Florida State fell to Clemson 23-13 in a game that was tightly contested for the first three quarters. Unfortunately, Clemson took advantage of Florida State’s mistakes and pulled away in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. Despite this loss, we learned a lot about this florida State squad heading into the final stretch of the season.

For one, Sean Maguire had probably the worst game of his career, which is expected when you’re making your third career start on the road against Clemson in Death Valley. He finished 16/29 for 164 yards and an interception. The interception came on the second drive of the game in the red zone. Maguire was pressured and threw the ball up on a prayer, which was obviously the wrong decision. Overall, Maguire played a below average game, but showed the bravery to take shots downfield against this stout Clemson secondary.

It looks as if Maguire will be the quarterback going forward despite the loss. The decision to go with Maguire seemed to be based primarily on his knowledge of the passing game and the fact that Golson’s legs in the run game have been a moot point so far. Since defenses do not respect Golson as a runner and Maguire is a marginally better passer and has better knowledge of the system, the decision to go with Maguire is a smart one.

The receiver rotation continues to hold Florida State back offensively. Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield are great slot receivers, but Maguire had no chance of converting the long ball with Bobo or Kermit running deep. Florida State is hampered by its lack of big, possession receivers. George Campbell and Auden Tate are bigger receivers, but are not yet ready to play and, eight games into their freshman season, this is a big concern moving forward.

The offensive line started out strong and created a good amount of push against a physically superior Clemson defensive line. Unfortunately, youth and inexperience caught up with them and the defensive line dominated in the second half. False starts and delay of game penalties put Florida State behind the chains, which stalled drives. Overall, it was an ugly performance by the offensive line but not an unexpected one considering the talent they faced.

On the flip side, the defense got to Deshaun Watson early in the game. Derrick Nnadi, Nile Lawrence-Stample, and Demarcus Christmas all had very good performances in the game. Demarcus Walker continues to have an amazing season and created some good pressure. He also batted several balls down, which was a nice surprise. The freshman vs freshman battle of Mitch Hyatt vs Josh Sweat was largely won by Hyatt and Sweat was held in check throughout the night.

Terrance Smith’s return was clearly felt. The senior linebacker was all over the field making plays and the defense as a whole performed better with him back in the game. Florida State fans should feel a lot better about the remainder of the season if Smith remains healthy.

Overall, the secondary had a very good performance against the best quarterback and receivers they’ve faced so far this season. The defense as a whole held the high-scoring Clemson offense to just six points in the first half. Clemson’s coaching staff made some great play calls in the second half, exploiting Florida State’s defense on screen passes that extended drives. Despite this, Florida State’s defense had a very good performance.

Florida State falls to 7-2 with the loss, but still has a very good chance of winning double-digit games this season. They return home to face North Carolina State in their homecoming game and host UT-Chattanooga before traveling to Florida in their season finale. Next week is a very losable game against NC State and the ‘Noles will have to prepare for Jacoby Brissett, who will be one of the best quarterbacks they will see all year.

If Florida State goes 2-1 over their next three games and finishes 9-3, that would have to be considered a success in a rebuilding year. They’ll have a chance to get a 10th win in their bowl game, but 2-1 over the next three games has to be the goal moving forward.

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