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6 posts from October 27, 2012

October 27, 2012

Play of the Game: Rashad Greene's 71-yard Touchdown


On Duke's opening possession they showed some confidence, a little bit of grit, grinding out a couple of first downs before punting to Florida State and giving them a long field to work with. It wasn't a score, but it did a reasonable job of flipping field position and it showed the Seminoles that this Blue Devil team had some fight.

All season Duke had fought and scrapped and won. And now at 6-2, bowl eligible and sitting atop the ACC Atlantic they were looking to end their most ominous football streak, 17-straight losses to Florida State.

There are no moral victories in football, but Duke didn't succumb to the Florida State defense when they took the ball, they gained 28 yards, a couple of first downs and looked to stand tall on defense after punting. 

Three plays later all of that was over.

After failed gadget play and an incomplete pass to James Wilder in the flat, EJ Manuel found Rashad Greene for a 71-yard touchdown to open the scoring and all but end Duke's chances. The play was relevent for a couple of reasons.

First, it was a clear-cut demonstration of the disparity in talent. Rashad Greene split through the Blue Devil secondary with ease. It was an obvious passing down but he took the lid off the coverage effortlessly and had a few steps when he hauled the pass in. By the time he got to the end zone he barely looked to be running. There was little doubt which side had the better athletes.

In just three plays Florida State traversed the entire field and did what it would later take Duke 14 plays and a couple of 15-yard penalties to do, scored.

After getting people across the nation to lean forward a little after an exciting win over UNC got them bowl eligible, it took Florida State's offense less than a minute to remind people, 'it's still Duke.'

Where the play really won though was in what it did to Duke mentally. The game wasn't over, Duke wasn't psychologically beat at that point. No one is in insinuating they packed it in. But after getting burnt deep on the opening series, that play struck mortal fear into the Duke defense the rest of the game.

That play changed the entire complexion of the game.

EJ Manuel was not that impressive on Saturday, he was 8 of 16 for 282 yards and a couple of touchdowns, but he was never 'on' so to speak. When Manuel plays his best game he's extremely impressive, he didn't really have it on Saturday but he did connect on four passes of 25 yards or more.

“We definitely took advantage of the plays we saw down field. The receivers did a great job, the o-line gave us some time to get down there and make some plays down field," said Manuel. "I wish my (completion) percentage was a lot better but we were still able to make some plays.”

Duke wasn't so much scared of Manuel for the game he was playing as they were scared of Florida State's ability to throw deep.

If you take out the passes that went 25+ yards, Manuel was even more unremarkable. This was one of the weaker passing games Florida State's offense has had. But the threat of that deep ball kept Duke from loading the box to attack the run. It loosened things up for Devonta Freeman and James Wilder. 

“(It helped) tremendously," added Manuel. "A lot of those gaps, those guys were able to cut back. They were trying to play me on my fakes and things like that on the boot leg, so that kind of opened up the cut backs for our backs. They did a great job of seeing it.”

Without Florida State connecting on that deep pass to open things, with the game EJ Manuel did play, it's possible Duke defends Florida State's rushing attack a little differently and at least stays close for a while. Duke wasn't going to beat FSU, they were out-classed, but immediately demonstrating an ability to beat Duke deep made things even easier for Florida State on Saturday.

And I'm not trying to pile on Manuel, Duke did some different things coverage-wise and he also had to deal with some drops. But the game Manuel played Saturday versus the respect he got from the Duke defense were quite different. And that made a world of difference in how well the run game worked.

Florida State had been averaging 55 points and 600+ yards of offense, they were a hair below against Duke but had another great day, hanging 48 and 560. 

But no points were as important as the first seven. 

Wrapping Up: FSU 48 Duke 7


Coming into this afternoon's game, Florida State was flying at a certain trajectory in Doak Campbell Stadium. The defense was holding opposing teams to about one score per contest while the offense typically hung 55 points and over 600 yards.

As of Saturday night, even without their best performance, Florida State was right at those benchmarks. The Seminole offense ran up 560 yards of offense and 48 points against the Blue Devils, right on their average home pace.

The disconcerting aspect of Florida State's season has been, and continues to be their performance on the road. After their first Saturday off this upcoming weekend, Florida State gets their toughest road test of the year in Blacksburg in 12 days. 

Go ahead and toss Virginia Tech's record out the window, the Hokies are in the thick of the ACC hunt. Virginia Tech can still drop their games to FSU and Clemson and win the ACC Atlantic if they knock off Miami next month, but a win over FSU would put Virginia Tech's season officially back on track.

Given how hungry Virginia Tech usually plays at Lane Stadium and how hapless Florida State has looked at times on the road this year- some of the Seminoles' miscues in the second half become even more glaring.

"We had a little lapse," said Jimbo Fisher. "We put a punt on the ground- took our eyes off it trying to make a big play. EJ had a fumble on a loose ball. It was a shame Rodney had one one a big play down the field, waving the ball. We come out and do ball security at the beginning of every practice. We're going to fix that."

Good, because that will bite the Seminoles in the rear end if they don't. I've said all year that Virginia Tech doesn't start playing their best football until winning the ACC would embarrass the conference. That means that the Hokies should be rounding into shape around the time Florida State shows up.

The Seminoles were as good as they wanted to be on Saturday, but in the second half you could see them losing interest. A lot of the little mistakes that were made were preventable mental lapses that good teams typically don't make. That won't fly in Blacksburg.

I don't want to just dwell on just the miscues in the second half, but they are worth spending a little bit of time on. FSU out-classed Duke in this game, but down the stretch when they should have had killer instinct, they got a little sloppy.

It didn't matter against Duke, it will against Virginia Tech. Florida State has to work on staying sharp and focused. They cannot afford to lose the killer instinct again this season.

No Sacks

One of the other things that caught me by surprise on the stat sheet was that Florida State didn't register a sack. I'm not sure that's how Sean Renfree will remember this game though, he was hit a lot by FSU's defensive line until finally being knocked out of the game by Karlos Williams. 

Duke had a couple of pretty good receivers, Conner Vernon will eventually become the all-time ACC receiving leader (though not today), but against Florida State the Duke air attack was hapless. Vernon caught three balls for 12 yards, the most any Duke receiver hauled in was four catches for 38 yards. Florida State wasn't getting sacks on Saturday but they were applying consistent pressure, forcing bad throws and hitting the quarterback. 

Essentially, the Florida State defensive front was as disruptive as one can humanly be without actually collecting any sacks. 

The Punt Return Problem

It's not really a problem so much as it is a concern. Tyler Hunter wowed fans in the first half with a 75-yard punt return touchdown. It was his first game returning punts after replacing Rashad Greene this week. This marks the first time in FSU history that two different players have returned a punt for a touchdown, but as Jimbo Fisher reminds everyone on a weekly basis, the first job of any punt returner is to field the ball.

And that's still an issue for the Seminoles.

"[Tyler] had a great day," said Fisher. "If you watch the punt [he muffed], he was looking at it and all of a sudden he looks down real quick. First job as a punt returner is not to return it, but to catch it. That's what we've got to remember and I think we got a little greedy. I still think he had a good day, but that's inexcusable and we've got to get it fixed."

In a way, this issue is a microcosm for Florida State's entire team, heck, their entire season. 

With both Hunter and Greene, once the ball is in their hands they're as dangerous as anyone in the entire country, but the simple act of just fielding the punt still gives them problems. They nail the hard stuff, stumble over the simple things.

Essentially once the ball's in their hands they can score on any play, it's just a matter of catching that pesky thing... It's not unlike taking Clemson's best shot and then dismantling them in response one week and then dropping a winnable game against NC State the next... It's all about consistency.

I'll be back with more coverage tonight and tomorrow, keep checking back...

Rapid Reaction: FSU 48 Duke 7


This game was essentially over at the end of the first quarter when Florida State was up 17-0, it was completely out of reach by the half when the Seminoles lead 31-7.

The rest of the game was dominated by Florida State as they battled their own lack of interest throughout much of the second half.

I feel like I've written this at least three or four times this season, but the final score of this game was not indicative of how it was played. While there were many things for Florida State to hang their hats on in the first half, the second half revealed a side of the Seminoles that has plagued them all season. For the first time at home, FSU came out complacent at home in the second half.

Now, it didn't hurt FSU tonight. I want to give a ton of respect to Duke for the season they've had, but the writing is on the wall. They just aren't a great football team. 

Case in point, at one point at the end of the 3rd quarter, EJ Manuel was 6-14 and yet the Seminoles lead by 38 points. That's not something that David Cutcliffe and Duke will be happy about come Monday.

Florida State on several occasions tried to gift Duke momentum. Fumbles from EJ Manuel, Tyler Hunter, Rodney Smith and Devonta Freeman, all gave Duke the ball back with good field position. The fact Duke could only muster seven points says more about them than it does Florida State.

For the Seminoles' part, they should have paid for several of their mistakes. While I'm not sure they made enough to cost them a game against a better team, they also aren't going to learn from many of them because Duke couldn't make the Seminoles pay.

Mistakes can be useful at the end of a game. If a young guy makes a gaffe in garbage time its a great teachable moment. But when key players make the kinds of mistakes FSU made at the end of tonight's game, and they're not held accountable, it can be a troubling trend. I'm not sure Florida State learned enough of a lesson for any of their mistakes tonight.

One or two fumbles is one thing, but Florida State legitimately looked to have lost interest at points in the second half and their sloppy play more or less confirmed that. Against Duke, FSU can get away with that. Against a better team, that could cost the Seminoles another game.

Defensively the 'Noles were solid. With the exception of the 90-yard touchdown drive they surrendered in the second quarter, Duke failed to establish any momentum on offense. Duke QB Sean Renfree was beaten, battered and ultimately concussed before being replaced by Anthony Boone in the third quarter.

The Florida State run game was the bright spot on Saturday, despite some issues moving the ball in the air Florida State had no trouble moving it on the ground to the tune of 261 yards and 3 touchdowns. In their first game without Chris Thompson, James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman both scored and Duke had no answer for the FSU ground game most of the afternoon.

I'll be back up with more after I talk to players and coaches. I'm defnitely interested to hear what was going on today with EJ Manuel and the passing game. There never seemed to be any rhythm, but Florida State didn't seem to mind much today. 

That will be a concern moving forward though...

Statistical Leaders

Passing: EJ Manuel (8-16, 282, 2TD)

Rushing: Devonta Freeman (12-104, 2TD)

Receiving: Rodney Smith (3-112)

Halftime: FSU 31 Duke 7


We're half-way through Florida State and Duke and it didn't take long for Florida State to jump out in this one. After forcing Duke to punt on their opening possession, it took just three plays from scrimmage for EJ Manuel to find Rashad Greene for a 71-yard touchdown to get the scoring kicked off.

It was a good sign for Greene, who was replaced by Tyler Hunter as the Florida State punt returner earlier this week. The sophomore WR took the opening play on a reverse and then went deep on the third play for the long score.

Then a series later Hunter, who had replaced Greene at returner, housed the first punt he got his hands on. After two that went out of bounds, the sophomore safety took a punt 75 yards to put FSU up 14-0 following an EJ Manuel fumble.

I don't think Seminoles fans are going to notice much of a drop-off returning punts. Hunter threatened again on a punt-return later in the first quarter. Duke may want to start kicking away from him, he's returning punts like he's playing PlayStation right now.

Aside from the long pass to Greene, it was a shaky opening couple of series for EJ Manuel. Manuel bounced a ball to the flats to James Wilder on the first series and then overthrew Rodney Smith on the second. Couple that with a fumble in Duke territory that took points off the board and it wasn't the kind of start Florida State fans are used to from the fifth-year senior QB.

Florida State's defense was on its game in the first half though. The first three Duke possessions ended in punts and Tank Carradine played on the other side of the line of scrimmage for much of the first quarter. 

By the end of the first period it was 17-0 Seminoles.

The second quarter started much the same way that the first did, with Florida State forcing Duke to punt and then scoring in three plays. This time a Rodney Smith 52-yard reception set up a James Wilder Jr. touchdown from the one. 

Duke got on the board on a 90-yard drive that included about 30 yards of Florida State penalties at the end of the half. Sean Renfree made a horrible throw that got one of his tailbacks destroyed down the sideline by Lamarcus Joyner first. The hit was legal, but Joyner launched and at game-speed, the hit looked bang-bang and drew a flag. That extended the series for the Blue Devils. Later on the drive, Renfree was knocked out by Karlos Williams as he got through the line on a blitz. That hit drew another flag which set Duke up inside the FSU 10 and let them score.

The Duke QB left the field under his own power but is out with a concussion. Both teams traded possessions at the end of the first half. Florida State's momentum looks to have waned a little after surrendering the 90-yard scoring drive, but the Seminoles will take the ball first in the second half.

Florida State's defense, aside from the one drive, has held Duke to 67 first-half yards.

Statistical Leaders

Passing: EJ Manuel (4/11, 182, TD)

Rushing: Devonta Freeman (5-37, TD)

Receiving: Rashad Greene (1-71, TD)

Pregame: Duke at FSU


We're a little over an hour from kickoff between the Duke Blue Devils (6-2, 3-1) and the no. 12 Florida State Seminoles (7-1, 4-1). This is a game Florida State should have if they play the game they've played at home all season. Thus far, through five home games Florida State is averaging 55 points and over 600 yards of offense.

This game should be no different, the 'Noles outclass the Blue Devils across the board. But don't write this Blue Devil team off either, they're a scrappy bunch that's bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 and they're looking to snap a 17-game losing streak at the hands of Florida State.

Here's your preview capsule:

Game Preview (print)

Three Things to Watch For...


And here's some coverage from this week:

Seminoles' Six Pack Defensive Set

Telvin Smith Learning to Harness Aggression

Chris Thompson Loss Weighs Heavy

Tank Carradine Earning his Money this Season

Inside the Program: A Look at FSU Film Study


Announcers: Anish Shroff (play-by-play), Dan Hawkins (color), Tom Luginbill (sideline)

Three Things to Watch For: Duke vs. FSU


Today Florida State hosts Duke in their homecoming game. While Duke is still a pretty safe bet for a homecoming game, this is not your usual Blue Devils squad. Lead by QB Sean Renfree and receivers Conner Vernon and Jamison Crowder, Duke ranks 23rd in the nation in passing.

Florida State's defense is no slouch either. They're ranked in the top seven in all five major defensive categories, they've got the best tandem of defensive ends in the country and they are more athletic than Duke across the board.

But this is a scrappy, upset-minded Duke team. They went into Blacksburg and forced Virginia Tech to make the biggest comeback in the Frank Beamer era to beat them. And aside from a tough road trip to Stanford, Duke has won out. They're 6-2, currently sitting atop the Atlantic division of the ACC

This could be a preview of the ACC Championship game...

Here are here three things to watch for:

1.) How do the Seminoles play Conner Vernon?

Vernon is one of the most prolific receivers in ACC history. As evidence, he's coming up on Peter Warrick's conference record for receiving yardage, needing less than 100 today against Florida State to accomplish it on the same field that Warrick played on.

“I wouldn’t even say we focus on one guy like that," said Terrence Brooks this week. "We respect him. We know what he can do but we’re not like doubling and doing all these things with him because we have confidence in all our DB’s.”

While that's true to an extent, you know Florida State's defense is aware of how many yards Vernon needs to get to Warrick's mark and– though it's inevitable he reaches it– he's not getting it today.

We'll see if the Seminoles can keep Vernon from getting to Warrick's mark at Doak...

2.) The Florida State RB Rotation

With the loss of Chris Thompson, Florida State finds itself without a senior leader and with a lot of extra touches for James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and Lonnie Pryor. But how do those get divided? Jimbo Fisher said this week it would be Wilder at the outset, but that it's 1 and 1a with him and Freeman.

The wildcard is Lonnie Pryor who has been effective carrying the ball this season and will need to be in the game a little more if the two younger guys can't pick up their performance in pass-pro. I really do believe Fisher when he says he's going to go with the hot hand, it's just a question of who that will be. Both Freeman and Wilder improve over the course of a game with more touches. It will be interesting to see who gets more early and who finishes late.

I also expect Lonnie Pryor to have a big final four games of the season.

3.) It's a Trap!

This game has all the classic fixings of a trap game. From the very publicized 0-17 all-time record against Florida State, to the fact that Duke is an easy team to overlook on the schedule all the way on down to the fact this is the Seminoles' ninth game in nine weeks, this could be a trap game.

Aside from UF, this is the last home game Florida State will play. They have played six in the past nine weeks, nine straight games in all, and eventually that can start to wear on a team physically and mentally. FSU gets a break after this when they play just two games over the next 20 days, but as of now, the 'Noles are banged up... though in fairness, Duke is yet to have a bye week too. 

But this Duke team would love nothing more than to come in and knock off Florida State. They're already bowl eligible, they're enjoying a dream season just being in the ACC conversation, Duke has nothing to lose today.

That could make them dangerous.

Florida State should win this one handily, but if complacency creeps in it's anyone's game. 



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