TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — EJ Manuel knew that Florida State's offense had a tough job to do, keeping pace with Clemson's face-paced and potent attack.
Slowed by a costly fumble and two missed field goals in the first half, the fourth-ranked Seminoles used a 35-3 run in a 20-minute span of the second half Saturday night to remain unbeaten with a 49-37 over 10th-ranked Clemson.
"We just knew we had to keep scoring points to help our defense out," Manuel said. "Those guys (Clemson), they could throw up 50 points easily."
The biggest Atlantic Coast Conference game in years was a wild one for a while before Manuel put the Seminoles' offense into high gear to away.
Seminoles (4-0, 2-0) emerged as national contenders for the first time in a long time, since Bobby Bowden was directing Florida State in the early 2000s, and Manuel will likely start showing up prominently on more than a few Heisman Trophy watch lists.
Clemson (3-1, 0-1) built a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter on a 52-yard pass from All-American receiver Sammy Watkins to Andre Ellington before the Seminole explosion.
"The game got away from us.... We have to stay focused," Clemson's Andre Ellington said.
The two teams combined for 1,093 yards offense as Clemson put up 426 yards against the nation's top-ranked defense.
Manuel was brilliant, completing 27 of 35 passes for a career-high 380 yards while rushing for another 102 to become the first Seminole quarterback since Charlie Ward in 1992 to pass for more than 300 yards and run for over 100 in a game.
"They were mixing up looks and bringing in blitzes from everywhere and he made plays when he had to," said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, in his third season as Bowden's successor. "I don't remember him making a bad decision all night."
Manuel got plenty of help from the tailback tandem of Chris Thompson and James Wilder Jr., who each scored twice and accounted for 168 more rushing yards with Thompson's 103 giving him 300 in two ACC games.
"We couldn't stop the run," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "Right there at the end, the momentum change late in the third quarter going into the fourth quarter, we just weren't able to turn it back."
White House Program Cuts Up to $1k off Monthly Payments! (3.05% APR)