In the old days, before Florida State became an annual national contender, before the Seminoles seemingly scored a point per minute, a 17-0 victory would have been cause for celebration rather than consternation.
Many in Saturday's homecoming crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium remember those humbler times. But the Seminoles now are spoiled by success, and a sputtering offense does not make for a happy Bobby Bowden.
An easy victory over Clemson did more to make the FSU football coach feel uneasy.
Sure, Bowden's defense scored a shutout for the first time this season, allowing the Tigers past midfield only twice and limiting them to 149 yards. There was very little danger of defeat.
FSU (5-1, 5-0) has won 21 straight Atlantic Coast Conference games to tie a league record, and this victory set up a first-place showdown with surprising Duke next Saturday.
But Bowden suggested it may be time for a new quarterback to lead the Seminoles. Danny Kanell, who threw three interceptions in a 34-20 loss to Miami two weeks ago, did little to inspire his coach Saturday, raising more questions about himself than he answered.
"He thought about that last game too much," FSU receiver 'OMar Ellison said of Kanell, who completed 17 of 32 passes for 181 yards, no touchdowns and one interception before being taken out early in the fourth quarter. "He was trying to guide the ball in there instead of just throwing it. He's lost some confidence because of that last ballgame."
Bowden said that maybe he scared Kanell into being too timid.
"We talked so much about "Don't throw interceptions,' you're afraid the quarterback might go into a shell," Bowden said. "He just didn't hit the open men at the goal line, and it was very frustrating."
"You can't go out there trying not to lose the game," FSU receiver Kez McCorvey said. "We need a more aggressive attack on offense. There was a little lack of confidence."
As promised, the 10th-ranked Seminoles toned down their offense, ditching the no-huddle attack and operating about 50-50 out of the shotgun and I-formations. There also was a stronger emphasis on the running game. FSU rushed for 194 yards, with tailback Warrick Dunn netting 133 and two touchdowns in 17 carries.
For six consecutive drives, starting in the first quarter and going into the third quarter, FSU drove into scoring position. Dunn scored on touchdown runs of 5 and 4 yards, and Dan Mowrey kicked a 22-yard field goal.
But there were missed field goals of 32 and 28 yards by Scott Bentley, which got him benched in favor of Mowrey, who then missed from 29.
Three times the Seminoles had the ball inside Clemson's 20 and came away with no points.
"If we had thrown where we were supposed to near the end zone, we might have had a big day," Bowden said. "Then we compound the problem by missing field goals."
Boos were heard among the 75,902 fans, who are accustomed to seeing their Seminoles streaking toward the end zone rather than shrieking when they get near it.
"There were a couple of plays where I threw the ball too soon," said Kanell, who has as many interceptions (nine) as touchdown passes. "I didn't want to take a sack or take a turnover. I'll watch the film, see what went wrong, see what I can do better. I'm still a relatively young quarterback. I need to learn and get better."
Indeed, Saturday's game was only the seventh start of Kanell's career, and he has six victories. And his replacement, junior Jon Stark, has not distinguished himself. He completed 3 of 5 passes for 18 yards. When he replaced Kanell against Miami, Stark completed only 2 of 9 passes for 15 yards.
But Bowden said he will look closely at the situation. "A long, hard look," he said. "We can't have that. I might have to take a look at that freshman (Thad Busby)."
Busby, two years ago a highly touted recruit from near Pensacola, is a redshirt freshman and FSU's quarterback of the future. But offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mark Richt said "I wouldn't bet on it" when asked about Busby's chances of starting against Duke.
"If I had to decide right now, I'd say Danny is the guy," Richt said. "But we'll have to evaluate the whole thing. The main thing is he's been inconsistent. He didn't make bad decisions. He may have been a little cautious.
"The bottom line is: If you can't hit your target, this offense doesn't go. We won't shut down what we're trying to do. If we do, all of our games will be like this."
As longtime FSU followers know, that wouldn't be all bad. FSU is 82-11 since the start of 1987. The Seminoles were 56-24-3 in the previous seven seasons.
The Tigers (2-5, 1-4) had only four offensive plays longer than 10 yards. The 149 yards was the fewest FSU allowed since holding Wake Forest to 170 last season. And Clemson quarterbacks completed just 5 of 22 passes. The closest Clemson got to the end zone was FSU's 21-yard line, where Nelson Welch missed a 38-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
"Our defense came out fired up," Kanell said. "They looked like a national championship team.
Which is why a victory some would savor just didn't taste so good.