CLEMSON — The Clemson-Florida State game was billed as one of the biggest showdowns in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
But a major subplot leading up to the game was the matchup between Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
In the end, it wasn’t much of a contest.
“He performed, he performed at a high level tonight,” Boyd said. “You could tell (Winston) was very confident when he stepped out onto that field. You’ve got give him some props because he played at a very high level on a big stage.”
Showing a poise far beyond his years, Winston, a redshirt freshman, easily outplayed his Clemson counterpart and now has to be considered a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy after the Seminoles’ 51-14 victory over Clemson on Saturday night.
Winston picked apart the Tigers, completing 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He also ran for a touchdown.
“Unfortunately for us, everything that everyone was saying about him before the game was accurate,” said Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “He’s a great player, mature beyond his years. He really executed their and managed their offense very well tonight.”
Winston’s quarterback rating was 197.6.
“He showed a lot of poise,” said Clemson defensive end Corey Crawford. “He played like a veteran. He obviously learned a lot tonight backing up E.J. Manuel. He came prepared to play.”
Boyd, who looked out of sync from the beginning of the game, was just 17 of 37 for 156 yards with two interceptions and one TD.
“Just wasn’t my night, I need to do better,” Boyd said.
The Clemson defense entered Saturday night’s game as the ACC’s top sack unit.
Led by defensive lineman Vic Beasley, who came into the game with a national-best nine quarterback sacks, the Tigers were averaging four sacks per game.
The Tigers sacked Winston three times, but failed to get the kind of consistent pressure they’d managed in previous games.
“We had a play here or there when he got in his face,” Venables said. “But we needed to be more consistent. We didn’t do enough to get him out of rhythm.”
Clemson had three sacks against the Seminoles. Beasley, who had just two tackles, did not record a sack.
“They double-teamed me, used a back to chip me sometimes,” Beasley said. “It was a frustrating night. I couldn’t make a play.”
More than a dozen former Clemson greats were on the sidelines before the game, but none drew a bigger crowd than the Perry brothers — William and Michael Dean.
Former running back Terry Allen, quarterback Mike Eppley and defensive back Terry Kinard were on the scene as well.
William “The Fridge” Perry and Michael Dean drew the loudest applause when they were shown on the video board. Fans swarmed around the brothers to chat and get photos with the former Clemson All-Americans.
Back in August, there were erroneous reports that William Perry had died. While Perry has suffered through multiple health issues, including diabetes, he was very much alive. He did need a golf cart to get around Saturday.
“Nope, I’m still here,” Perry said with a chuckle. “I’m OK, doing much better.”
Eppley, Michael Dean Perry and Allen served as honorary captains.
With ESPN’s GameDay on the Clemson campus for the second time this season, it was a perfect showcase for prospective Tiger recruits.
The Tigers hosted nearly 100 prospects for the game against Florida State.
The list included Gainesville (Ga.) High School quarterback DeShaun Watson, the top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation, according to Rivals.com.
Watson, who has thrown for more than 10,000 career yards, verbally committed to the Tigers back in February. Watson is the only five-star player among the Tigers’ 18 verbal commitments to date. Watson is the 23rd-ranked overall player.
“I wasn’t going to miss this game,” said Watson. “I can’t wait to play in a game like this when I get here.”
Watson said he plans to graduate from high school early and enroll at Clemson in January to take part in spring practice.
“My goal is to start next season,” Watson said. “The best way to do that is to get here for spring practice and show the coaching staff I’m ready.”
Clemson safety Robert Smith, a former Woodland High School star, recorded a career-high 11 tackles against the Seminoles.
Over the last three games, Smith has 29 tackles. Smith is third on the team with 46 tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss.
Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo kicked a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter against the Tigers. Clemson was one of just two teams that had yet to give up a field goal this season. Syracuse and North Carolina State each missed field goals this season against the Tigers. Coming into the weekend, Bowling Green was the only other team to not allow a field goal.
Sammy Watkin’s 3-yard TD reception was his 20th of his career. Watkins, a junior, is tied for second place with Aaron Kelly for most TD catches. DeAndre Hopkins holds the Clemson mark with 27 TD catches.
The 17 first-quarter points scored by Florida State were the most the Tigers had given up in a single quarter all season and the most since N.C. State scored 21 last season.
Clemson starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland was ejected from the game in the third quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Winston. Breeland will miss the first half of next Saturday’s game with Maryland.
Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner had an impressive stat line against the Tigers. Joyner finished with five tackles, including a sack and one tackle for loss, an interception and two forced fumbles. His forced fumble on Boyd in the first half led to Marion Edwards’ 37-yard return for a TD.
Florida State’s 51 points are the most points scored by an opponent at Death Valley. N.C. State had the previous record of 48 points in a 62-48 loss last year in Clemson.