Postgame Observations: FSU at Louisville

This team still isn't anywhere near its peak, but it continues to do enough to win.

1) This Florida State offense is clearly more comfortable operating at a higher tempo and primarily from the spread. I think that’s part of the reason FSU has clicked after slow starts—when they’ve fallen behind, they’ve spread the field, quickened the tempo, and thrown the ball all over the yard.

The higher tempo makes it more difficult for defenses to disguise or bring pressure, and Winston has settled into a rhythm with quick throws off high tempo. FSU has put up some silly numbers against some good defenses in stretches this year, and last night’s 35-point second-half outburst against the top-ranked (F/+) defense in the country was a good example of what they’re capable of.

That said, the FSU defense is as thin as it has been in several years right now due to injuries and youth. Redshirt freshman safety Tyrell Lyons was in the game at linebacker for much of the second half after Matthew Thomas injured his shoulder and knee. The drop-off between the first and second team defensive tackles remains dramatic, and the defensive ends not named Mario Edwards, Jr. continue to struggle. Going uptempo potentially puts the defense out there for even longer, which has to be a concern.

That said, I’d still consider going uptempo spread out of the gate early in games, as getting a quicker start could mean enough cushion to play some of the backups like Derrick Nnadi or Georgio Newberry (who may be earning some time soon with his practice performances).

2) With the emergence of Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane, FSU again has the best passing offense in the country. Defenses can no longer take Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary away and roll the dice against the younger receivers, as those two and Jesus Wilson have torched secondaries that have tried that. The team that beats FSU will need to have three outstanding cornerbacks to slow down the pass offense. Winston does need to be a bit more careful about forcing the football to Nick O’Leary on option routes, however.

3) I said it on our premium message boards a couple weeks ago and nobody believed me, but this offense really needs Austin Barron back at center. Barron was looking like he had turned the corner before his injury, and although redshirt freshman Ryan Hoefeld has a bright future, he has really struggled against quality defensive tackles the last two weeks. FSU can afford its center getting pushed around a little bit, but it can’t afford outright whiffs from that position.

4) What Jameis Winston is doing despite that pressure up the middle is herculean. The guy is incredible.

5) After watching the clip of Winston rolling his ankle, I’m concerned that he has a dreaded high ankle sprain. It looks to me like his ankle was twisted outward rather than inverting, which is the usual pathology of a high sprain. It didn’t turn a bunch, so it’s probably on the milder side of a high sprain, but that’s still not good. Either way, I expect him to be in a boot for a few days minimum. I doubt he practices until at least Tuesday.

6) If I had a top-ten pick in the NFL draft and a need on the defensive line, I’d seriously consider taking Eddie Goldman. The guy has consistently made big plays whenever this team has most needed them, and he has logged a ton of snaps this year to boot. The guy is a warrior.

7) FSU is certainly going to be glad to have the extra three days to rest after this game as banged up as they are. Getting Terrance Smith back is going to be critical, and both lines are extremely banged up. Some of the veterans on the offensive line badly need the extra time Tre’ Jackson (knee) and Bobby Hart were hurt going into the Louisville game, and Cam Erving hurt his shoulder in the first half. The Seminoles have definitely made up for their unusually healthy season in 2013 with all the injuries in 2014.

8) Winston’s second interception was a bad, greedy decision—and still mostly Rudolph’s fault. Winston clearly forced the ball into coverage (Karlos Williams was in the flat with no one within 15 yards of him), but Rudolph saw the coverage and ran a lazy route. Receivers have to read coverages just like quarterbacks, and they often know when the ball shouldn’t be coming their way. But when you’re playing with Winston, you have to consider yourself “live” all the time, because he can fit balls into tight spaces and sometimes takes those risks. If Rudolph runs a good route, that’s a catch along the sideline. Poor decision, unbelievable throw, poor route. I doubt it happens again.

9) Winston’s touchdown throw to Ermon Lane was another unbelievable throw on the heels of a questionable decision. Winston doesn’t seem to have seen the “robber” in the middle of the field and threw as though he were seeing standard man-under coverage. But the throw was so perfect it didn’t matter. Quarterbacks are taught to put the ball right past the trailing linebacker’s helmet (since he can’t look back to see it), and Winston put it about two feet behind the helmet—by putting it on the back side, he took any front side coverage out of the play, which is why Louisville’s two coverage players ran into each other. Winston may be the only QB in the country who could have made that throw in that situation.

10) FSU’s corners were terrific in the second half. They weren’t bad in the first half, either, despite DeVante Parker’s big outing. You can’t stop a perfect route and a perfect throw, but they forced everything to be perfect. In the second half, they didn’t even give those opportunities. Ronald Darby’s defense and near-interception of a Parker quick slant in the second half showed why he may be the first cornerback off the board in the next NFL draft.

11) As banged up as FSU’s offensive line was and despite Hoefeld’s struggles, FSU had surprising success on the ground against the Cardinals. Both Karlos Williams and Dalvin Cook ran extremely well. I actually thought Williams ran better than Cook on the whole as he got the tough yards early, though Cook’s two long scores showed why he was such a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school. The offensive line is starting to find its stride on the outside zone again, which could make this team much better down the stretch.

12) The FSU defense is getting more criticism than it deserves. Of 21 first-half points, 14 were off turnovers. It held Louisville to 10 points in the second half and 1-11 on third down. The defense has bent more than last year's dominant unit, but it's by no means a major weakness. Without question the defense needs to develop more depth up front, but it's still awfully good when the chips are down.

The Opening: Jacques Patrick Highlights

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\r\nThe Opening: Jacques Patrick Highlights
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See what Nole fans are saying here

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