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Florida State Seminoles rediscover poise against Clemson Tigers

FSU’s Lamarcus Joyner, getting tackled by Clemson’s Spencer Benton, says the Seminoles have better leadership and are more mature this season. Joyner played a big part in a second-half rally Saturday with a 90-yard kickoff return, FSU’s longest since 2008.

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FSU’s Lamarcus Joyner, getting tackled by Clemson’s Spencer Benton, says the Seminoles have better leadership and are more mature this season. Joyner played a big part in a second-half rally Saturday with a 90-yard kickoff return, FSU’s longest since 2008.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State's biggest win in years came from a resilience the Seminoles haven't shown in the Jimbo Fisher era.

After falling behind by 14 in the second half, No. 4 FSU rattled off 28 consecutive points and scored 35 of the final 44 points to rally for Saturday's 49-37 win over then-No. 10 Clemson.

The Seminoles hadn't mounted a 14-point comeback since beating North Carolina in October 2009.

"This year we have more leadership," S Lamarcus Joyner said. "We're a more mature team."

Joyner helped spark the rally with a 90-yard kickoff return — FSU's longest since 2008.

The Seminoles had a chance to make a similar comeback in last season's marquee game against No. 1 Oklahoma. FSU rebounded from a 13-3 hole to tie the score but was shut out the rest of the way in a 23-13 loss that taught the Seminoles how to handle big games.

"This year we just keep our poise," said RB James Wilder, a former Plant High star.

That poise helped FSU dominate the second half. In the game's first 34 minutes, the Seminoles allowed 320 yards (7.3 yards per play) and 28 points. After Clemson took a 28-14 lead with 11:48 left in the third quarter, FSU allowed only 100 yards (2.9 yards per play), while forcing four three-and-outs and intercepting a pass.

The Seminoles offense racked up 326 yards in the final 27 minutes and finished five of its last eight drives with a touchdown.

"It's big for us as far as the ability to compete in those situations," Fisher, the FSU coach, said, "but what I'm anxious to see is how quickly we can put this one behind us and get ready for South Florida."

MANUEL AND WARD: QB EJ Manuels career-best night vaulted him into Heisman Trophy discussions immediately after the game and put him in the same sentence with one of his mentors — former FSU quarterback and 1993 Heisman winner Charlie Ward.

Manuel finished with 380 passing yards and 102 rushing yards — both personal bests — making him the first Seminole since Ward to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100. Fisher said after the game that he didn't remember Manuel making a bad decision.

Manuel said he talks or texts with Ward and another Heisman-winning Seminole quarterback, Chris Weinke (2000), a few times a week. Before the game, they told him to take what Clemson's defense gave him.

"Those are people you grew up watching," Manuel said after the third 300-yard game of his career.

Manuel's 27-for-35 performance bumped his career completion percentage to 67.7 percent, making him the most accurate passer in ACC history, just ahead of former Virginia star Matt Schaub (67 percent).

DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS: S Terrence Brooks led FSU with a career-high 12 tackles. Sophomore CB Nick Waisome recorded the first interception of his career with a fourth-quarter pick. It was only the second interception this season thrown by Clemson's Tajh Boyd.

THIS AND THAT: Clemson's 37 points were almost as many as the combined total of FSU's last six opponents (38). … RB Chris Thompson finished with 103 rushing yards on 15 carries to complete the fifth 100-yard game of his career. … After scoring one touchdown last year, Wilder has three multiple-touchdown games this season after rushing for two on Saturday.

Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com.

Florida State Seminoles rediscover poise against Clemson Tigers 09/23/12 [Last modified: Sunday, September 23, 2012 10:59pm]
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