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57 posts from November 2013

November 30, 2013

Rapid Reaction: FSU 37 Florida 7


It was the Kelvin Benjamin show on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville.

Florida State's 6-5 redshirt freshman receiver absolutely torched the Gator secondary today -- hauling in nine catches for 208 yards and three scores -- and almost single-handedly broke the back of the UF defense.

All year -- for the past two years, really -- Florida State's players and coaches have raved about Benjamin's athleticism and playmaking ability. He's supposedly the fastest player on the team, he supposedly jumps the highest, supposedly has the best hands. 

Up until this season it was all just "supposedly."

Not anymore.

Benjamin entered the game leading Florida State in touchdown receptions with nine. He had 36 catches for 626 yards and a 17.4 yard average. In the build-up to this match-up the Gators -- head coach Will Muschamp in particular -- had said that they planned to get physical with FSU's receivers, even taking a swipe at the ACC in suggesting that the Seminoles don't often face tight coverage. 

By halftime Muschamp was likely eating his words.

Benjamin hauled in five catches for 108 yards and two first half touchdowns to put the Seminoles up 17-0 heading into the tunnel.

In the second half he picked up right where he left off, gaining over 100 more and adding another touchdown as FSU ran away with the game.

What's scariest is this wasn't even Kelvin Benjamin's best game. The big, speedy receiver dropped two passes in the first half and another one in the third quarter. If not for those -- and he more than made up for them -- Benjamin would have likely been staring at a 300+ yard receiving day and at least one more score.

Even with leaving a few plays on the field though, Benjamin stepped up when his team needed him the most.

Clinging to a 3-0 lead in the second quarter -- with the ball at their own 4 -- FSU needed a drive and Benjamin was the guy who took over and made it happen.

Near midfield, on 2nd and 20 -- following a Bobby Hart holding call -- Benjamin caught a ball over the middle for 23 yards and a first down. On the very next play he caught another ball over the middle, broke three tackles and took it 45 yards for the score.

He followed it with a 29 yard touchdown reception on the next series to put FSU up by three scores. The Seminoles never looked back.

It wasn't just Benjamin though, after some early problems with protection the offensive line settled down and started giving Jameis Winston time to throw.

Winston was solid himself, going 19/31 for 327 yards and three touchdowns. He now holds the FSU record for most TD passes in a single season.

Even the run game picked up for the Seminoles in the second half. Devonta Freeman scored on an 11-yard run and James Wilder started to really grind against the UF defensive front in the 4th quarter.

On the other side of the ball FSU's defense was solid, giving up just seven points and 193 total yards as they stymied the UF offense throughout the game.

FSU still has work to do -- they'll play in the ACC Championship Game next Saturday -- but they're one step closer to the national title game. 

Statistical Leaders:

Passing: Jameis Winston (19/31, 327, 3TD, INT)
Rushing: James Wilder Jr. (10-63)
Receiving: Kelvin Benjamin (9-212, 3TD)


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Halftime: FSU 17 Florida 0


There's still a half to go, but after getting off to a bit of a slow start it looks as if the Florida State Seminoles are in control here in Gainesville.

Florida State got off to the kind of defensive start it was looking for when it forced Florida to punt after a three-and-out on the Gator's opening possession.

The Florida State offense took longer though. 

After picking up a first down on FSU's opening series, Jameis Winston underthrew a pass to Rashad Greene and Loucheiz Purifoy picked it off on the deflection. 

Florida would get all the way to the FSU 32 on the ensuing drive -- thanks largely in part to a big run out of the Wildcat formation -- before missing a 49-yard field goal. The Seminoles took over after that and made it inside the UF 30 before a sack knocked them back and forced a 49-yard field goal from Roberto Aguayo.

Despite the score, Florida has had the upper hand early on when it comes to play in the trenches. The Gator defensive line has had little problem getting penetration against a veteran Florida State unit. The Gators were also aided by starting left tackle Cam Erving getting banged up in the first quarter.

That forced C Bryan Stork to slide to right tackle briefly. Austin Barron came in at center and Bobby Hart moved from RT to LT. Erving has been in and out throughout the first half.

Even when Erving has been in though the play didn't improve that dramatically. UF has been able to pressure Jameis Winston regularly and the Florida State run game has been absolutely non-existent at points.

The Seminoles were able to get things started offensively midway through the 2nd quarter though.

After UF downed the ball at the Florida State 4, FSU went 96 yards on 12 plays -- twice converting on down-and-20 -- to score the game's first touchdown and take control of momentum.

It wasn't the prettiest drive FSU has manufactured this season, but it worked. Even in spite of drops, a sack and a holding penalty, the Seminoles were able to march down the field and score on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Kelvin Benjamin. 

The Seminoles were able to continue their success on their next possession too, marching 74 yards in six plays and ending the half with another Winston-to-Benjamin TD connection.

Jameis Winston -- with his second TD pass -- is now in sole possession of FSU's single season touchdown passing mark. He has thrown 34 this year. The previous record was 33 set by Chris Weinke in 2000.

At halftime it's 17-0 FSU. The Seminoles have a long way to go and they need to establish the run, but Jameis Winston and the passing game have come alive for Florida State.

Statistical Leaders:

Passing: Jameis Winston (13/20, 208, 2TD)
Rushing: Trey Burton (2-47)
Receiving: Kelvin Benjamin (5-108, 2TD)


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Pregame: FSU at Florida


Florida and Florida State are set to square off in just over half an hour. 

It's been a tale of two vastly different seasons for the two programs. UF would just like their nightmare to end. FSU is hoping their dream season continues. 

Both schools are worried about keeping their coach after the year. UF about whether they should. FSU about whether they can. 

Today, the two programs square off in a game that means everything to one program and offers nothing but a chance to play for pride for the other.

Keep checking back throughout the day for updates and coverage from myself, Jesse Simonton and Clark Spencer in Gainesville.

Here's your pregame capsule:

Game Preview [From Print]
Previewing the Opponent
Five Things to Watch For
FSU Injury Report


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Five Things to Watch For: FSU at Florida


Here are five things to watch for when Florida and Florida State square off today at noon.

1.) How Does Jameis Handle the Boo-Birds?

Jameis Winston is going to get booed badly today. It's Florida, the fans already hate Florida State and there are some ugly allegations currently hanging over Winston's head. That should equate to one very noisy, very hostile reception for the redshirt freshman.

"He understands the circumstances on the road when you become ‘the guy’ – and one of the faces of the organization. People are always going to get on you, and that’s part of it," said Jimbo Fisher this week.

While it may be foolish to expect Winston to be majorly affected by it -- he's been fairly unflappable all year -- it will be a first for the young QB. 

2.) Winston Rising

With one touchdown pass Jameis Winston will tie Chris Weinke for the most all-time in a single season. With two he will take sole possession of the mark. Winston is currently tied with Danny Kanell for second. 

Weinke threw his 33 in just 11 games, it will have taken Winston 12 if he gets the record. But keep in mind Winston hasn't played into the fourth quarter of most of his games, meaning he's done it in fewer attempts. Also worth noting is that Weinke did play a 12th game -- one in which he did not throw a TD pass -- so if Winston gets the mark today, hold your horses on an asterisk.

3.) Karlos Kometh

Just a hunch, but I think Karlos Williams goes off today against Florida. James Wilder and Devonta Freeman are both solid backs, but Karlos Williams has a combination of speed and power that is absolutely punishing to an opposing defense. If FSU needs to really impose its will on the Gators -- especially given how physical their defensive front can be -- don't be surprised when it's Williams that gets the nod. 

4.) The Quest for 1,000

Kenny Shaw, Rashad Greene and Devonta Freeman all have an outside shot at 1,000 yards today. Greene needs just 111 yards to reach the 1,000 yard receiving plateau, Kenny Shaw is 172 yards away. Meanwhile, FSU hasn't had a 1,000 yard back since Warrick Dunn and that might continue another year. Devonta Freeman needs 192 yards to reach that mark -- unless he goes big today it looks like it will be another year with out a 1,000 yard rusher.

5.) Just Stay Healthy

Florida State is going to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game regardless of today's outcome. The question is how healthy the Seminoles will be. If FSU gets up early, how quickly does Jimbo Fisher pull his starters? Beating Florida but losing a key player or two would be disastrous to Florida State. Sure, there's depth on the Seminole roster but as Jimbo Fisher puts it, these final weeks are the championship rounds. The Seminoles need to make it out of Gainesville healthy. As soon as Fisher senses the win is in hand, look for the starters to head to the bench.


For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

November 29, 2013

Previewing the Opponent: Florida Gators


Florida Gators
Head Coach: Will Muschamp
Record: 4-7
All-Time: Florida leads 34-21-2

Overview: Florida has not has a good year. While their neighbors to the North have pounded opponents this season UF has struggled to find offense and stay healthy. The majority of UF's woes can be attributed to the sheer number of players they've had go down. The Gator defense is depleted and the Gator offense wasn't exactly loaded before it started suffering injuries.

Still, the Seminoles say that doesn't matter.

“They are THAT team,” said senior linebacker Telvin Smith. “So we’re going to go over there and give them our best and [we know] they’re going to give us their best game. They could lose every game but when they play us they’re going to play their best game against us.”

That sounds great, and given the multitude of distractions currently facing Florida State off the field, UF could really press Florida State today. But outside of the emotions generated when these two rivals meet, there's not a whole lot to suggest that Florida is going to have the firepower to knock the Seminoles off.

The Florida defense -- despite giving up 400 rushing yards to an FCS opponent last weekend -- should play the Seminole offense tough today. But scoring points will be a challenge and the Florida State defense is one of the best in the country. 

How FSU Stacks Up: As long as the Seminoles play their game and have their heads in the right place FSU should handle their business. The Seminoles have the clear upperhand when their defense is on the field against the Florida offense. Without a dynamic quarterback and receivers that can threaten vertically, UF's run game might be in for an uphill battle. FSU will know what's coming and will likely try to take it away from the outset and force Florida to beat them through the air.

That plays right into FSU's advantage too, the Seminoles lead the nation in interceptions and they can score when they turn the ball over. That would be absolutely fatal to Florida. If the Gators turn the ball over and let Florida State jump up by even a few scores they will be entirely out of their gameplan. The UF offense is not equipped to come back from big deficits -- something that already has them at a disadvantage against a high-scoring team like FSU -- and falling behind early could take them out of this game entirely.

The game will be won on the other side of the ball though. Florida State has pretty much scored at will against every defense it's faced this year. If that trend continues on Saturday then things are going to get out of hand quickly.

UF's defense has to at least hold FSU's offense at bay. Stopping them entirely likely isn't an option, but making them go on long drives for their points, preventing big plays and avoiding mental breakdowns is an option. Florida has a shot it if they make FSU earn every point they score. 

But if anything comes easy for FSU it could spell doom for Florida.

Three to Watch:

Lucheiz Purifoy, CB -- Purifoy will have his hands full with FSU's talented trio of receivers, if he can shut one down it will go a long ways towards helping UF win the battle on defense.

Solomon Patton, WR -- The Gators' senior WR needs to have a good day -- especially early -- to make FSU respect the UF passing attack.

Mack Brown, RB -- Florida' bread and butter is the run game, if Brown doesn't have a big day the Gators may be dead in the water.

Quote of the Week: “They are going to come out and play us hard. Probably harder than any other team that we play. Last year they were kind of up and down a lot throughout the season but they came here and beat us so we definitely remember that.”

-Tim Jernigan, DT


For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

November 28, 2013

FSU Injury Report: Week Fourteen (Florida)


Florida State continues to stay in good health this season. The Seminoles enter their annual grudge match against Florida in very good shape, with just a few injuries -- none of them to key players.

"[That's] very good – especially for this time of year. Very happy with our health. Very lucky," said Jimbo Fisher. "That’s one of the reasons you have success. I tell people that all the time. Injuries are a key part of how your season goes sometimes, and we’ve been very blessed."


FSU Injury Report vs. Florida  - Nov. 30, 2013

Out for Game
WR     Isaiah Jones (foot)  

Out for Season

QB      Jacob Coker (knee)
OL      Ira Denson (shoulder) 
WR     Jarred Haggins (knee)
TE      Kevin Haplea (knee)
DB      Tyler Hunter (neck) 
LB      Matthew Thomas (shoulder)


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November 24, 2013

Thoughts From the Morning After: FSU 80 Idaho 14


“I saw that before the game a little bit, just not focused like I thought we would be, I’m being picky, I’m being really picky, I really am, but that’s the standard we want to be held up to,” said Jimbo Fisher after Saturday's 80-14 demolition of Idaho.

Fisher had just been asked about how well he felt his team had played, whether their focus was as strong this week -- especially considering what they've been attempting block out -- than in weeks past.

“I don’t say that out of disrepect, I don’t mean that as disrespect, I saw little things as a coach, just little concentration issues, little details of a route or little details of a block or little details of a read that you know as a coach when you’re really on your game [it’s done right].”

FSU still hung 80 points yesterday afternoon -- the most in a single game in school history -- they racked up over 600 yards of offense for the third time this season, Jameis Winston threw for four touchdowns, two different backs had 100 yards, the defense held Idaho to just 59 yards on the ground and scored as many touchdowns (2) as the Vandals did.

But you would be remiss to ignore some of the uncharacteristic mistakes that were made at times on Saturday. None of them were particularly damaging -- especially against such an overmatched team -- but they're noteworthy because until this point in the season they were mistakes that either appeared to have been corrected or hadn't been made commonly by the Seminoles.

There were several blown protections on Saturday that resulted in sacks and a fumble. The Florida State offensive line has been superb this year. Every line makes mistakes and gives up pressure, but FSU's line has kept those kinds of issues to a minimum this year. On Saturday the line looked a little off.

The same goes for the defense. Telvin Smith admitted he blew a coverage on the game's opening play. He was not the only defender to make that error. Tackling was also an issue at times too.

“We did not wrap [up], we didn’t hit on the rise and step on the toes and wrap up -- which we had done all year," said Fisher. “You have to remember they’re kids, they’re still 18-22, growing up so you’ve got to remind them there every day."

So far this season Fisher and his staff have done an excellent job of keeping their team's heads in the right place. But it's got to be getting harder as the weeks go on. Not just because of the turmoil caused by the Jameis Winston situation, but also because FSU is approaching their goal. There's just three games left. These are the 'championship rounds' as Fisher likes to call them.

Fisher admits he's being picky about these things, but he needs to be. 

Joyner's Effort

Lamarcus Joyner's Senior Day wasn't particularly eye-popping on the stat sheet -- he finished with four tackles -- but lost in the box score are effort plays like the one he made in the first quarter on Saturday. Joyner blitzed and was unable to get to the quarterback, the pass was then completed to Dezmon Epps and Joyner ran 78 yards -- getting blocked and falling in the process -- to catch Epps from behind at the FSU 20. 

Watch the replay here, Joyner blitzes from the left side of the Vandal offensive line, chases the quarterback and then runs down Epps at the 20.

That play saved a touchdown, not just on that play but on the drive, a few snaps later Telvin Smith intercepted a pass over the middle and ran it back for a touchdown. 

"That doesn't surprise me one bit," said Fisher after the game. "That guy, to me that exemplifies who he is as a football player. 'Whatever it takes, whatever energy I've got to put out, whatever I've got to do for us to make a play.' That's Lamarcus."

Aguayo Kicking

On Saturday Roberto Aguayo set a new record for consecutive extra points without a miss. The old record was 77, Aguayo -- after kicking 11 extra points on Satruday -- now has 80. For the season Aguayo has only missed a single kick, he is 15/16 on field goals and 95/96 on the year. To date he has 124 points. He is 16 shy of the ACC record set by Dustin Hopkins last season.

Winston Rising

Jameis Winston continues to climb the Florida State record books with his TD’s and passing yardage. On Saturday afternoon Winston went 14/25 for 225 yards and four touchdowns.

Winston’s third quarter touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin marked his 32nd touchdown pass of the season -- tying him with Danny Kanell for second all-time at Florida State. Chris Weinke holds the Seminole record after throwing 33 in 2000.

Winston also climbed into the top five all-time for yardage in a season. The redshirt freshman passed Peter Tom Willis’ 1989 yardage mark, he now has 3,163 yards on the season. The Florida State record is held by Weinke who threw for 4,167 in 2000.

More Thoughts From the Morning After:

##- If this was DT Tim Jernigan's final home game he made the most of it. Jernigan -- who many believe could be selected in the first couple rounds of the NFL draft next Spring -- had a career high 2.5 sacks on Saturday and blew up the middle of the Idaho offensive line all game. 

##- Florida State has more players with interceptions than receptions this season. There are 15 different Seminoles who have caught a pass and 16 different Seminoles who have picked one off. FSU leads the country with 23 picks.

##- Florida State has now compiled over 500 yards of total offense in eight of their 11 game so far this season. They have gone over 600 total yards of offense three times.

##- When Devonta Freeman took a first quarter handoff 60 yards for a touchdown it marked the seventh consecutive game that the junior running back has scored. Freeman finished with 129 yards and became just the 14th player in Florida State history to eclipse 2,000 career rushing yards early in the second half. Asked by another reporter if he'd considered turning pro after the season yet, Freeman declined to answer but said he was focused on earning his degree. 


Photo courtesy of Travis Register.

For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

November 23, 2013

Rapid Reaction: FSU 80 Idaho 14


Florida State handled their business against Idaho on Saturday afternoon.

It wasn't the best they've looked this season, wasn't the sharpest, but the Seminoles had little trouble dispatching the Vandals 80-14.

FSU amassed 645 yards of total offense, including 336 on the ground. Devonta Freeman lead the way with 129 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, Karlos Williams had 114 yards and two scores on 10, James Wilder Jr had a TD and 85 yards on four carries and Ryan Green accounted for 48 total yards and caught a TD.

The receivers had a nice day too with Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin both hauling in two TD's and Shaw going for over 100 yards for the first time this season.

But one thing the box score will not show on Sunday morning is how undisciplined the Seminoles looked at points in this game.

Despite scoring more points than FSU had ever scored at any point in its history, this was hardly the Seminoles' best game. There were defensive penalties and miscues, poor tackling, coverage mistakes and moments where it looked as if the Vandals had more interest in the game than the Seminoles did.

Credit Idaho for playing hard. The Vandals were out-matched but they fought with everything they had against the Seminoles and were able to head home with a few moral victories -- namely a ten play, 63 yard touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter.

That's not to say Florida State wasn't impressive at points on Saturday. The defense held Idaho to just 59 rushing yards, Tim Jernigan had three sacks and they scored on a couple of interception returns.

But the poise --the focus -- was not as strong as it has been in weeks past. For the first time all season Florida State looked as though some of the distractions of the past couple weeks had taken a toll.

Jimbo Fisher swore up and down in build-up to this game that his team was focused and having a great week of practice -- and they played like it at times today -- but it's hard to imagine doubts weren't beginning to seep in. It's not just ESPN or sports television covering this situation anymore, you can't turn on the TV, period, without seeing Jameis Winston and Florida State in the news.

For his part Winston was excellent on Saturday. Not his best, but still excellent. The redshirt freshman went 14/25 for 225 yards and four touchdowns. He's now tied for second all-time at FSU for touchdowns in a season with Danny Kannell -- one behind Chris Weinke for the record. 

In fact, with Johnny Manziel failing to impress and Oregon laying an egg, were it not for the sexual assault allegations swirling around Winston, he'd probably have won the Heisman trophy today.

As it stands though, state attorney Willie Meggs indicated on Saturday -- via another interview with Associated Press -- that he likely won't have a decision on whether to charge Winston until after Thanksgiving.

That means the distractions will drag on for another week and FSU will have to continue to fight to block out those distractions and focus on football. 

Idaho was not the team to make the Seminoles pay. And frankly -- after losing to FCS Georgia Southern today at home -- UF might not be capable either. 

But it's going to get harder and harder for the Seminoles to stay the course, stay focused. And after showing signs of the strain -- albeit small ones -- on Saturday, this will be something to watch as Florida State continues its season.

Statistical Leaders:

Passing: Jameis Winston (14/25, 225, 4TD)
Rushing: Devonta Freeman (11-129, TD)
Receiving: Kenny Shaw (5-107, 2TD)


For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Halftime: FSU 42 Idaho 7


Is it possible to look sloppy and still blow a team out? Absolutely. And FSU is toeing that line so far against Idaho in the first half.

It's not that the Seminoles have looked bad -- the talent disparity between the two squads prevents that -- but there have been uncharacteristic mental errors on the 'Noles part throughout the first half. 

Make no mistake about it, FSU is dominating this game. But just beneath the surface have been tiny mistakes and mental errors that the Seminoles just have not made much this season.

Florida State took just seven plays to score on their first drive and have taken just five or six plays on each of their other four scoring drives. The offense has looked potent when it's clicking. 

Devonta Freeman has had plenty of room to run early, scoring on a 60 yarder and also ripping off a 25 yard run in the first half. James Wilder carried FSU's for a drive during the 2nd quarter and gained 85 yards and a touchdown on four carries. And Jameis Winston has been solid early on, throwing three touchdown passes on 13/23 passes for 204 yards.

But the mistakes were also there. On the second snap of the game the Seminoles blew a blitz pick-up resulting in a sack. Several possesions later a blown protection lead to fumble when Winston was hit attempting a pass. Even the receivers have looked a bit off at times, with Kelvin Benjamin dropping a wide-open touchdown pass that hit him in the hands.

Defensively the Seminoles have had a few mix-ups in coverage that Idaho was unable to exploit as well as some poor tackling that the Vandals were able to take advantage of. Dezmon Epps -- the Vandals leading receiver -- has been particularly elusive. On two separate occasions a Seminole defender has blasted him but failed to wrap up, resulting in a big run after the catch. 

They also gave up a 10 play, 63 yard touchdown drive to Idaho at the end of the second quarter.

The Seminoles have this game in hand, but at the midway point it does look as though their focus and poise have strained a little bit this week. 

Given the circumstances that's understandable. But it is something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Statistical Leaders:

Passing: Jameis Winston (13/23, 204, 3TD)
Rushing: Devonta Freeman (9-105, TD)
Receiving: Kenny Shaw (5-107, 2 TD)


For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Pregame: Idaho at FSU


It's Senior Day today at Florida State. Before the start of the game the Seminoles will honor one of the most important classes in the school's history.

With the exception of the fifth-year seniors -- the last holdovers from the Bobby Bowden era -- this was the first class Jimbo Fisher recruited on his own. They banded together with the joint goal of returning Florida State to prominence.

And they have.

When this class arrived, FSU was fresh off one of their worst season in decades. They'd gone 7-6 after starting 2-4. Bowden had been run out of town. Florida was still the top school in the state.

Today, when they walk across the field for the final time they will have left the program at FSU better than they found it. The Seminoles are 10-0, ranked second in the country and have just three games between themselves and a BCS Championship game in Pasadena. 

"It’s kind of sinking in and that group is so special. There’s so many – characters is not the word, I don’t mean it that way, just influential guys in our program’s history and what it meant and what it let us get to and how they’ve influenced the other guys in the organization," said Jimbo Fisher this week. "There’s some guys that I’ll never forget in that class. This is a tremendous group.”

Here's your pregame capsule:

Circus Continues to Swirl Around Florida State [From Print]
Previewing the Opponent
Five Things to Watch For
Injury Report

Check back for updates at halftime and after the game for rapid reactions...


For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...



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