Florida State was tested for the first time this season against Clemson, and the Tigers exposed a few flaws in the Seminoles' attack. But while the mistakes led to a an early deficit, FSU roared back for the win behind some star-making performances that should be remembered fondly come postseason awards time.
DT Timmy Jernigan, So. (Outland)
Jernigan had two tackles, including one for a loss, but was a force up the middle in the second half. As Clemson's offensive line wore down, Jernigan turned up the heat, and the pressure he got on Tajh Boyd in the second half helped turn the tide for FSU's defense.
S Lamarcus Joyner, Jr. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe)
His biggest impact came on special teams -- where his 90-yard kick return in the third quarter helped swing the momentum of the game in Florida State's favor -- but Joyner was also solid on defense. He finished with just three tackles, but it was obvious Clemson had identified Joyner as the biggest danger in FSU's secondary, and the Tigers' passing attack worked to avoid him. He was crucial in keeping Sammy Watkins to just 24 receiving yards on the day.
QB EJ Manuel, Sr. (Heisman, Maxwell, O’Brien)
Manuel turned in the best game of his career on perhaps the biggest stage of his career. His 380 yards passing and 102 yards rushing were both career highs, and it marked the first time since 1992 that an FSU quarterback topped 300 passing yards and 100 on the ground in the same game. For the season, he has eight passing TDs, one rushing, just one interception (on a drop by a receiver) and is completing better than 73 percent of his passes. Manuel was named the national offensive backfield player of the week and the Davey O'Brien player of the week for his performance, and he's vaulted to the forefront of the Heisman race.
DE Bjoern Werner, Jr. (Lombardi, Nagurski)
Truth be told, Saturday might have been one of Werner's finest games, but it simply didn't show up in the stat line -- which is often the biggest factor in the postseason awards race. Werner finished with just four tackles and no sacks, but he also had two QB hurries and broke up a pass. He played a season high in snaps, and he got a ton of attention from the Clemson offensive line, creating opportunities for Cornellius Carradine to get two sacks on the other side of the line.
DT Everett Dawkins, Sr. (Outland)
It wasn't the finest game of the season for Florida State's vaunted defense, but it was the tackles that helped turn the tide in the second half. Andre Ellington never broke the big run, and Boyd was routinely flushed from the pocket. Dawkins finished with two tackles but was a big part of forcing Clemson's offense to adjust its game plan in the second half.
CB Xavier Rhodes, Jr. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe)
Rhodes wasn't perfect against Clemson's dangerous aerial attack, but he wasn't burned badly often and he largely held DeAndre Hopkins in check after some early fireworks. Rhodes finished with three tackles and one pass break-up.
WR Willie Haulstead, Jr. (Biletnikoff)
Haulstead was held without a catch for the second straight game.
K Dustin Hopkins, Sr. (Groza)
It's not entirely fair to judge Hopkins' performance based solely on two missed field goals. The FSU kicker did a nice job of playing keep away with dangerous return man Sammy Watkins, who had just one decent return. But these awards largely come down to field-goal percentages, and Hopkins missed two that would normally be chip shots for the senior kicker.
DE Brandon Jenkins, Sr. (Bednarik)
The senior defensive end is out for the year with a foot injury, but he was on the sideline for FSU's win over Clemson with his foot in a boot and using a roller cart to move around.
LB Christian Jones, Jr. (Butkus)
Jones didn't have an awful game, finishing with seven tackles and a pass break-up. In fact, he made several big plays. But when Jimbo Fisher railed against the eye violations made by FSU defenders as Clemson opened up its bag of trick plays, Jones was among the worst offenders. In his first true test since being moved to the weak side, Jones was caught out of position far too often in the first half, but that's also part of the learning curve. Like the rest of his defense, he improved as the game progressed, but he'll need to play more disciplined moving forward.
LB Nick Moody, Sr. (Butkus)
With Clemson's high-flying offense, Florida State again spent a bulk of the game playing nickel packages, meaning Moody wasn't a huge factor on defense. He was a beast on special teams, however, and was a big part of FSU keeping Watkins and Co. in check in the return game.
ON THE HORIZON
RB Chris Thompson, Sr.
The senior tailback had another monster game, rushing for 103 yards and adding 79 more in the passing game, leading the charge for FSU both on the ground and through the air. He scored twice and had a third TD called back on a questionable holding call.