Wrapping up from the press box here at Raymond James Stadium in what was one of the more bizarre-feeling games I can remember covering. Even Jimbo Fisher admitted afterwards that this game had a weird feel to it. From the sunny rainstorms that came before the game, to the 50-50 bowlgame-like crowd to the very strange rhythm (or lack thereof) that FSU seemed to operate out of all day. This was a weird win.
But a win is a win, and Florida State is on a bus headed back to up to Tallahassee right now 5-0, which means they accomplished what they came to do today.
USF's game plan was good, Seminoles fans should credit the Bulls with playing a solid game, having a good plan of attack and really pushing the Seminoles today. USF deserves kudos, they gave the Seminoles their best shot and afterwards you could tell the 'Noles knew it.
"We all had to learn a lesson as an organization that it’s pretty tough to go into someone else’s home," said Lamarcus Joyner in the tunnel after the game. "They’re going to fight you hard, they are going to claw.”
And USF did, they scored on their opening drive, they were highly opportunistic when given chances and even down by three scores in the 4th quarter, they still had a pulse (even if their fans didn't realize it and were heading for the exits).
This isn't a game where any one player on the stat sheet jumps out at your or where there's a clear cut story-line to pull from. It's tough to say what we learned about any one player today. But as a team, I think Florida State learned a lot.
This was their first road test, it wasn't their best performance and they had plenty of mistakes, MA's, penalties and all other range of errors. But they fought through it and made plays when they needed to. The defense in particular buckled down after a sloppy first quarter and held the USF offense largely in check during the 2nd and 3rd. The Seminoles yielded just 18 second quarter yards and gave up just nine in the third quarter.
By the time USF had any semblance of offensive success again, Florida State was up 20 in the 4th quarter and the Bulls were running out of time.
Make no mistake about it, the defensive play in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, in particular Tank Carradine's strip sack on the last play of the third quarter, was the difference in this game. Florida State's offense was inconsistent and victimized by penalties for much of the evening, but the defense was solid.
A couple quick notes:
-USF Quarterback BJ Daniels shouldn't have been in the game in the 4th quarter. On the penultimate play of the 3rd quarter, Daniels got leveled on a tackle, took a blow to the head and stumbled as he tried to make it to his feet. I'll try to find a replay tonight, but watch his knees buckle. Right there, he should have been done for the day. I'm highly curious what, if any, concussion test was administered to Daniels. From my vantage, I saw him get drilled, stumble to the sideline and then get thrown back in on the very next drive after his backup got creamed on a touchdown-scoring strip-sack during his only snap of the game. Maybe USF did go through due-diligence last night with regards to Daniels' head injury, but it sure didn't seem that way.
-Chris Thompson ran wild on Saturday night, but very little of it counted. The Seminole senior RB is truly a home run threat every time he touches the ball, but a couple of holds negated two long TD runs and kept the Florida State ground game from breaking things wide open like it threatened to do a couple of times.
-Special Teams are a bit of a concern after Florida State gave up points for the second week in a row on a blown play. Last weekend a muffed punt caused issues against Clemson, on Saturday night it was a blocked punt that put USF right back in the thick of it to start the third quarter. The return game and kick coverage are great right now for the Seminoles, but there are some other areas on special teams that need to be cleaned up.
-Finally, Florida State's offensive playcalling was interesting tonight in that they seemed to have the most success when they attacked USF's secondary vertically, yet they rarely did so. A big part was issues along the line with pass-pro, several times EJ Manuel really felt the pressure bearing down on him and had to check out, but there were other opportunities to attack that went untaken. It didn't end up costing the Seminoles on Saturday night, but I'm sure fans would have liked to see them open up the passing attack a little more and throw down the field.
Now, the flipside of that is that early on USF was intent on running a more ball-control approach to keep FSU's offense off the field. So early on, throwing a bunch of times and then running a tiring defense back out there too soon wouldn't have been in the Seminoles' best interest. But when Florida State wanted to go vertical on Saturday night, it was there for them a lot. File that away for later in the season.
I'll be back with plenty of follow-up coverage, quotes, interviews and stats to breakdown from tonight's 30-17 win. Keep checking back at the Herald tonight and tomorrow for tons of Seminoles news.