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6 posts from October 13, 2012

October 13, 2012

Play of the Game: Florida State's Goal-line Stand

I-5

It wasn't really a play so much as a series at the end of a drive, but make no mistake about it there was no bigger moment in Florida State's 51-7 win over Boston College than their goal-line stand on the first BC possession of the game.

Boston College came out and used a few good plays, a few Seminole mistakes and a couple of Florida State penalties to put together a very solid opening drive. On 10 plays the Eagles travelled 68 yards to the Seminoles' one yard-line.

To provide a little context, BC scoring on their first drive was not going to help Florida State with anyone. After failing to score in the second half against NC State and with questions circling around the program all week, letting BC march down the field on their opening possession and go up by seven could have really thrown the entire evening into disarray.

That almost happened too.

But down on the goal-line Florida State's defense finally arrived and imposed their will on the game.

"It set the tone," said DT Everette Dawkins. "That goal-line stand set a tone definitely, for us to go out there and stop them on the first drive when we had kind of, you know, [had been] lacking defensively. It was huge."

After bending severely, the Seminole did not break, stoning three consecutive goal-to-go downs to bring up a 4th and 1 that would seriously swing momentum in the 'Noles direction.

Frank Spaziani should have taken the points. It was early, he may have thought he would have more chances, but allowing the Eagles to go scoreless instead of tacking on the first three points provided FSU with a lot of motivation. Had BC gone up 3-0, who knows how that would have impacted things.

“When you go for it on fourth down you would like to get in," said Spaziani. "The other thing was that the ball pops out on the next [drive] and bounces right into [EJ Manuel's] hands. I don’t know if that’s going to be a difference in the game but it certainly sets a little different tone. Sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces and that’s the difference with excellence and stuff … you are working hard and the ball bounces the other way.”

One thing is for sure, that goal-line stand provided Florida State with confidence and maybe more importantly, a spark.

“We had just let them drive down the field, but then we'd had enough,” said LB Vince Williams. “We were like we can’t let them get in the endzone. [And the stop] gave the offense a ton of momentum, they came on the field energized.”

Florida State's offense scored within two minutes on a long bomb to Kenny Shaw and the Seminoles were never at risk of trailing again. Spaziani was right about the bounces, a Lonnie Pryor fumble hopped up into Manuel lap on the Seminoles opening drive and lead to a very strange, drive-extending first down. A few plays later came the touchdown pass.

But what you do with the lucky bounces matters. Tonight the Seminoles capitalized on it, like good teams do.

And before you can ever even get to the lucky bounce, you have to have the goal-line stand. Without a doubt it was the most important moment in Saturday night's game and may have been the difference between a blowout and a game that ran a little closer to the wire.

Still, Florida State would like to make sure they get off the field on defense a little before their own one yardline in the future.

"We have to come out stronger than that," said Bjoern Werner. "We stopped them when it came down to it– to the point that we had to stop them and we did.

"From there on we did a good job."

Wrapping Up: FSU 51 BC 7

I-1

Florida State and Boston College have their game in the books. The Seminoles came out and handled their business 51-7 against a Boston College team that was looking for an upset on Saturday night.

It wasn't a perfect performance, but what game is?

Florida State did look the part of a national contender again on Saturday though, which is a big first step as the team starts to try and get back into the chase.

BC didn't have a bad offense, their defense had struggled but they were scoring points on every team they faced. Not against Florida State. BC only threatened twice all game, scoring on a second quarter drive and turning the ball over on downs on their initial possession.

Beyond that, Chase Rettig was on the run a lot and Florida State's team speed was on full display.

How fast is Florida State's defense? On the opening drive Terrence Brooks got nailed for unneccessary roughness for drilling a receiver that Rettig lead right into his path. Now a quick aside, this to me is part of what's wrong with football. Rettig on at least four separate occasions threw a pass that would have gotten a player carted out of Doak in the 90's. Nowadays, a quarterback can lead a receiver into a killshot and if the defender is foolish enough to take it, free yards.

At any rate, Brooks crushed BC receiver Alex Amidon and got 15 yards tacked on for his trouble. A couple drives later a BC safety came up and laid the same exact hit on a Seminole receiver... No call. Now, aside from the bang-up job the ACC officials do week in and week out, the reason that it wasn't called was simply speed. It just looks more fierce coming from Florida State. When they're playing up to potential this defense flies around and is really dangerous.

The same hit looks illegal when its made with Florida State's speed.

What Florida State needs to do now is figure out how to bottle up their play at Doak Campbell Stadium and bring it with them on the road.

At home this year Florida State has scored 49 or more in every contest and has been dominant with a capital D. On the road, they average just 23 per game and have let both USF and NC State hang around with them well into the second half.

So what Florida State team shows up next weekend?

If tonight was any indication, Florida State has its focus back.

After the game Vince Williams told me, "the hangover was gone Monday when we decided to kick Boston College's [rear end]."

And they did, the Seminoles came out with a chip on their shoulder and imposed their will all evening. Before the game BC made the mistake of talking about how Florida State only runs three plays and aren't blue collar.

After the game, Williams simply joked the Noles had some blue collar guys on their team too and that those were the best three plays Williams had ever seen called (a sarcastic allusion to their criticism of FSU's lack of offensive variety).

Frank Spaziani basically admitted after the game, three plays or not, BC just couldn't stop it.

"It wasn't like some things we didn't practice against and things they did differently," said Spaziani. "It was just a matter of us fundamentally not being able to stop them."

I guess that goes back to Jimbo Fisher's point about execution, but it also speaks to the fact that at 1-5, without an FBS win, BC might want to stop letting its players go say silly things.

They were outclassed on Saturday night and it showed.

As for the Seminoles, FSU is poised to hop up in the polls after losses by two teams ranked ahead of them. But more important than where FSU is in the polls tomorrow or the BCS rankings which will come out for the first time this week, Florida State has to maintain its focus from here on out.

Next week, at Miami, Florida State will try to make it 7-1 and continue to establish momentum for their stretch run. We'll have a nauseating amount of coverage leading up to that game (this is the Miami Herald after all), so make sure to keep an eye out.

But back to Florida State's win over BC, this was what the Seminoles needed. Florida State came out and handled their business.

I'll be back with more coverage and analysis tonight and tomorrow.

Keep checking back...

Quick Reaction: FSU 51 BC 7

I-3

Florida State has just finished its 51-7 win over Boston College. Aside from one drive at the end of the first half the Seminoles were dominant on defense today and very potent on offense.

Right now there are effectively two Florida State teams. There's the group that is 5-0 at home and has scored 49 or more points in every game this season.

Then there's the road squad which is 1-1, averaging just 23 per contest and doesn't look like the same group of players as what the Seminoles have put on the field in Tallahassee.

I'm going to be back after I go talk to players and coaches with more coverage and a full wrap-up, but for now here are three quick hitters.

-EJ Manuel had a career day, but his mistakes will also stick out on the film tomorrow. Manuel left a few things out on the field, but overall, credit him with a great day. He looked sharp when needed, connected on a lot of passes down the field and lead the Florida State offense to 51 points while putting up a career day throwing the ball. This was a good bounceback game for Manuel, who needed it.

-649 yards of total offense was also the recipe for a Florida State team that did nothing on that side of the field in the second half last week. Florida State needed a big game and they got it.

-Lamarcus Joyner had the play of the game called back, he picked off a pass, made a beautiful return and then had it called back for stepping out of bounds. Joyner was clearly winded on the play, but once again proved whether it's on D or a kickoff, he's lethal with the ball in his hands.

I've got to go interview coaches and players. I'll be back up with a wrap-up in about an hour.

For now, Final Score: FSU 51 BC 7

Statistical Leaders

Passing: EJ Manuel (27-34, 439, 4TD, 2 INT)

Rushing: Devonta Freeman (8-70)

Receiving: Kenny Shaw (2-125-TD)

Halftime: FSU 31 BC 7

I

Florida State is up on top big right now at the half, and so far they've looked solid, but there's another half of football left and there have also been a few mistakes here and there early on.

After letting the Eagles march it down to their one yard-line on the opening drive, Florida State made a goalline stand and then drove the ball 99 yards on its opening possession.

That was huge, instead of starting down 7-0, FSU instead took the lead from the outset and made a defensive statement on the opening drive. It took three minutes, but the defense showed up right on time.

It was 14-0 by the end of the first quarter, now it's 31-7 after Florida State tacked on 17 more in the second quarter. So far the offense has thrown the ball well, racking up 295 yards in the air to just 48 on the ground. That's surprising considering BC is notoriously weak against the run. But EJ Manuel has looked solid, and aside from a tipped interception, the Noles have had very little problem moving the ball in the first half.

Defensively, FSU has kept BC in check but the Eagles have shown the ability to move the ball a little too. BC has to outscheme FSU, they won't win with athletes, but on the touchdown pass Florida State gave up they did just that. FSU was too aggressive and Chase Rettig had no problem finding a wide open Swigert and punching it in.

Other than that though the FSU D is flying around and making plays. Lamarcus Joyner narrowly missed a touchdown return on an interception in the second quarter and the defensive line has gotten penetration all evening.

Florida State still needs to finish, they can't let BC come and make it a game late and they can't put up a goose egg on offense in the second half. But if they can handle their business they're already well on their way to 6-1.

Statistical Leaders:

Passing: EJ Manuel (15-20, 295, 3 TD, INT)

Rushing: Chris Thompson (5-32)

Receiving: Kenny Shaw (2-125, TD)

Pregame: BC at FSU

-3

Just under an hour from kickoff here in Tallahassee as Florida State attempts to get back on the right track against BC.

Before anyone says anything, the picture above is taken an hour before kickoff, Doak will be a bit fuller than that come kickoff, though I doubt it will be a packed house.

The Florida State fanbase seems pretty divided on this game. I've had loads of Seminoles fans tell me that the season is dead to them while tons of others are anxious to move on. One way or another, regardless of outcome, I don't see this game changing the thinking much from either camp.

Florida State is currently 5-1, tied atop their division in the ACC (with NC State who they need to lose again). BC meanwhile is 1-4 and haven't won against an FBS opponent yet.

What does Florida State need to do today? They need to remind people of the team they played like the first four weeks of the season. Thus far it's like a tale of two years, at home, and through the first four games the Seminoles looked the part of a top five team. The past two weeks on the road they've looked less than stellar (to be polite).

Who is the real Florida State?

We won't answer that today with any certainty, but if FSU comes out flat or lets BC hang around, it's going to give Seminoles fans even more reason to doubt.

Here's a quick preview package:

Today's Game Preview (from print)

Three Things to Watch For

Injury List

Check back throughout the game for updates.

TV: ESPN 2

Announcers: Mark Jones (play-by-play), Brock Huard (color), Maria Taylor (sideline)

Three Things to Watch For: BC vs. FSU

Photos-6

After what was a tumultuous week in Tallahasee, the Florida State Seminoles will once again take the field this evening. Coming off a difficult upset loss, today fans will get an idea of how this FSU squad is responding.

Are they angry or are they reeling? Will they come out with killer instinct and hammer a team like they did the first four weeks or will they sleepwalk through another Saturday like they have the past two?

This is a bigger game for Florida State than a lot of people realize because they need to set the tone for the rest of the season. At the end of the day, only one team wins it all, lots of teams stumble and if Florida State can finish the year by winning out the NC State loss will be seen as a growing pain, perhaps even a necessary lesson.

It won't hurt less for Seminoles fans, but it will have something redeemable about it.

If Florida State comes out flat though, watch out. Then that loss starts to be viewed as the start of a potential slide.

BC can beat Florida State but they would need to really put together a flawless performance, the more likely scenario is that a flat performance would do little to assuage fans doubts that the meltdown is coming.

It's been a decade since Florida State stopped letting potholes become sinkholes. Fans are a bit shell-shocked from that. FSU cannot afford to have a mediocre performance today or they're going to play right into fans paranoia.

The best thing Florida State can do is play like they did against Wake, leave little doubt and get back in the win column. 

'A win is a win' is only good for so much today.

Here's three things to watch for:

1.) The First Ten Minutes

I'm going to be paying extra special attention to Florida State's body language and energy levels over the first ten minutes of the game. While it would be fine for Florida State to start slow, warm up over the first half and win handily, if they come out sharp that's going to say a lot more. This was a trying week for the team, players all dealt with the loss in their own way and at their own pace. A quick start would be a good indication it's behind them.

Florida State should win this game easily, like I said, but the fact of the matter remains style points matter to a degree. They don't need to hang 60 points, but they need to look motivated, fly around and most of all not look even remotely flat. This is where you see what kind of leadership the Seminoles really have. If the team isn't ready to play from the opening whistle, that could be indicative that it's not as strong as Florida State would tell you.

2.) How Does Jimbo Fisher Handles the Backs?

Last week it was pretty well-documented that Chris Thompson got the lion's share of work while James Wilder Jr. carried the ball just once. That was one of the more talked about developments this week and something that could alter the way Fisher uses his backs tonight. There's more to it than initially meets the eye though. The real reason Wilder didn't play much last weekend had less to do with Thompson or the hot hand and more to do with Wilder.

In the second half EJ Manuel was 0-for-6 throwing against the blitz, NC State was bringing it almost every play and Wilder is still developing as a pass protector. That's a liability FSU couldn't afford down the stretch.

This week I will be interested to see how the rotation is though. You know Fisher is going to want to give his other backs some touches, but the unfortunate thing is that Chris Thompson has kind of come on as a feature back kind of player. It's going to be interesting to see how Jimbo balances working a better rotation in the backfield with continuing to feed Thompson– who has become the most dynamic player on offense.

3.) EJ Manuel

With six regular season games left in Florida State's season and EJ Manuel's career as a Seminole, it's time for Jimbo Fisher and Manuel to turn things loose. Some weeks Manuel is a running QB who is great at the option, others he's almost exclusively a pocket passer. Whether or not a struggle is playing out behind the scenes where somebody doesn't want Manuel to run, I do not know. But I do know that Manuel with the ball in his hands adds a wrinkle to the offense that makes defenses struggle.

Going back to last week, one of the problems in the second half was the predictability of the playcalling. Florida State wasn't doing much to switch it up, they were running the same run plays as in the first half and throwing almost exclusively out of playaction. NC State could just pin their ears back and blitz almost every down because Florida State's offense wasn't keeping them honest.

Over the last 6-8 games of Manuel's career, all options should be on the table. Whether that's running with him, asking him to throw more out of the shotgun or even just giving him a little more flexibility in the offense. From here on if Manuel fails it should be of his own accord.

I'll have more for you later today when I had to Doak. Keep checking back...


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