The Chalkboard: Reviewing FSU's Running Game

A look at what held Florida State's running game back in week one.

Florida State came into the 2014 season expecting to be able to run the football as well as anyone in the country behind an offensive line starting five seniors, four of whom are almost certain to be selected in the next NFL draft.

The Seminoles, however, were less successful than expected in their first outing against a surprisingly stubborn Oklahoma State run defense, tallying only 106 yards on 31 carries (3.4 yards per carry), with lead back Karlos Williams limited to 2.9 yards per carry on 23 attempts.

Below, we look at three plays that typify just went wrong in the running game.

Matias Whiffs on Inside Zone

The first was on 1st and 10 play with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter. Florida State runs inside zone left here, with Austin Barron and Josue Matias (circled below) combo blocking the Oklahoma State defensive tackle before Barron releases to climb to the linebacker on the second level.

As you can see, there’s a chance for this play to turn into a huge gain, as Tre' Jackson has cut off the backside defensive tackle and Barron has a great angle to the linebacker. If Williams can hit this seam at full speed, it’s probably a ten yard gain at minimum, with a real chance that he could score here.

But when Barron releases for the linebacker, Matias, whose helmet placement was too far outside from the start, loses the defensive tackle, who cuts off the gap, with Williams doing a good job just to get back to the line of scrimmage.

Erving Whiffs on Stretch Play

The second play came on a first and goal on the first drive of the third quarter. FSU calls a stretch play to Williams, but Cam Erving steps too wide and whiffs on the Oklahoma State defensive end, who knifes inside and beats Erving and Matias, who also has some responsibility for that gap, with quickness.

If the end had been blocked here, Williams again may have scored, as Barron does an excellent job cutting off the defensive tackle. But the end is instead in perfect position and blows up the play for a loss of six.

Williams Misses the Cutback

The third play came two plays later on third and goal from the 16. Williams gets the carry on a counter trey (which FSU ran several times in this game after not showing it much the last few years). As you can see below, Williams has a huge cutback lane almost immediately after getting the handoff.

Williams, however, follows his lead blocker, Matias, too closely and doesn't see the cutback (much to Jameis Winston’s chagrin), ultimately getting caught up in the pile to the playside.

This is a third play which may well have scored with one minor change—as evidenced by the fact that Mario Pender scored on almost exactly the same cutback on his first carry. It's amazing how razor-thin the margins at this level can be.

Missed Opportunities, Fixable Mistakes

These plays typify both the FSU running game and the way this game went as a whole—Florida State was just sloppy enough to keep from dominating the game. The good thing is that all of these mistakes are easily fixable and should quickly disappear as the offense jells over the course of the year.

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