Florida State coach Bobby Bowden doesn’t have to worry about losing to his son Tommy anymore. He has bigger concerns, such as losing a chance to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division.
Without the distraction of a father-son coaching matchup, the 24th-ranked Seminoles looks to keep pace in the division race when they face Clemson on Saturday.
This will be the first meeting between Florida State (6-2, 3-2) and Clemson (4-4, 2-3) in 10 years that will not include Bowden’s son Tommy, who left the Tigers on Oct. 13 in a move he thought was best for the program.
“This is the first time … I don’t have to worry about Tommy whipping me, or me beating him,” said Bowden, who lost three straight and four of the last five to his son but won five of their nine overall meetings.
The coaching change has left Clemson scrambling, which is good news for a Florida State team that can’t afford a fourth straight defeat in the series.
After being in control of their own destiny for a week, the Seminoles now need help to win their division after losing 31-28 to Georgia Tech last Saturday. Florida State is tied with Wake Forest for second place, trailing No. 23 Maryland (3-1 in the ACC).
“We’ve got to improve on a 7-6 (the record the past two years),” Bowden said. “Right now we’ve got six. We still have a chance to have a very good year, but we’ve got to win the next game.”
The Seminoles had won four straight, including victories over North Carolina State and Virginia Tech in which they rallied from 10-point deficits. Florida State nearly came back from 14 down against the Yellow Jackets, but running back Marcus Sims fumbled into Georgia Tech’s end zone on a run from the 3-yard line with 45 seconds left.
“You’ve got to get it out of your mind,” Bowden said. “Put everything on Clemson.”
Bowden said freshman running back Jermaine Thomas and sophomore backup quarterback D’Vontrey Richardson will likely be more involved with the offense down the stretch. Senior Antone Smith, who leads the team in rushing with 575 yards, “is beginning to get beat up,” and needs some rest, Bowden said.
Thomas has averaged 8.4 yards on just 41 carries while Richardson is averaging 8.6 yards a carry. Thomas has gained 343 yards, the most for a Seminoles freshman back since Travis Minor had 623 in the 1997 season, and Thomas’ 130 yards against Georgia Tech was the best since Leon Washington’s 134 at Florida in 2002.
On Thursday, Bowden said wide receivers Bert Reed and Jarmon Fortson and linebacker Nigel Carr will not play this weekend for “not meeting their responsibilities.” He did not elaborate.
Reed is tied with Corey Surrency for the team lead with three receiving touchdowns.
Clemson has been held to less than 100 yards rushing in each of its last three games. The Tigers had lost three in a row before beating Boston College 27-21 on Saturday night for Dabo Swinney’s first win since taking over as coach.
Clemson was limited to 87 yards rushing, but C.J. Spiller was named the conference’s offensive back of the week for his all-around effort. He had six catches for 105 yards, ran eight times for 55 yards and returned a kickoff 64 yards.
The junior, splitting time with James Davis, has rushed for 387 yards and five TDs. He’s also averaging 31.9 yards per kickoff return, including a 96-yard TD against then-No. 24 Alabama on Aug. 30.
The Tigers, though, continue to get spotty play from quarterback Cullen Harper, who was intercepted a season-high three times versus the Eagles. He’s been picked off 11 times this season while throwing seven TDs.
Harper, however, did not throw an INT in Clemson’s last matchup with Florida State, a 24-18 Tigers win over the then-No. 19 Seminoles last Sept. 3. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Florida State leads the all-time series 15-6.