What We Learned: 'Noles 34, 'Hawks 0

Florida State was great on both both defense and special teams in a 34-0 win over ULM. The offense, however, was erratic. What did we learn about the Seminoles? Start with these five observations.

Phil Sears/US Presswire
Senior linebacker Nigel Bradham and sophomore safety Lamarcus Joyner get ready to celebrate Joyner's interception in Saturday's 34-0 dismantling of ULM.

Beating the Seminoles deep will not be easy

True, ULM's offense revolves around deception in the running game and short throws in the passing game, but the one and only time the Warhawks actually challenged the Seminoles downfield, sophomore safety Lamarcus Joyner was not fooled and came up with the interception. We knew going into the season opener that the three-headed monster of senior Mike Harris, junior Greg Reid and sophomore Xavier Rhodes was as talented -- not to mention productive -- as any group of cornerbacks in the country, and now Joyner makes them that much more dangerous with his ability to patrol center field. Reid admitted to being somewhat bored after halftime, as ULM quickly realized that taking any sort of shot on a deep route was simply a wasted play.

Over at the other safety position, junior Nick Moody got a lot more action than senior Terrance Parks, and it showed with Moody being credited with four tackles and Parks not even denting the stat sheet, but both of them can now spend their time down in the box because of Joyner's sideline-to-sideline range.

Freeman has earned a fair share of touches

Florida State's ground game left a lot to be desired, as six ball carriers combined for only 92 yards on 28 carries for a 3.3-yard average, and that includes eight scrambles from junior quarterback E.J. Manuel for 22 yards. ULM's 3-3-5 defensive scheme gave the offensive line problems because the linebackers and safeties did a commendable job filling gaps and giving FSU's backs no clear holes to run through, plus undersized defensive tackle Kentarius Caldwell was a nuisance with two tackles for loss and a sack. But on the lone drive the Seminoles looked to have even the slightest sense of rhythm when running the ball, it was with freshman Devonta Freeman in the huddle, not senior Ty Jones or junior Chris Thompson.

Yes, Thompson did rip off a 19-yard run, which was the longest of the day, but Freeman ran with attitude on his seven attempts and didn't feel intimidated in his first collegiate action -- senior Jermaine Thomas, by the way, never entered the huddle.

Rotations on D seemingly in midseason form

While sophomore defensive end Bjoern Werner enjoyed another workman-like effort, contributing 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble against the Warhawks, he didn't even seem tired when speaking to the media in the turf room at Doak Campbell Stadium after the game. 11 defenders were credited with at least three tackles, and 10 players in garnet and gold got in on a tackle for loss -- there was also a "team" tackle for loss that showed up in the final statistics. The middle-linebacker rotation between junior Vince Williams and sophomore Telvin Smith could not have gone smoother, as Williams led the team with seven tackles and Smith batted down a fourth-down pass to help preserve the shutout.

Junior-college transfer Cornellius Carradine (four tackles) and sophomore Dan Hicks (one tackle, half a tackle for loss) are good enough to start at defensive end for any FBS program in the country, yet in Tallahassee they're second stringers behind Werner and junior Brandon Jenkins (five tackles, two tackles for loss, one pass breakup).

Tight end still not a major component on O

FSU fans have been clamoring for the tight end to become a bigger part of the offense for years now, but the position group was held without a reception in the first half and didn't get into the action until senior Beau Reliford hauled in a 13-yarder from Manuel in the third quarter. Even much-ballyhooed freshman Nick O'Leary was an afterthought until the contest was already in hand, as he got targeted twice in the final period and ended up with a single grab for six yards. When the running game sputtered on the first couple of drives, coach Jimbo Fisher called for the shotgun with four receivers -- six wideouts reeled in at least one pass -- and for the most part had his tight ends watching from the sideline.

O'Leary has all the tools to be a menace on short and intermediate routes, so his role should be increased over the course of the season, but the fact that he missed a bunch of preseason camp nursing a banged-up shoulder cost him a chance to make a bigger splash in the opener.

Coverage units make special teams scary

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Scalp 'Em

It's no surprise that the 'Noles overwhelmed ULM in every phase on the special teams, as senior punter Shawn Powell and junior kicker Dustin Hopkins are as effective as any players in the country at their respective positions, and then you have Reid capable of taking it to the house in the return game in the blink of an eye. It showed Saturday, with Hopkins dropping a pair of punts well inside the enemy 20-yard line, Hopkins splitting the uprights on two field-goal tries and Reid averaging 17.8 yards on four punt returns -- FSU's one kick return went for 36 yards, courtesy of Joyner. But it was the kick-coverage unit that truly stood out, with ULM's Jyruss Edwards having a hard time reaching his own 15, let alone the 20.

Considering how quickly the Seminoles were surging down the field to cover kicks and stuffing Edwards before he could even get to full speed, Hopkins may be better served dialing his powerful leg back a notch instead of simply pounding the pigskin out of the back of the end zone.

John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

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