After an hour long delay due to lightning, Florida State finally hit the field at Doak Campbell Stadium for the start of the 2015 season. While the weather looked to be taking a turn for the worse, it cleared up and the Noles were able to take the field under good conditions. Florida State looked sharp in the first quarter on both sides of the ball and a pair of Dalvin Cook touchdowns put the Noles up 14-0. Texas State added a field goal then a rushing touchdown before Mario Pender punched in a 1-yard rushing touchdown to put Florida State up 21-10 at halftime. While the ground game was the story of the first half, Everett Golson and the passing attack too center stage after halftime. Golson threw four straight touchdowns in the second half to Travis Rudolph, Ryan Izzo, Bobo Wilson, and Pigg Harrison and Florida State won their season opener 59-16 over Texas State.
Golson had a very successful debut as a Seminole, completing 76% of his passes for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was very effective through the air, especially in the second half. Oddly enough, Golson didn’t utilize his legs as much as everyone speculated he would, finishing with -1 net rushing yards on the day. Eleven different Seminoles caught passes on the day, including some seeing their first real action in the garnet and gold. Tight end Ryan Izzo made his first career start and caught 2 passes for 21 yards and a score. Sophomore wide receiver Ja’Vonn “Pigg” Harrison also had a long 55-yard touchdown from Golson in the fourth quarter. Dalvin Cook was the star of the first half and finished the day with 19 carries for 156 yards and 2 scores. After not practicing the majority of fall camp, Cook was still as explosive and strong as he was last year. Mario Pender added 92 yards and another score on the ground as well.
Here are just some of my initial thoughts and reactions from the game.
- It looks like Jimbo Fisher really is committed to running the ball. After a long offseason of saying that they would be committed to the run, Fisher lived up to his word and Florida State ran the ball 41 times for 266 yards. For comparison, they passed the ball only 32 times. Fisher, a quarterback guy by heart, has had difficulties in the past staying committed to the run, but it seems like this year might be different. It especially helps when you have a trio of running backs like Cook, Pender, and Patrick.
- Everett Golson looked very good, albeit against a weak Texas State defense. Although he took a couple of sacks, he looked very sharp through the air. He didn’t throw much in the first half but took over in the second when he threw all four of his touchdowns. He used his legs to a good extent, especially on his first touchdown pass when he rolled out of the pocket and found Travis Rudolph in the end zone. His second touchdown pass was a very nice lob to Ryan Izzo in the corner of the end zone. The third was a simple slant to Bobo Wilson, who beat his guy in man coverage, but his last touchdown pass to Pigg Harrison was a very nice dart that Harrison took to the end zone. Overall, it was a very good night for Golson.
- The receiver corps had a pretty good night and a lot of young players played their first significant snaps for the Noles. It is clear that Travis Rudolph and Bobo Wilson are far ahead of everyone else in the receiver rotation. Ermon Lane and Pigg Harrison showed some good flashes as well. Kermit Whitfield had a nice 35-yard catch where he took the ball all the way horizontally across the field to pick up some yards after the catch. Ryan Izzo looks to be locked in as the starting tight end and had a nice touchdown grab. Mavin Saunders had an ugly drop on a simple pass from Golson. George Campbell was the star of the garbage time play when he grabbed 3 screen passes for 42 yards and showed some wiggle to pick up yards after the catch. It was a solid night for the receiving corps and they should be able to have the same success against USF’s secondary next week.
- It was hard to analyze the performance of the offensive line from the stands so I’ll break them down after watching the game again.
- Although the Seminoles didn’t rack up any sacks, they put good pressure on the quarterback. Jacob Pugh and Demarcus Walker look to be a good starting duo and Nile Lawrence-Stample and Derrick Nnadi are very good interior players. The real star of the show however, was freshman Josh Sweat. It was amazing that he came in to play during the defense’s first series, especially considering he blew out his knee last fall and was widely considered to be a redshirt candidate when he arrived on campus. He had some good moments when he was able to get to the quarterback and get a hit in, but was also stood up by the left tackle many times as well. He still looks to be around 240-ish lbs. so this will improve as he gains muscle. One particular moment that stood out was during a goal-line stand (Texas State was around the 5 yard line) when Sweat lined up at linebacker besides Terrance Smith. He blitzed on the play instead of dropping into coverage but it was still interesting to see just how much this coaching staff is going to utilize Sweat’s athleticism.
- Speaking of linebacker, Terrance Smith and Reggie Northrup were good as always. Backups Tyrell Lyons and Lorenzo Phillips got to see snaps as well and both had some good plays. Lyons, a converted defensive back, looks to finally have a linebacker build so that was encouraging sight to see.
- Jalen Ramsey, as always, was superb. Early on, he had a very nice open field tackle where he stood up the guy and slammed him on the ground. A few plays later he then jumped and showed very nice range to deflect a pass (think of his pass deflection vs Miami in 2014). Opposite him, Marquez White was solid for the most part at field corner.
- While we knew that Trey Marshall would start at the star position, it wasn’t until kickoff that we learned that Nate Andrews and Lamarcus Brutus would start at the two safety spots. This is surprising because Tyler Hunter started all 14 games last year at safety but instead, Hunter was Marshall’s primary backup at star. 5-star freshman Derwin James, a player that many expected to be pushing for immediate playing time, also didn’t see the field until backups came on in the fourth quarter (if you don’t count the 3 snaps he was on during Texas State’s last second effort to score before halftime). James recovered a fumble during garbage time, but it seems like the coaching staff is comfortable with the rotation of Marshall-Hunter-Brutus-Andrews for the three primary safety spots in FSU’s 4-2-5 defense.
- Special teams was a hot mess. Cason Beatty had a 26 yard punt. Roberto Aguayo kicked a couple of his kickoffs out of bounds. Marquez White fumbled two punts and Travis Rudolph fumbled another. Finally, Bobo Wilson had to come in to provide some stability at the position and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wilson be the primary returner from here on out.
- In a surprising move, Jalen Ramsey will don the #17 jersey on kickoff returns. Of course that is the retired number of Charlie Ward, but apparently Ramsey asked Ward if he could wear #17 on kickoffs and Ward gave him his blessing. A pretty cool story if you ask me.
Next week, the Seminoles have an early 11:30am kickoff against the USF Bulls, who trounced FAMU 51-3 in their home opener. After an ugly day of lightning and rain, next week’s game should be hot, hot, hot at noon.
Credit to Matthew Paskert of FSUView for the header image.