tampabay.com

Dunk-and-run offense predictable but potent

By D.C. REEVES
Published November 13, 2005


CLEMSON, S.C. - Charlie Whitehurst didn't need a healthy shoulder to nickel and dime Florida State. He just needed the Tigers' normal game plan full of wide receiver screens and east-west runs to dissect the defense in Clemson's 35-14 victory Saturday.

The senior quarterback was questionable going in with an injured throwing shoulder, but the short passing game didn't require much strain. Whitehurst finished 21-for-32 for 269 yards, and his longest completion, a 36-yarder to wideout Chansi Stuckey, covered 10 yards in the air.

With an efficient passing attack as catalyst, Clemson made its touchdowns look easy as it scored 14 in the first 9:43. Whitehurst was 10-of-12 for 159 yards in the first quarter. "We took a real good beating, and I don't really know what we could have done about it, to be honest with you," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said.

The frequent passes to the flats and designed wide receiver screens weren't unexpected, yet the scheme exploited the young FSU cornerbacks and allowed short completions to turn into big gains.

"We knew coming into the game that they were going to run screens because they had run 40 in like four games," said FSU senior safety Kyler Hall, who tied for the team lead with nine tackles. "We knew they would be catching passes, but what we had to do was make the tackle once they made the catch, and that's what we didn't do."

Stuckey was the prime beneficiary of FSU's missteps as he grabbed 11 for 156 yards and two scores, including a 32-yard dump and dash that gave Clemson a 21-14 lead.

"Stuckey had a great game," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "He really delivered for us. We have ways to get a guy with that much talent and ability a lot of at-bats during the game."

The junior led the ACC in receptions (47) going into the game.

Injuries and lack of veteran depth, especially on the defensive line, have hampered the FSU defense as the season has rolled on. Along with multiple injuries at cornerback, defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, arguably FSU's best lineman, missed Saturday's game with a sprained MCL.

Bobby Bowden didn't want to look back at the poor performance. He was ready to look ahead to the bye week.

"We're just not as strong as we were at the beginning of the year," he said.

"Last week when someone asked me, I said we got exposed. You know, we're out there playing freshman corners that people find out about. Then you're playing without your best defensive end, things like that. We're just not the same team we were the first of the year."