, some analysts thought the Tigers defense was good enough up front to give the Seminoles problems, particularly in pass protection.
In reality, the pass rush was ineffective, forcing the Tigers to blitz frequently, which put the Clemson secondary in a number of man-to-man situations.
It didn’t work.
Here’s a look at my grades for the Florida State offensive unit.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston may have very well won the Heisman with his performance Saturday night. Many analysts wondered how Winston would handle the hostile environment in Death Valley, but he answered that with his first throw, a 22-yard touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin early in the first quarter. Winston was deadly accurate all night, fitting the ball into tight windows with great precision.
While his gaudy stats were impressive enough (22-34 for 444 yards and three touchdowns), it was his demeanor that jumped off the screen. Despite the deafening noise, Winston never looked flustered or frustrated. The Seminoles had a boatload of penalties, but Winston kept his composure and kept moving the chains.
The Tigers became impatient and decided to blitz the unflappable Winston, and they paid dearly. Of his 444 yards passing, 293 came when Clemson brought pressure.
All things considered, Winston has to get an A+ for his incredible effort on Saturday night.
Running Backs: B+
While the rushing attack wasn’t particularly productive (3.2 yards per carry), it served the purpose of keeping the pressure off Winston. The Noles stuck with the run early in the game and it looked to help Winston settle into the game. Devonta Freeman ran hard all night and ended up with 84 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Junior James Wilder Jr. left the game after sustaining a concussion, so his production was obviously limited.
One other area where the running backs excelled was in pass protection. With Clemson blitzes coming from all over the field, the running backs did a great job picking them up and giving Winston time to deliver.
Wide Receivers: A
This grade also includes the great performance that tight end Nick O’Leary had as well. Together, the receivers had a great night catching the ball, making Winston’s life a little easier. It all started with an insane leaping catch from Kelvin Benjamin on Winston’s first pass attempt of the night. From there, the Noles receiving corps looked confident and supremely talented.
Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw had a great feel for finding space in the Clemson zones and Winston put the ball on them. The unit also did an outstanding job with the run after the catch. No play signified that better than Greene’s 72 yard catch and run midway through the second quarter that put the game out of reach early.
Offensive Line: A
Coming into the game, the biggest concern for most Florida State fans was the Clemson pass rush. Through six games, the Tigers led the country with four sacks a game and had the national leader in Vic Beasley, who had nine himself. While the stats show the Tigers did eventually get to Winston a few times, for the most part, they did a fantastic job in protecting the freshman.
As noted earlier, Clemson ended up blitzing a good percentage of the time, and the offensive line held up. They weren’t dominant in the run game, but they did give Freeman a few cracks, which kept the Clemson defense honest.
The Seminoles offense scored the most points ever by an opponent in Death Valley. They did a great job handling the deafening noise and converted third downs all night. As a result, they had what amounts to the most impressive win of the college football year to this point.
B.L. is an ACC football writer for Rant Sports and can be followed on Twitter @coachlip or on Google.