TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For three weeks, Florida State had to answer questions about how it would respond when it went up against an equally talented team, what would happen when the Seminoles faced an opponent that punched as hard as they had punched their first three games.
On Saturday night against No. 10 Clemson, the No. 4 Seminoles found their answer.
Trailing by 14 early in the third quarter, Florida State surged to five second-half touchdowns and a 49-37 win over the Tigers. The win gives Florida State pole position in the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division race and could further assert the Seminoles' position among this season's national championship contenders.
Clemson took a 28-14 lead with 11:48 to go in the third before the Seminoles ended the game with a 35-3 run.
Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC) piled up 667 yards of total offense, 356 of them in the second half. Senior quarterback EJ Manuel passed for a career-high 380 yards and two touchdowns, and Chris Thompson paced the running game with 103 yards and two scores on 15 carries. Florida State's rushing attack accounted for 287 yards and five touchdowns.
The Tigers (3-1, 0-1) were cruising toward an upset early in the second half. Installed as 14.5-point underdog before the game, Clemson used of a variety of deep passes and trick plays that caught the Florida State defense -- which hadn't allowed a touchdown in its first three games -- flat-footed.
Clemson twice tried a double-pass with sophomore star Sammy Watkins. When Watkins overthrew what would've been a sure touchdown on the first attempt, offensive coordinator Chad Morris simply called another. That time, Watkins connected with running back Andre Ellington for a 52-yard touchdown that put the Tigers on top by two touchdowns and silenced the 83,231 in attendance at Doak Campbell Stadium.
It took all of one minute and 26 seconds for Clemson to poke a hole in Florida State's vaunted defense. The Tigers scored on their fifth play of the game and added two more touchdowns to take 21-14 lead into halftime in front of a sold-out Doak Campbell Stadium.
Tajh Boyd beat Florida State's third-down blitz for a 60-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins that put the Tigers up 7-0. It was the first touchdown Florida State had allowed this season, and it eclipsed the Seminoles defense's three-game point total (six) in one play plus an extra point.
Florida State, though, answered right back on the ensuing drive with an impressive six-play, 85-yard march that senior fullback Lonnie Pryor punctuated with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Things got even wilder on the next drive when, facing a fourth-and-1, Clemson faked a field goal and holder Spencer Benton dished a shovel pass to Darrell Smith. After video review, officials confirmed that Smith barely made it over the line for a first down.
The Tigers scored two plays later on a 6-yard run from Ellington.
Clemson had a chance to extend its lead after Florida State's Dustin Hopkins pushed a 44-yard field-goal attempt wide right. However, Cornellius Carradine sacked Boyd twice, and the Tigers were forced to punt.
The Seminoles then answered with a four-play, 74-yard scoring drive. Thompson did the heavy lifting with a 41-yard run, and James Wilder Jr. finished things off with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Florida State, though, squandered its own chance to seize control when, after forcing the Tigers to punt again, sophomore returner Rashad Greene muffed a punt and Clemson recovered at the Seminoles' 31. Boyd tossed his second touchdown pass four plays later to put the Tigers back on top.
With time waning in the second quarter, the Seminoles drove to the Clemson 13-yard line before a false-start penalty moved them back. Dustin Hopkins missed his second field-goal attempt, a 37-yarder that went wide left as time expired.
NOTES: The game was the Seminoles' 100th against a top-10 opponent. Florida State entered the day 42-54-3 against top-10 teams, but 9-2 against ACC opponents in the top 10. ... Florida State and Clemson had split the last six meetings, but the Tigers had won six of the last nine. The winner of this game has won the ACC Atlantic Division each of the past three years. ... Clemson's 253 yards of first-half offense nearly reached the number of yards Florida State had allowed in its first three games. The Seminoles came into the contest having allowed 310 yards combined to Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest. ... Dustin Hopkins made 22 of 27 of his field-goal attempts in 2011 and was 3-for-3 in 2012 before Saturday, when he finished 0-for-2.