CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson's offense sure looks ready for Florida State. The 10th-ranked Tigers' defense? That's anyone's guess after another so-so showing against Furman.
Clemson (3-0) beat the Paladins 41-7 and open defense of its Atlantic Coast Conference title at No. 4 Florida State in Tallahassee, a game that figures to go a long way in deciding the Atlantic Division.
Clemson's offense has been every bit as explosive as a year ago, especially with Sammy Watkins back from a two-game suspension. The Tigers' defense also looks like it did in 2011 — and that's not a good thing.
Furman (0-3) held the ball for nearly 17 minutes more than the Tigers, who gave up several big, chunky plays to their Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
"That first half made me want to throw up," Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.
It may have made Florida State coaches lick their chops.
The Tigers tightened things up after the break and kept Furman off the scoreboard the last two quarters. The Paladins managed only 117 of their 352 yards in the final two periods.
But unless things improve fast, Venables knows his players could be in for big-time pasting against the Seminoles (3-0) at Doak Campbell Stadium next week. "They'll break the scoreboard next week if we don't play better and more consistent," he said.
That almost happened at the Orange Bowl last January when the ACC champions gave up a bowl record amount of points in a 70-33 debacle to West Virginia. Venables was hired soon after that defeat, brought in to plug the holes that sprung open in Kevin Steele's defense last fall.
Right now, Venables says it's a work in progress. Clemson entered this week 98th nationally against the run, a number that figures to improve with just 110 yards given up in the Furman win. But the Tigers gave up their most passing yards of the season as the Paladins were 20 of 31 passing for 242 yards. That included a wide-open 37-yard touchdown pass from Reese Hannon to Jordan Snellings.
"We won. We have room for improvement, but that's every game," Clemson safety Rashard Hall said. "I thought we played a great game, especially in the second half. We just have to get better."
Clemson's used its quick-strike offense and just enough defense to gain its second straight 3-0 start. The Tigers yielded 374 yards in the Georgia Dome in a 26-19 victory over Auburn to start the season, yet held the 2010 national champions to four field goals on four times inside Clemson's 30.