Second-ranked Clemson received a wake-up call in Chapel Hill two weeks ago when North Carolina took the game to the wire and the Tigers narrowly escaped Chapel Hill with a win.
The Tigers seemed fully awake on Saturday as they blasted Florida State 45-14 to remain unbeaten. The offense played with a renewed rhythm and the defense held standout Seminole tailback Cam Akers to a measly 34 yards on nine carries.
In the mind of linebacker Isaiah Simmons, the wake-up call in Chapel Hill came at the right time.
“It wasn’t even just the younger guys, everybody had a completely different focus,” Simmons said following Saturday’s win over the Seminoles. “Everybody got a wake-up call because Florida State has more than enough talent to beat us and we knew we couldn’t make the same mistakes this week and win.”
In 2016 the Tigers lost at home to Pittsburgh and went on to claim a national title. In 2017 they fell to Syracuse before qualifying for another College Football Playoff. And last season it survived a nail biter against the Orange at Memorial Stadium and surged forward to claim another national championship.
“Since I’ve been here, we have always had a game that was an eyeopener for us,” Simmons said. “It really helps us get back to the reality that we aren’t perfect, and we can’t just go slop around.”
Clemson (6-0, 4-0 ACC) certainly didn’t slop around on the defensive side of the ball as it held the Seminoles to 253 yards of total offense and 103 yards rushing while forcing four turnovers including a Derion Kendrick pick-six.
Simmons led the Tigers in tackles for yet another week with 8 total tackles, 7 of which were solo tackles. He also sacked Seminoles’ backup quarterback Alex Hornibrook for a loss of seven yards, recorded another tackle-for-loss and forced a Cam Akers fumble in the third quarter.
With the North Carolina scare in the rear-view mirror and six grueling weeks of football left on the schedule the Tigers and Simmons have their eyes pointed down the road. And they’re just getting started.
“We are trying to really open up our stride for the rest of the season,” Simmons said. “We took a step back last week and now we just want to get better and better until the season ends.”
Next weekend Clemson travels to Louisville to face a Cardinal team that gave No. 9 Notre Dame a run for its money early in the year and knocked off an undefeated No. 19 Wake Forest team in a shootout Saturday night. Kickoff is scheduled for noon at Cardinal Stadium.
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