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September 25, 2011

FSU-Clemson Notebook: Trickett, running woes, Wildcat formation

Quarterback Clint Trickett didn't bask or gloat. After dismantling whatever expectations followed the redshirt freshman into his first career start at Clemson on Saturday, Trickett ... took the blame?

"By my part, it wasn't enough," said Trickett. "I take blame for that."

With all the question marks that Florida State (2-2) will take into its bye week, there are none about its reserve signal caller. Trickett was stellar in relief of starter EJ Manuel, completing 24 of 38 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns. His yardage total surpasses the career high of 329 for Manuel, who set the mark against Charleston Southern on Sept. 10.

With real concerns about a young player making his first start in an environment as hostile as Clemson's Death Valley, Trickett turned out to be the Seminoles' most valuable player.

"He seemed to play very well," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "To come in there and throw for 336 yards in Death Valley in his first start, three touchdowns and give us a chance to win - he made some mistakes, but dadgum, to do what he did and complete 60-something percent of his passes, I thought he did a tremendous job."

Trickett's only major mistake was an interception in his own territory in the first half. But FSU got out unscathed as Clemson missed a 35-yard field goal after the turnover.

Two of Trickett's three scoring strikes came in the second half, keeping FSU within striking distance until the waning minutes. He connected with receiver Rodney Smith on a picturesque 57-yard toss for his first score and helped Smith to a team-best 118 receiving yards.

"I wasn't impressed at all because Clint is a great player," Smith said of Trickett's performance. "We knew he was going to do that because he's a great player."

Asked to assess his performance, Trickett didn't hesitate.

"Not good enough to win obviously," Trickett said. "So not good enough."

All season long Florida State has been unable to get things going on the ground, and Saturday against Clemson was no different.

Running backwards

Florida State managed just 29 yards rushing on 15 carries, averaging an abysmal 1.9 yards per rush.

Junior Chris Thompson, who was the only running back to take a carry rushed for 36 yards on 11 carries, shouldered most of the blame this week.

"I think we just need to focus more and as running backs we need to focus more on our reads and trust what our offense is doing," he said. "Because at times we'll see a hole and try to hit it and it's not working the way it's designed to work so I think just being patient is one of the keys that we're going to need to have an effective running game."

Jimbo Fisher also downplayed the running game struggles after the game, while he said there were some concerns, Clemson leading most of the game didn't allow for a lot of runs.

"Yes there are concerns, but we were starting to mix in a little runs just the score got going in the second half and we didn't have the opportunity (after) the third quarter," he said. "We've got to continue to do it, we had couple nice runs the first drive, we were doing some things there, but we've got to get better. There's no doubt."

Thompson takes direct snaps

In an attempt to get things going on the ground, Fisher debuted a wildcat formation built around Thompson.

The running back lined up in the shotgun and ran the ball on a direct snap on a number of plays, including the first play of the game for a gain of 13 yards.

"Early it was real effective," Thompson said of the formation. "I put it all on me why we didn't really make all those big plays, because that first play when we came out it was like a 10 or 12 yard gain and had I been reading my reads effectively I think it would have been more and more yards each and every time. Every time I saw the hole it was just like a little inch away from me breaking."

Fisher said he installed the formation this week in hopes of sparking the running game.

"Just trying to spread them out and get numbers in the box where we could make a few runs," Fisher said. "It's like a quarterback run, because of the things we can do off of it and build. You get a guy out and maybe one less guy to block and get a little more space. You've got to do something, you can't just say 'Oh it's going to get better and not doing anything.'"

Thompson felt that even with the return of Manuel to the offense that the package could continue to be used.

"Coach Fisher came up with it during the week and it really was effective throughout the week in practice," he said. "So I think once EJ comes back it will be something we keep working with."

Notables

  • With a 118 yards receiving Rodney Smith had over 100 yards receiving against Clemson for the second year in a row. Last year he head 121 yards receiving.

  • Bjoern Werner's pick-six was the first defensive touchdown for FSU since Nick Moody returned an interception for a score against Maryland last season.

  • Dustin Hopkins extended his career-high streak of consecutive field goals to 14 with a 32-yarder on the opening drive. He is 7-for-7 in 2011.



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