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Notes: FSU turning corner on takeaways, Johnson earns ACC honor

Among the positive takeaways from Florida State’s performance at Clemson was the volume of takeaways.

The Seminoles forced a season-high three turnovers, creating a touchdown on Jermaine Johnson’s sack, scoop and score as well as two other critical stops that helped keep the team in the game. 

“It’s something we emphasize throughout the year, it’s just the continued repetition of it and then seizing those opportunities when they show up,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “You look at the different plays from the game, you get Duke Cooper, his first pick there in the game. Jammie Robinson, I love the effort play, to be able to force the fumble there late. Jermaine and the play that he had was exceptional. Those things, you put in the preparation through the week and sometimes you get the opportunity and sometimes you don’t. But you’ve got to be prepared for the moment.

“That’s something that our defense, we need. Was something we were lacking there early in the season. As they continue to build in their confidence, those explosive plays are showing up.”

FSU has 12 takeaways in eight games, which is tied for 48th in the nation. But there has been improvement of late when factoring in the two interceptions against UMass. And it’s a second straight game where the Seminoles have had a defensive touchdown, following Jarvis Brownlee’s 70-yard interception return vs. the Minutemen.

“Takeaways are a funny number,” FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. “Sometimes they just don’t come. But if you coach the habit and you coach how it happens and not just the result then the results do come, and we’ve seen that the last few weeks. We’ve created some positive takeaways. And now I think we’re climbing up the charts as far as taking the ball away.”

At Clemson, and with the offense stuck in neutral, Johnson’s play re-energized the Seminoles. Johnson slapped the ball away from Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, scooped it up and ran 12 yards for the touchdown. It was the first fumble return for a touchdown by FSU since 2017.

Johnson has eight sacks of FSU’s 22 sacks, which compares quite favorably to the 10 sacks in nine games in 2020. But this was also the most impressive.

“That was amazing,” defensive tackle Robert Cooper said. “Personally, I haven’t ever seen anything like that unless I was playing a video game or something like that. It was amazing and everybody on the sideline felt the same way I did. Amazing.”

Johnson honored by ACC

Jermaine Johnson was named the ACC’s co-defensive lineman of the week on Monday. Johnson had four tackles, two tackles for loss and the sack, forced fumble and touchdown in the game at Clemson. He is the first Seminole since 2013 with a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and a touchdown on the same play. Johnson also leads Power 5 defensive linemen with 49 tackles, while leading the ACC with eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss.

Johnson split the honors with Clemson’s Myles Murphy, who had five tackles, three tackles for loss and tied a career high with two sacks. On special teams, Murphy blocked an extra-point attempt.

Talking penalties

Norvell and Fuller were both cautious when speaking about penalties in the fourth quarter but they didn’t hide their frustration.

“Disappointing outcome in the fourth quarter,” Norvell said. “Had three penalties for 15 yards, and ended up with six for 70. I’ve got me feelings about those in some of those instances, where we just have to make sure we’re staying focused on the things we can control and making sure we’re going out and playing disciplined football.”

DJ Lundy’s hit, which TV replays showed the hit was inbounds when it was called a personal foul, was one where Fuller indicated the Seminoles need to be more cautious when tackling a quarterback in the open field.

“DJ Lundy is playing as hard as he can on that rep,” Fuller said. “And at the end of the day, it’s a quarterback, and it’s a sideline. That same play happens to us and we’re covering a kick and it’s their kick returner. You know what I mean? So it’s all it just in the moment of understanding quarterbacks are treated that way and for us to be able to pull off on that.”

Bouncing punts

Clemson’s use of directional punting often forced Treshaun Ward to scramble and he was not able to field a few punts that rolled deep into FSU’s territory.

“The hidden yards is something we emphasize a ton,” Norvell said. “Catching punts, making sure you don’t allow the ball to roll out. It was one of those key priorities. A little bit of wind that was blowing the other day, the punter was spraying it around. The number one thing is possession of the ball, and that’s one of those judgement calls with a returner and you have to be aggressive to go field it. That’s what we’re emphasizing in practice. … Also the No. 1 thing is possession of the ball. So if it’s not right, it was a factor in our field position and we’ve got to get better at that.”

NC State-FSU kick time set

As a reminder, FSU’s game on Saturday against NC State will kick off at 4 p.m. on ACC Network.

No Miami-FSU kick time

The ACC announced some kick times for the Nov. 13 games but did not set a time for the FSU-Miami game. UNC will play at Pitt on Thursday, Nov. 11 (7:30 p.m. on ESPN). Some of the game times as well as those that have not been set for Nov. 13.

Saturday, Nov. 13

  • Connecticut at Clemson, Noon, ACC Network
  • Syracuse at Louisville, Noon, RSN
  • Duke at Virginia Tech, 3:30 p.m., ACC Network
  • Boston College at Georgia Tech, 3:30 p.m., RSN
  • Miami at Florida State
  • Notre Dame at Virginia
  • NC State at Wake Forest