“I’m proud of the way our guys competed in this game. I thought we got out [ahead] early and the defense was absolutely amazing," said Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher after FSU's 59-3 dismantling of Wake Forest on Saturday.
"I thought we got that long drive [to start the game] and then the defense got those turnovers and got control of the game. Our defense, all day, I mean -- what seven turnovers or something like that -- six interceptions and just short fields all day. What did they score twice… and then they set up the two [other touchdowns] and we had the kick return. They were just outstanding, playing the run, playing the pass -- they were absolutely amazing.”
Coach-speak -- or Jimbo-flation, as it is sometimes called in Tallahassee -- is a regular part of college football. What head coach isn't going to take a chance to talk up his team? On Saturday though, Jimbo Fisher was not indulging in coach-speak. His defense really was that good.
In a week that was filled with distractions and clutter, Jeremy Pruitt's defense turned in their most dominant performance of the season.
The 166 yards and three points the Seminoles held Wake to doesn't tell the story either. Neither does the seven turnovers or the fact that Wake's starter, Tanner Price, lasted just four passes. FSU dominated the box score but if ever there was an argument for the eye test over the stat check -- Saturday was it.
Wake had to labor just to get out towards midfield against Florida State on Saturday. FSU won at the point and shut down the WF run, but more impressively the Seminoles' secondary has progressed in terms of their reads and are now beginning to anticipate routes, disguise coverage and wreck quarterbacks.
“[They're getting] the pattern match stuff which is very hard. It’s hard stuff to learn now," said Fisher. "You’ve got to understand it and doing it takes time as it goes -- but when it’s done right it can make you miserable.”
It did more than make Wake miserable on Saturday. Wake's three quarterbacks combined for a total quarterback rating of .001 against FSU. That's the lowest total in a decade. The Seminoles picked off six passes, two came on deflections but four materialized in the form of a white streak flashing through the quarterback's line of sight post-release as a Seminole defender snatched the ball away. Nate Andrews had two, Marquez White had one, Terrance Smith had one, Christian Jones caused two and snatched one of them himself, Mario Edwards Jr. grabbed the other.
Tanner Price -- a senior QB -- threw three picks in four attempts and rode pine the rest of the afternoon. His backup only tossed two more completions (5) than picks (3). And Wake finished the afternoon with just one more completion to their own teammates (7) than to the Seminoles (6).
"That’s something we always talk about doing is getting a lot of turnovers and it really worked out in our favor today," Christian Jones said.
Added Jameis Winston: “They’ve got so many leaders on that side of the ball, they’re so amazing, they’re so fast to the ball. For them to create turnovers the way that they do and for them to just give us the ball so fast, that’s how you have a great team. They say defense wins championships.”
If you read last week's coverage leading up to Wake Forest, you remember Terrence Brooks saying that he saw a lot of himself in Nate Andrews and that he thought the freshman would be a player to watch out for.
If not, here it is: "I mean for the most part I try to take him under my wing just because I kind of see myself in him with that,” said Brooks. "I feel like if he just believes in his abilities and really goes out there and just be comfortable - because I tell him that all the time - sometimes he goes into the game, he’s a little bit frantic but I make sure I grab him during the game like, ‘hey calm down, you’re good, you’re a good player, you can do this, calm down.' But I feel like he’s going to be really good, I know that’s somebody that you’ve got to watch out for because I promise you he’s going to be a good player. He likes to hit, he can cover well, very instinctive, I feel like he’s going to be really good.”
Terrence Brooks said that a month ago. This morning it looks prophetic.
Andrews was all over the field yesterday, picking off two passes and returning one 56 yards for a Florida State touchdown. Technically -- with Wake finishing the day with just 63 passing yards total -- his two "receptions," 56 yards and TD made him the Deacs' leading receiver.
“He just makes plays, he’s a football player," said Fisher afterward. "The game makes sense to him, he sees things, he does things. He’s a very unselfish player who does whatever you ask him to do, plays dime, plays safety. He just did a tremendous job.”
Added Jones: “Nate’s been surprising us and he’s been doing a good job so far and we’re looking forward to seeing him keep improving. He’s a good player.”
Two Freshman Safeties
Be honest, if someone told you at the start of the season Florida State would be starting two true freshmen at safety come week 11 -- you'd have thought the worst.
You'd also have been wrong. Nate Andrews now leads FSU's entire defense in interceptions and Jalen Ramsey has started every game this season.
"You had two freshman safeties out there, you had two true freshman safeties and they both scored touchdowns," said Fisher. "They can play the ball, they can tackle, they can run, they can play multiple positions. They’re very good football players."
FSU's freshman safeties didn't just score, they did it on back-to-back plays at the start of the second quarter. They put the final two nails into the Demon Deacons' coffin. By the time Ramsey had scooped and scored it was 35-0 just 16 minutes into the ballgame and Wake was already thinking about their diminishing chance of bowl eligibility and what they needed to do next week.
“We knew when we were in camp that we had a lot of freshmen that could help us win and you’ve seen it throughout the season -- and even today -- that a lot of those guys are able to step up and make big plays and that’s what they did today,” said Jones.
While FSU hung 59 on Saturday the offense was surprisingly quiet -- just 296 total yards.
“Offensively we converted, did the things we’ve got to do but I thought offensively, really on the day we did not play well, I thought we missed a lot of opportunities, a lot of little things we need to clean up a lot of stuff.”
Added Winston: “For us to be a great team both of us have to be clicking. But when [the defense is] just getting turnovers and scoring touchdowns like that sometimes it is hard [to find rhythm]. Obviously I have to do a better job of commanding the team and leading us down the field on those drives.”
It's understandable why the offense may have been out of sorts at times. Jameis Winston went over 12 minutes of gametime at one point in the first half between pass attempts. The Florida State defense was so dominant that they actually did a better job of slowing down Jameis Winston and their own offense than Wake did.
Winston still finished with two touchdowns and 159 yards on 17 of 28 passing, but without a doubt the star of the day was the Seminole defense.
If anyone was worried about how FSU would handle all the excitement that came with Oregon losing, the Seminoles did their best to assuage those concerns on Saturday. As was written yesterday, give Jimbo Fisher and staff a lot of credit for keeping this team focused and on-track -- this was a tough week to do that.
"I hope it doesn’t matter. And it shouldn’t matter," said Fisher when asked about how his team handled their newfound BCS security. "Where we’re at shouldn’t matter. How we play and how we prepare is what should matter. And if they ever believe in our system, if they ever believe in eliminating the clutter, if they believe in what we’re teaching now is the time. Because success to me reveals what you really are.”
Jameis Winston gave a similar answer when asked about being the new Heisman front-runner:
“It’s no pressure at all, we’re actually just trying to get wins," he said. "That’s all it’s about. Heisman and all the individual accolades, that’s going to come up at the end of the season. But the way this team is playing right now I just really hope we keep doing what we’re doing. Because the way we’re playing right now, we’re playing like a championship team.”
More Thoughts From the Morning After:
##- Roberto Aguayo missed for the first time yesterday. The freshman kicker has still been superb this season -- as is evidenced by his nomination as a Groza Award semifinalist -- but his school-record streak of consecutive kicks made was snapped on a 43-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter. It ended at 70.
##- Another huge game for Christian Jones. Jones was disruptive all afternoon, getting consistent pressure and causing two interceptions -- one of which he snatched himself. Since moving to defensive end (though he is still technically playing a hybrid position), Jones' draft stock has started to rise again.
##- With just 11 yards on six carries the possibility of Devonta Freeman reaching 1,000 yards in the regular season continues to shrink. With James Wilder Jr. healthy again -- and running well -- and the emergence of Karlos Williams, this might be yet another year without a 1,000 yard rusher at FSU.
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