TALLAHASSEE — On a night when Florida State honored its three-time national championship men's track team and Olympic sprinter Walter Dix, the Seminoles' defense put on a speed clinic of its own.
Led by junior defensive end Everette Brown, FSU racked up six sacks, recorded 14 tackles for loss and scored a big touchdown in a 41-27 victory over Clemson.
"I knew we could beat those guys with speed," Brown said. "Speed kills, and I was bringing it."
Was he ever. Brown tied a career high with three sacks and turned in perhaps the game's biggest play late in the first quarter. With the Seminoles trailing 10-3, Brown squeezed through Clemson's offensive line and smothered Tigers quarterback Cullen Harper as he attempted to throw a screen pass.
The ball landed in senior defensive lineman Neefy Moffett's hands, and he returned it 18 yards for a touchdown.
"It changed the entire game," said FSU defensive tackle Budd Thacker, one of 11 Seminoles to record tackles for loss. "When he ran that thing back to the end zone, we were all fired up. It got the team rolling."
Moffett, who also recorded a sack, said FSU's defensive ends were excited all week during film preparation. With Clemson left tackle Chris Hairston listed at 6 feet 6, 320 pounds, and right tackle Landon Walker listed at 6-5, 300, the Seminoles knew they could get to Harper if they got free on the edge.
"They're big and they're very strong and they're good, but they're not very good on speed (rushes)," Moffett said. "Those guys are huge, and they don't like to chase guys. That's what we did — we made them chase us."
After allowing 10 points and 125 yards in the first quarter, FSU's defense took complete control. During the next 21/2 quarters, the Tigers gained just 89 yards of offense.
"For some reason, it seemed like we were playing very cautious coming out of the blocks," defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "We weren't really turning it loose and playing like we did from the second quarter on."
Against an offensive line that had allowed just 14 sacks through eight games, the Seminoles' pass rush was relentless. They dropped Harper for 49 yards of losses, and limited his ability to hit big-play receivers Aaron Kelly and Jacoby Ford.
"That was so important," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "If you give that guy time to throw now, he can kill you. They have dangerous receivers."