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5 posts from December 1, 2012

December 01, 2012

Rapid Reaction: FSU 21 GT 15


Florida State is taking home its first ACC Championship since 2005 tonight after beating Georgia Tech 21-15. The Seminoles got off to a fast start– going up 21-3 at one point in the first half–and coasted the rest of the way. 

It got a lot tighter at the end than Florida State would have liked though.

After reeling off 147 yards on the ground and three touchdowns in the first half, the Florida State offense got a little conservative in the second half. Jimbo Fisher was content to hold on to the ball, convert a few first downs and keep handing the Yellow Jackets a long field to work with in the third quarter.

On the other side of the ball the Seminole defense bent some but never broke, limiting the GT offense to field goals rather than touchdowns and keeping the Florida State lead comfortable along the way. 

At the start of the 4th quarter, EJ Manuel made things interestin though.

After attempting to elude pressure Manuel fumbled the football at the Georgia Tech 30. GT quickly connected on a pass to midfield and started driving. A few plays later they were down inside the Seminoles ten knocking on the door and punched it in on a one-yard run to make it 21-15 (the XP failed).

The Seminoles got the ball back with about six minutes left and EJ Manuel, after a taking a couple of unneccesary sacks and committing the turnover, was asked to manage arguably the most important drive of the game. He did just enough on third down to keep the Seminoles moving and the Tech offense off the field until around two minutes when he threw an interception (that was essentially an arm-punt) that gave the Yellow Jackets one last shot at life.

Manuel has not had a good past couple of games for Florida State, he made lots of crucial mistakes, turned the ball over and helped make sure this game went all the way down to the wire tonight. Manuel is a good guy and generally a talented quarterback, but for a fifth-year senior QB you have to expect more in a big-game situation.

After the Manuel INT Georgia Tech made an attempt at one final drive to take the lead at the end of regulation but their offense was hardly geared for the sort of drive they needed. After struggling to make it out to their own 30 a tipped pass found its way into the arms of Karlos Williams and the threat was over. 

Florida State escaped 21-15.

This game was won in the trenches, where Florida State dominated Georgia Tech most of the night. The defensive line in particular was unforgiving until they were strapped with a turnover.

And even after Georgia Tech got some momentum it still took them 13 plays to make their way to the Florida State endzone and make it a game again. By then time was not on their side. The Seminoles still didn't turn in the kind of performance they could have, but a win is a win and for the first time in seven years the Seminoles are BCS-bound.

Check back later tonight for lots more news and analysis from tonight's Florida State win...

Statistical Leaders

Passing: EJ Manuel (16/21, 134, INT)

Rushing: James Wilder Jr. (10-69, 2 TD)

Receiving: Rashad Greene (9-82)

Halftime: FSU 21 GT 6


When Florida State scores on their opening possession this year they are 8-0. They scored for the 9th time on their opening possession on Saturday night and if things hold they could be 9-0 when they score on their first drive by the end of the night.

Florida State did exactly what it needed to on the opening possessions, they forced Georgia Tech into a three and out, got great field position on a bad Georgia Tech punt and punched it in after starting from the Yellow Jacket side of the 50. When you draw up setting the early tone on paper, it looks an awful lot like that.

The Seminoles displayed excellent balance in the first quarter, mixing the run and the pass, and though they stalled out on their next drive after their first score, they controlled the ball long enough keep the Yellow Jacket option off the field and make sure time of possession isn't slanted like it was in last weekend's lost to UF.

Florida State punched in another touchdown on their next possession to make it 14-0. James Wilder started to grind it out on the ground against a Georgia Tech defense that is going to have a tough time withstanding this kind of pounding down the stretch. FSU marched the ball down the field in just 7 plays and Wilder's 16-yard touchdown run capped things off.

Wilder was huge on the Seminoles next drive too. After Devonta Freeman opened the game with several good carries Wilder really took it over in the second quarter and showed anyone who's actually watching this game what a tremendous talent he's going to be next season. 

So far Florida State has dominated the game in the trenches. The defensive line has held up against the option for the most part and aside from a long bomb and a late drive, the Tech offense has not threatened at all during the first half. Tim Jernigan showed up to play and has been a force from the middle all evening.

On the other side of the ball the Seminole ground game has been absolutely dominant. The FSU O-line has mauled the Tech D on several plays, the Yellow Jackets are clearly scared of EJ Manuel's running ability and nobody seems to be enjoying James Wilder. FSU has reeled off 147 yards on the ground so far.

Things are looking good for the Florida State faithful.

Of course, Raleigh taught Seminoles fans that their team can still lay a second half egg, but I don't think that's going to happen in this one. Florida State should cruise in the second half as long as they avoid mistakes.

Statistical Leaders

Passing: EJ Manuel (7/9, 64)

Rushing: James Wilder Jr. (7-55, 2 TD)

Receiving: Darren Waller (1-42)

Pregame: FSU vs. GT


This is for all the marbles, we're minutes from kickoff and Florida State is about to square off with Georgia Tech. This is an opportunity for the Seminoles to win their first ACC title in seven years and go back to Miami for an Orange Bowl berth.

But this isn't a gimme either.

Florida State has had a tumultuous week and the Georgia Tech offense could really give the Seminoles trouble on defense. This game will come down to time of possession and the battle in the trenches. If Florida State can limit the Yellow Jacket rushing attack and keep Georgia Tech from running up a big advantage in time of possession they should be absolutely fine.

But if the offense struggles and the GT Option stays out on the field wearing down the FSU defense this game could be all kinds of trouble. 

Keep coming checking back on the Miami Herald FSU blog during the games for updates.

Here's you game capsule:

Game Preview (From Print)

GT Plays with House Money While FSU Can't Afford to Lose

Three Things to Watch For

Injury List



Announcers: Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (color), Heather Cox (sideline)

Three Things to Watch For: FSU vs GT


Tonight when Florida State squares off with Georgia Tech in Charlotte it will be as much about the mental game as it is about the actual game out on the field.

It's been a rough week at FSU, they're fresh off a loss to Florida, their defensive coordinator accepted a head coaching job on Tuesday and you're in a high risk-low reward game against a team with a very unorthodox offense.

Still, Florida State should handle their business if they play within themselves and come out with energy tonight.

Of course that's a big if...

Here are three things to watch for:

1.) Does Florida State come out flat.

This is usually intended more for the offense but this week it's for both sides of the ball, the Seminoles have to come out with energy. The Yellow Jackets can't be allowed to get off to a quick start and get a lead on Florida State. This will be a game of emotion and momentum, as I mentioned earlier today, Tech has no pressure while Florida State has a ton of it.

Add the fact that the Seminoles have trailed Clemson, Miami and Florida and started slow at Virginia Tech, and even more you'll want to pay attention to how the team starts. They can ill-afford a slow one tonight, but that's been their MO so far this season.

2.) Time of Possession

Last week the Gators laid the blueprint for how to beat Florida State. You wear the down on defense with a smashmouth ground attack and win the TOP battle. Headed into the fourth quarter last week UF already had 30 minutes of possession. No defense can hold up against that number of plays.

Coming into tonight with an option attack that averages over 300 yards per contest, it's not hard to imagine what the Yellow Jackets will be doing on offense. Control the ball and keep the Florida State offense off the field and you'll have the best chance to win if you're Georgia Tech. With Florida State's unfamiliarity with this offense, a couple of long early drives could be killer, so watch time of possession.

3.) EJ Manuel

Last week was extremely emotional for EJ Manuel. He struggled on his senior day, turning the ball over four times and having his worst throwing performance since he was a redshirt freshman. This week he cannot afford to have a hangover, the Seminoles will need him to get their offense in rhythm early and keep the Georgia Tech offense from grinding down the defense.

The Yellow Jackets are not built to come back from a deficit, so if Manuel can build a lead the Seminoles can coast to a win by controlling the clock in the second-half themselves, but if Manuel struggles and the Yellow Jacket offense can stay on the field for any length of time this could be a game where Florida State struggles. 

Check back during the game for updates...

While Yellow Jackets Play With House Money, Seminoles Can't Afford to Lose


Tonight Florida State will square off with Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship game up in Charlotte, NC. It's obviously a major game for both programs but represents a little bit more of a must-win for the Seminoles.

You see, the Yellow Jackets get to play with house money. They backed into the game after Miami self-imposed a second straight postseason ban and at 6-6, are basically expected to roll over for a more powerful Florida State team. That means no pressure and Georgia Tech can come out and try to play spoiler (and embarrass the ACC).

Florida State on the other hand simply cannot afford to drop tonight's game. Sure there are plenty of points to be made about how much the Seminoles' first ACC title in seven years would mean and how big it is to play in a BCS bowl. And you can even start the talk about how a 12-2 season with a conference championship is a major success, but here's another way to look at it.

Florida State will be the laughingstock of college football if they lose tonight.

You can already see how the national press will spin this, they'll talk mockingly about how at season's beginning the 'mighty Seminoles' were in the top five talking about BCS glory and by year's end they got knocked out of a ho-hum Orange Bowl matchup by a team that needed a Bowl waiver.

They'll rescind any mention of the program being back from the downturn at the end of the Bowden years, the ACC will look like a joke once again and at the end of the day nobody will have more egg on his face than Jimbo Fisher.

Florida State, quite frankly, has a lot more to lose tonight than Georgia Tech. And given the precedents that have been set this season you can see how the Seminoles could struggle in this one.

You can mention the Seminole offense averages 20 fewer points and 160 fewer yards away from Doak Campbell Stadium or that they just lost their defensive coordinator during a crucial week when they must prepare for an unorthodox offense.

But what really sticks out to me is that this is a team that has been known to get a little wide-eyed when they see what's at stake. 

Starting up top with Fisher- whose playcalling tendencies shrink from the boisterous words of an offensive coordinator pent on domination mid-week to a head coach just trying to escape with a win come crunch time- on down to a team that has started flat in every big game it's played this season (started behind vs. Clemson, Miami, Florida, slow at VT), Florida State has shown they are not immune to the emotions of the game.

And tonight will be an emotional one.

On the other sideline though, what's Georgia Tech got to worry about? If they come out and lose by 40 that was supposed to happen, so why worry? The Yellow Jackets should show up in Charlotte loose and ready to play spoiler.

That won't happen if Florida State comes out and plays the game they're capable of. But this is a team that has lost a ton of veteran leadership on the field, starting with Greg Reid before the season, continuing with Brandon Jenkins in week one, Chris Thompson mid-year and Tank Carradine last weekend.

That's four seniors, all with NFL futures and major roles in terms of leading this team on and off the field.

Thus far Florida State- unlike many teams could ever hope to- has absorbed those losses. They've been able to keep on, even without four of their most important senior leaders and contributors.

The Seminoles come into tonight's matchup facing a multitude of distractions and challenges though, everything from the uncertainty in the back of the defense's heads over the departure of their coordinator after tonight to the fact they've had to cram for an option attack many of them have not seen since high school in just one week.

With everything swirling around FSU right now, not to mention the pressure and the emotion of the game tonight, this is when any team would need to draw heavily on their senior leadership- especially on the field.

You wonder if losing what is now their fourth senior leader will be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back...

We'll find out tonight. 

One thing is for sure though. FSU gets very little national recognition if they win this game. Sure the program takes home a conference title, yes, but nationally this is a game they're supposed to win and the story is likely to turn quickly to the future plans of Jimbo Fisher once the team returns to Tallahassee.

But lose? That's something Florida State simply can't afford to let happen.



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