Last night Florida State won a hard-fought game against USF 30-17. As I said in the recap, give the Bulls a lot of credit for really giving the Noles their best shot. Against a top five team they came out and hung for three quarters and had chances to make it a one-score game in the 4th.
The Seminoles didn't have their best, they admitted as much, but they came out with a win and got the plays they needed when they needed them. Look at any championship season and there are typically a few get-by type games where a team may never fire on all cylinders but still manages to get out of there with the prerequisite W and keep on moving towards their goal.
“That’s what I’m happy about," said Jimbo Fisher afterwards. "It’s crazy, that’s what I told them. Wins are big, you go into somebody else’s house that have good players and are coached well, and you come out with a ‘W’. That’s still a huge step coming off the big win we had last week.”
The last time FSU played USF it was a very similar set of circumstances, fresh off a top-ten win the Seminoles ran into a Bulls team that had the date circled and gave Florida State its best shot. Last time they buckled though and fell 17-7.
This time around the team had more maturity, they had more resilience, they took USF's best blows and answered them in kind. Was it the satisfying victory that Seminoles fans may have hoped for (especially as they were reminded of 2009 all week)? No. But it was the victory that Florida State needed on Saturday.
Here's a few thoughts from the morning after:
-There were several points where Florida State could have rolled over, and many of the more jaded Seminoles in the fanbase may have gotten that feeling in the pit of their stomach last night that a collapse wasn't far off. For instance, if you've watched the 'Noles over the past decade, it wasn't hard to imagine after Dustin Hopkins missed his field goal in the 2nd quarter that USF would score before the half. Seminoles fans had watched that song play out before, but last night the defense stepped up and Xavier Rhodes picked off a BJ Daniels pass that set the Seminoles up with another field goal opportunity, this time a make. Florida State went into the half up 13-3 instead of 10-3, 10-6 or even 10-10. Huge difference.
-The other point in the game where Seminoles fans may have felt a bit of panic happened right at the start of the third quarter when USF forced the 'Noles into a three-and-out and blocked a punt. The Bulls would cut the Seminoles lead to 3 after punching it in and you could feel the South Florida faithful in attendance start to lean forward a bit. When Florida State failed to produce anything after they got the ball back, USF had a chance to take the lead for the first time since the first drive of the game. The Seminole defense made a stand though, got the ball back and the Seminoles got back on track.
Put it this way, just a couple years ago Florida State may have buckled in either scenario. On Saturday night they absorbed the blows and continued moving forward. As I said last night, you may not be able to learn much about any one specific player from that game, but you learned a lot about this team and their ability to win when things aren't going their direction. Last night was a good example of that.
-I'm looking forward to watching the replay and looking at the trench play a little bit more. Jimbo Fisher mentioned that Bjoern Werner was asked to do a lot of different things in the first half. Werner is currently the guy circled on the Seminole defense as matchup issue, he entered the game leading FBS players in total sacks and has been as disruptive as any player in the country over the past couple seasons. So with that in mind the Seminoles didn't turn Werner loose out the gates last night, and that seemed ok with the Bulls, who were intent on running at Tank Carradine and staying away from the Werner.
In the first quarter USF had some success, amassing about 140 yards and giving the Seminoles defense a little bit of trouble before Florida State buckled down in the second and third and kept USF from doing much of anything. Clearly, running at Carradine was not a good idea. I'm anxious to see how Florida State adjusted up front after the first quarter.
"The defense came out and really started dominating the line of scrimmage," said Fisher. "They were playing too loose in the beginning, but I think they settled down and got their feet on the ground and started playing much better. Then we were able to get a couple of drives.”
-The other part of the replay I'll be watching is the Florida State offensive front. USF managed to pressure EJ Manuel at times last night and there seemed to be a few issues with pass-pro at times. It's tough to tell in real-time exactly where the breakdown is without knowing the playcall, but on the replay it's a little bit easier to tell who was where they were supposed to be, and who wasn't. There were a few breakdowns last night, I'm sure the 'Noles will be addressing those this week.
-Finally, the footing last night was an understated element, but one that caused more than a few issues. I asked Rashad Greene about it afterwards and he didn't seem to be as bothered, but as a receiver who goes into each play knowing where he's cutting, he's already at an advantage. Watching the backs struggle to plant and cut, and watching the DB's struggle to defend out of the breaks though gave you plenty of indication that the on-and-off rain that preceeded the game had an impact on the playing surface. After tearing the field up last night, the Bucs and Redskins should be in for a real treat today.
I'll have a little more this evening. The AP poll comes out in a few minutes if the 'Noles jump I'll have an update for you on that too.