Deondre Francois

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No. 3 Clemson survives close call against Florida State to remain undefeated

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Florida State and Clemson have combined for the ACC’s biggest game of the year the past several seasons and while that was not the case in 2016, the pair still put on a classic in Tallahassee on Saturday night that resulted in a 37-34 victory by the No. 3 team in the country.

Deshaun Watson looked as though he was going to make some noise in the Heisman Trophy race early on but the quarterback came down to earth as the game progressed, finishing with 378 yards and two touchdowns to balance out his two interceptions. While he was still good enough for the win thanks to some late game heroics (and added 52 yards rushing), it wasn’t quite the same signal-caller we saw dominate the ACC last year until the Tigers were finally put in a tough spot.

We did however see a version of FSU running back Dalvin Cook that could make it to New York, dazzling everybody watching in the loss with three of his four touchdowns coming in the second half — two of which were over 40 yards. He finished with 169 yards on the ground and added another 15 on a pair of catches but it just wasn’t enough in the end.

Cook essentially was the Seminoles offense against the stingy defense of Brent Venables as quarterback Deondre Francois was pressured on just about every dropback and needed some help to finish with 286 yards through the air. His offensive line had a particularly rough night, costing the team with penalties on their final drive and then allowing killer back-to-back sacks to seal the result.

The victory moves Clemson to 8-0 on the year and all but seals the ACC Atlantic title to go along with a spot in the conference title game. The Tigers are ranked in the top four of both polls but have not exactly had a smooth path to their undefeated record this year so it will be interesting to see exactly where they wind up in the very first College Football Playoff rankings that will be released on Tuesday.

No. 3 Clemson holds halftime lead at Florida State in pivotal ACC showdown

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Clemson showed flashes early on of the team that made it to the national title game last season but couldn’t quite keep the momentum going as the Tigers held a 17-10 lead in the first half over Florida State.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson was extremely efficient on his way to throwing for 146 yards through two quarters, including a touchdown throw and an interception. He was also the team’s leading rusher at the break too, with 57 yards on a variety of scrambles and designed runs.

Wayne Gallman added another 28 yards on the ground and scored the Tigers’ first touchdown as the tailback returned to action from a nasty hit two weeks ago that forced him to miss most of the win over N.C. State with a concussion.

It could have been a lot worse for the Seminoles given the number of short fields Watson and company had but the defense rallied in the second quarter to give up fewer big plays. Deondre Francois was harassed in the passing game most of the half and couldn’t connect on much downfield, but did rally for a touchdown in the final two minutes before the end of the half to breathe some life into the home crowd.

Florida State star Dalvin Cook was held in check by Brent Venables’ Clemson defense, with the one-time Heisman Trophy candidate rushing for just 33 yards. He did find the end zone for the team’s first touchdown though and could be a big factor for the offense going forward.

It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments both teams make coming out of the halftime break as it seems as though the defending ACC champions were close to breaking this one open but the home team just wouldn’t let them. Don’t discount the Seminoles however, as they are certainly known for their fair share of second half comebacks and get the ball to begin the third quarter.

No. 23 Florida State blocks game-tying PAT to drop No. 10 Miami for seventh straight year

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In the storied history of kicking woes in the rivalry between Florida State and Miami, there should be room for one more. No. 23 Florida State (4-2, 1-2 ACC) blocked an extra point attempt by No. 10 Miami (4-1, 1-1 ACC) with 1:38 to play to hold on to a 20-19 lead. The Seminoles managed to run the clock out to win for the seventh straight time against Miami.

It was a wild swing of emotion as Miami fans thought for sure they had just tied the Seminoles following a beautiful pass on fourth and five by Brad Kaaya into the sure and steady hands of Stacy Coley. The touchdown was the first score of the second half for the Hurricanes, who had seen a 13-0 advantage morph into a 20-13 deficit in the second half. Just moments after the defense came up with a big stop and Miami got a fantastic punt return to setup shop inside the red zone, everything was slanted in favor of Miami. Until the PAT attempt played out.

Michael Badgley‘s PAT attempt was blocked and skirted left, leaving Miami down by one. With three timeouts to spare, it would be up to the Hurricanes to make one more stop on defense, but Florida State did not let that happen. Deondre Francois picked up a first down on a 10-yard run and Dalvin Cook added an 11-yard run on the ensuing possession to force Miami to use their final timeouts. Francois ended his night completing 20 of 34 pass attempts for 234 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Francois also was on the receiving end of a number of rough hits, one which sent him out of the game in the first half for a stretch. Cook rushed for 150 yards in the win as well.

Kaaya had the big touchdown pass toward the end, but Florida State did a good job of making sure he wasn’t on target for much of the evening. Kaaya completed 19 of 32 pass attempts for 214 yards and two scores, but was also intercepted once.

For Florida State, the win is the seventh in a row over Miami in the rivalry, dating back to 2010. Miami’s last win against Florida State came in 2009. Since Miami joined the ACC, Florida State is 10-3 against the Hurricanes. Prior to Miami joining the ACC, Miami had won five straight in the series as a member of the old Big East.

Late in the game, things got a little ugly, or trashy if you will. A controversial targeting penalty on Miami’s Jamal Carter led fans to litter the field with their garbage, causing a brief delay in the game.

Florida State snapped a two-game losing streak with the win, although it still remains unlikely Florida State makes a run for the ACC Atlantic Division. Florida State will return home next week to play Wake Forest (who is off to a 5-1 start). Miami will slip behind Virginia Tech in the ACC Coastal Division for now but they get a chance to change the outlook of the Coastal in the next few games. Miami hosts North Carolina next week and travels to Virginia Tech the following Thursday. Those will be two huge games for Miami.

FSU QB Deondre Francois returns from injury vs. Miami; Hurricanes lead 13-3

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Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois was forced to leave the game with an apparent right shoulder injury. Francois left the game after taking a hard hit in the first half against Miami, leaving the Seminoles to run the offense with Sean Maguire, although Francois did return later in the second quarter. Miami leads the Seminoles at the halftime break, 13-3.

Florida State’s first offensive possession of the game stalled at the Miami 34-yard line when Francois had a pass intended for Dalvin Cook fall incomplete after being broken up by Demetrius Jackson for a turnover on downs. Cook has rushed for 87 yards on 10 rushing attempts. After the teams exchanged punts, Miami was first to put a dent on the scoreboard with a 37-yard field goal by Michael Badgley in the first quarter.

Miami scored the first touchdown of the evening following an interception of Maguire in the second quarter. Brad Kaaya (14/21, 154 yards, 1 TD) dropped a dime into the hands of Stacy Coley, who managed to have his toe down in the end zone for a beautiful touchdown pass. The play was initially called an incomplete pass, but a video review overturned the call, which was incredibly close to going Florida State’s way.

Florida State avoided a first half shutout when Ricky Aguayo kicked a late field goal.

54-yard FG as time expires sends UNC past FSU, pushes Seminoles to worst start since 2011

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At some point, there will be a referendum on the state of Florida State’s defense.  For the moment, though, all that matters is The Kick.

Down by 21 points in the first half, and by 14 entering the fourth quarter, FSU managed to put 21 points on the scoreboard in the final period to stake the Seminoles to a 35-34 lead, including Deondre Francois two-yard touchdown run with just :23 remaining.  Thanks in part to a defensive pass interference penalty on the ensuing drive, the Tar Heels moved to what appeared to be the fringe of field-goal range at the Seminole 37-yard line; as time expired, Nick Weiler, whose blocked extra point in the fourth quarter seemingly loomed large in the game, said “fringe this” as he easily cleared the crossbar from 54 yards out as time expired to give UNC a stunning 37-35 win.

The loss in Tallahassee ended the Seminoles’ home winning streak at 22 in a row, which had been the longest such streak in the nation.

The story of this game was offense — or lack of defense — as UNC, in putting up 538 yards of offense, punted just one time in the game, and that didn’t come until three minutes were gone in the fourth quarter.  One other possession ended in a missed field goal and another on a missed field goal as the FSU defense simply had no answer for quarterback Mitch Trubisky (405 yards passing, four touchdowns) or wide receiver Ryan Switzer (14-158).  UNC’s defense didn’t have much of an answer for the opposition’s offense, either, as the Seminoles rolled to 595 yards.

The game served as the second ACC loss in as many contests for the Seminoles.  The Tar Heels, meanwhile, improved to 2-0 in conference play.

On the whole, though, this game was simply about the continuation of a disturbing defensive trend for FSU.

Through one-third of the season, the Seminoles are allowing an average of 44.7 points per game to its three Power Five opponents.  Even when you factor in the Week 2 game against FCS Charleston Southern, they came into this game ranked 107th in the country in scoring defense (34.7 ppg). In those three FBS games, two of them losses, they have allowed an average of 482.7 yards per game.

Injuries have certainly played a role on that side of the ball, but miscommunications and blown assignments and missed tackles have loomed much, much larger.

The loss drops the Seminoles to 3-2 on the season. It’s FSU’s worst start to a year since 2011, when Jimbo Fisher‘s second Seminoles team went 2-3 the first five games of the season.  That team would go on to win seven of its last eight, setting the stage for four straight seasons of double-digit wins.

This latest result also sets up an interesting dynamic heading into Week 6.  With Miami sitting at 4-0, next Saturday’s game will mark the first time since 2002 that the Hurricanes have come into the in-state rivalry game with a better record than the Seminoles.

Times, they are a changin’?  Quite possibly.