Florida St.-Clemson Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- If a trip to Clemson's "Death Valley" wasn't daunting enough, injury-plagued Florida State may have to break its four-game losing streak there without starting quarterback EJ Manuel.
Because of an ailing left shoulder, Manuel's status is uncertain for the 11th-ranked Seminoles' ACC opener Saturday against the unbeaten No. 21 Tigers, who are seeking to pull off their second upset in as many weeks.
Florida State's rally from a 10-point halftime deficit fell short last week in a 23-13 home defeat to top-ranked Oklahoma. The Seminoles (2-1) suffered another loss in the third quarter when Manuel sprained his non-throwing shoulder.
On Monday, coach Jimbo Fisher said an MRI revealed no structural damage.
"We'll see how it goes," Fisher said. "It's a concern. You've got to make sure it doesn't affect (his) throwing motion."
Fisher won't have receiver Jarred "Scooter" Haggins for four to six weeks because he needs surgery for a broken left hand suffered in last week's defeat. He was second on the team with 11 catches.
Fellow receiver Kenny Shaw absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit from two defenders in that loss, was taken away by an ambulance but returned to the sidelines later in the game.
"He was much, much better than we anticipated," Fisher said. "I don't know if I'm optimistic, but I feel very good."
Willie Haulstead hasn't played this season because of concussion symptoms, and Bert Reed missed last week's game with a sprained ankle, leaving the school with just four healthy scholarship receivers at Monday's practice.
Chris Thompson, the team's leading rusher last season, has also been affected by a stress fracture in his back. He has 17 carries for 45 yards in the three games after gaining 845 in 2010.
"It affects you," Fisher said. "Injuries are a part of football. We'll move around and do differed personnel groupings."
If Manuel can't play, the Seminoles are expected to give Clint Trickett his first start. The freshman has 310 yards and four TDs, mostly in mop-up duty, but connected with Rashad Greene for a 56-yard touchdown to help his team tie Oklahoma midway through the fourth quarter.
Hours before Florida State's loss, Clemson completed a rally from a 14-point deficit to end then-No. 21 Auburn's 17-game win streak. Clemson (3-0) piled up 624 yards - third-most in school history - during the 38-24 win over the defending BCS champions.
"It gives the players a lot of confidence and a sense of belief," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd connected on 30 of 42 attempts for 386 yards and four TDs, giving him 10 in three games. Freshman Sammy Watkins made 10 catches for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Tigers are ninth in the FBS with 522.7 yards per game, but coach Dabo Swinney wasn't completely pleased with his defense allowing a pair of early big plays that contributed to a 14-0 deficit after one quarter.
"We want to play our best game and we haven't played it yet," he said. "That's our mentality."
Leading rusher Andre Ellington scored the tying touchdown in that win but also injured his hamstring. However, he is expected to return to practice this week and play against Florida State.
Freshman D.J. Howard came off the bench to gain 86 yards on nine attempts in Ellington's place. If his junior teammate is still ailing, Howard will try to help his team to its sixth win in nine matchups with Florida State.
The Seminoles, though, won 16-13 in last season's game in Tallahassee on Dustin Hopkins' 55-yard field goal as time expired. Hopkins made three kicks in that game, and Manuel scored his team's lone touchdown on an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Hopkins enters this game having converted 99 consecutive extra-point attempts and 13 straight field goals. Among those was a 53-yarder in the loss to Oklahoma.
Florida State leads the series 17-7 and Clemson is 1-5 when both teams are ranked, with the lone win coming in 1989.
The Tigers, who haven't led at halftime in any of their three games, are seeking their first 4-0 start since 2007.
Updated September 20, 2011