CLEMSON, S.C. — So this is what it has come to for Florida State: If the offense misses a beat, the Seminoles have no chance of winning.
Proof came in Saturday night's deflating 40-24 loss to Clemson, a game in which FSU led by three points going into the fourth quarter.
Christian Ponder, likely the first-team all-ACC quarterback, was intercepted twice in the final 15 minutes. The second of those, which set up Clemson at the FSU 5-yard line and led to the Tigers' final touchdown, was also Ponder's last pass of the night; he separated his right shoulder making the tackle.
"Definitely disappointed," Ponder said. "A lot of it fell on me. We had a chance to win the game, and I didn't come through."
Give Clemson — and running back C.J. Spiller, he of 312 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns — a short field against this FSU defense on multiple occasions and the results were predictable.
"We turned the ball over, and you just can't do that when you're playing a good team," Seminoles receiver Bert Reed said. "Give their defense credit for the plays they made, but no doubt we helped them out."
Indeed. Ponder finished 21-of-33 for 264 yards but with four interceptions. Add a second-quarter fumble by freshman running back Chris Thompson and that's five possessions in which FSU not only didn't score but didn't even get to punt.
"(Clemson) adjusted in the second half to the stretch plays that we'd run well out of the shotgun in the first half," said running back Jermaine Thomas, who continued his fine play of late with 26 carries for 119 yards. "Their strong safety started cheating up, and we couldn't make them pay."
FSU's defense, which showed signs of improvement in the first half, including Jamie Robinson's 52-yard interception return for a touchdown, reverted to its old, bad form after the break. Twice the Seminoles dropped would-be interceptions, and an offside penalty nullified what would have been a second pick for a touchdown.
"We missed opportunities," Thomas said. "We had chances on offense, and we had chances on defense.
"Things just didn't fall our way."