Florida State wrapped up week two with an ugly, ugly win over South Florida early on Saturday. The first half featured a dreadful performance from the offense, an encouraging display from the defense and FSU went into halftime tied 7-7 with the Bulls. They eventually pulled away for a 34-14 win, mainly due to the heroics of Dalvin Cook, but this game was highlighted by the youth and poor play of the offense.
With a short week of rest before a trip to Boston College for a Friday night game, the Seminoles only have a brief period of time to correct their mistakes before their first conference game of the season. While Florida State was certainly expected to roll over South Florida by 2-3 touchdowns, there are several things we can take away from this game, especially due to the amount of mistakes on the offensive side of the ball.
- Everett Golson had a terrible day at quarterback. At one point he was 1-9 for 6 yards, those yards coming off of a screen pass to Travis Rudolph. He looked lost and often times bailed out of the pocket unnecessarily when the pressure wasn’t even there. He wasn’t helped at all by his inexperienced offensive line and receivers. Several passes were dropped, but others were off-target and at least one should have been intercepted. This was probably the worst performance from a quarterback under Jimbo Fisher. This isn’t unexpected however, as his poor play was the primary reason why Golson was even available for transfer in the first place. What is concerning that it happened this early in the season. Last season, Golson was a legitimate Heisman contender before famously losing at the last second to Florida State and from there it was all downhill. His performance versus Boston College will be huge if he wants to keep a hold of the starting job at quarterback. Look for Jimbo to call for more zone-option runs in order to get Golson’s legs more involved in the game and to bring momentum to the offense.
- The offensive line, especially the right side, was overwhelmed at times. Much was made over their good performance versus Texas State, but the better athletes at USF were certainly a match for the inexperienced offensive line. I’m stressing the term “inexperienced” a lot because it’s really the only term for this offense. 4/5 starters on the offensive line were starting only the second game in their career versus South Florida. Corey Martinez and Brock Ruble, both second year players, were constantly beaten at the line and Kareem Are and Wilson Bell only played a little better. “Big Rod” Johnson continued to be solid, but the right side of the offensive line is a major concern heading forward. The competition only gets better from here. Boston College should be a challenge and Miami and Louisville in October should be major tests for this line. With little to no depth, this offensive line needs to gel fast or Florida State could be in serious trouble later in the season.
- Continuing with the inexperienced theme, the receivers also had a mixed performance. While quarterback play was poor, there were several drops and wrong routes by the receivers. Bobo Wilson seems to be Florida State’s #1 option at receiver because he is the most consistent in both catching and route running, but even he had a couple of drops. While Wilson is a very good option, it is concerning that none of the sophomore trio have stepped up. Rudolph is a starter but hasn’t broken out as the #1 option like many predicted him to and neither Ermon Lane nor Pigg Harrison seem to have taken that next step yet. One player who I thought would get some passes in the game was George Campbell. In garbage time of the Texas State game, he showed some good elusiveness and burst when he caught a couple of screen passes from Sean Maguire. For whatever reason, Jimbo chose not to call them again in this game, but hopefully he’ll get more involved soon.
- It was a scary sight when Ryan Izzo went down with an injury late in the game. Luckily he came back, but there would be a major question mark at tight end if he had been seriously hurt. Mavin Saunders had a chance for a touchdown in the game, but let the pass slip through his hands, showing that he is still a very raw player and Jeremy Kerr is strictly a blocking tight end. None of the tight ends caught a pass on Saturday and the theme of inexperience continues.
- The one player on offense who was spectacular on offense was Dalvin Cook. He had 30 carries for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. Short and simple, he was amazing and is certainly a Heisman contender if he continues these performances. Cook bailed the offense out of a lot of situations and his most impressive runs weren’t the long touchdown runs, but rather the short yardage gains when his offensive line was getting blown up by South Florida defenders. Cook has transformed into a really good interior runner and, as he showed in this game, is a threat to score on nearly every carry he gets. Mario Pender was also very good. One play in particular that stood out is when he was stonewalled on a 1st down, reversed field and outraced the defenders for the first down. Jimbo was probably riding the hot hand in this game, but look for Mario Pender to get more carries in the games to come.
- Defensively, the Noles had a very good performance outside of one busted coverage that South Florida exploited for a long touchdown. Quinton Flowers and his dual threat ability was going to be a test for this defense and, looking back, they did a nice job of containing him on the ground. The sacks weren’t going to be there since Flowers is elusive enough to break free, but the defensive line and linebackers were quick to contain him when he did try to scramble. Marlon Mack, South Florida’s stud running back, was limited for most of the day and didn’t have any terribly long gains. The defensive line had a good day and I saw some good things from Josh Sweat in the run game as well, which is very encouraging.
- It looks like Ro’Derrick Hoskins is getting more snaps than Reggie Northup at middle linebacker. Northrup, while a very good linebacker, has limitations in coverage and it seems like Hoskins is better at that area. Lorenzo Phillips still looks to be a ways away, as he only saw snaps late in the game. If Phillips can continue to develop, this rotation of linebackers will only get stronger.
- The secondary had a very good game, highlighted by another impressive performance by Marquez White. He had a very nice interception in the end zone where he tracked the ball and made the grab after the receiver had mostly given up on the route. Jalen Ramsey continues to be amazing and it’s only a matter of time before he makes an amazingly athletic interception of his own. Lamarcus Brutus was kicked out of the game early on a targeting penalty, which served the highlight his importance for the defense as a whole. After the penalty, the defense seemed to take longer to line up and one has to wonder if the busted coverage touchdown would have happened with him in the game. Marshall, Hunter and Andrews are all good players, but Brutus has improved immensely in the offseason and has grown to be an essential part of the defense. Derwin James also got major snaps with Brutus out and had a nice sack on Flowers as well. It remains to be seen if his move to #31 is permanent to play him more on punt returns or if it was a matter of someone to cover Brutus’ spot.
- Roberto Aguayo seems to have solved his problem of kicking the ball out of bounds, but Cason Beatty is still terrible. The long punt return that USF had was a combination of a bad punt and terrible coverage on the return. Luckily, Marquez White had his interception and prevented the Bulls from any points, but punts and punt coverage in particular are a concern heading forward. If Beatty continues his line-drive punts (and there’s no reason to consider he’ll improve), the punt coverage unit has no time to sprint down the field to cover it. A more explosive athlete like Artavis Scott at Clemson could certainly burn Florida State for a touchdown if they do not fix this.
Florida State travels to Boston College for a Friday night game that has “trap” written all over it. Boston College has always been a tough test for Florida State and, when you add in a short week of rest and a long travel, this game will be the first true test for this squad. This will also be Boston College’s first true game, as the Eagles opened with Maine and Howard. Expect this game to be sloppy and mistake filled from both teams. Florida State opened as a touchdown favorite, but the line could certainly go down.
Until then, enjoy the rest of your week Florida State fans. Get the beer and liquor ready, because Friday could be a long night.