Florida State needs to start pretending that they are down 21-0 before the game, and play like they have when down. After going down 21-0 Florida State went on a 42-10 run on the No. 1 defense in the country. They question is why does it take that long for this team to get going?
If I had the answer to that question I’d be making a lot of money coaching football and not just writing about it, but I can hazard a guess. The mentality of this team changes. At the beginning of the game they think they they’re just going to walk all over everyone because they are the defending national champions. That mentality goes away when they get down and realize that no one is going to roll over for them.
Louisville native Muhammad Ali was in attendance, and the 2013 Florida State team reminded me a lot of Ali’s boxing style. Ali dominated all of his competition (the ACC) until George Foreman came along and Ali proved he could stand in and take a punch (Auburn). That being said, 2014 Florida State looked more like Mike Tyson than anyone else and has all season. This team has taken big hits all season, but delivered body blow after body blow before landing the knockout punch on every opponent they have faced.
Jameis Winston was not sharp last night. He went 10-22 for 123 yards in the first half with two interceptions. He was inaccurate and made bad decisions. He also showed the true heart of a competitor. In the second half Winston played through an ankle injury that was clearly causing him severe pain, and played well. Just like in the Notre Dame game Winston was close to phenomenal. He went 15-26 for 278 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, and a forced fumble on the play he threw the interception. Winston delivered when it counted and Florida State proved that you can never count out the Seminoles with No. 5 at the helm.
Florida State fans should really be thanking Will Muschamp and the University of Florida today. Without their abysmal year last year Florida State likely doesn’t land Dalvin Cook, Travis Rudolph, or Ermon Lane. Lane and Cook were long time Florida commitments before switching to the Seminoles, and Travis Rudolph was considered a Florida lean coming into the 2013 season. Those three freshman showed out last night combining for 244 yards and four of Florida State’s six touchdowns.
The Florida State offensive line had very serious issues last night. Redshirt freshman center Ryan Hoefeld spent more time on the ground last night than blocking, left tackle Cam Erving played most of the second half without the use of his right arm, Tre Jackson has a knee injury, and Bobby Hart had his left ankle taped and wasn’t able to move well. With that said they still managed to open holes for the running game that rushed for 96 yards in the second half. The Louisville defense was only allowing 66 rushing yards going into the Florida State game, and the Seminoles finished with 173 yards on the ground.
Florida State’s defense has not been great this season. If fact if you ignore the redzone it’s one of the worst defenses in the country. That being said you have to include the redzone where the Seminoles defense has dominated. Florida State has allowed points in just 26-36 opponent redzone attempts. Only 17 of those have been touchdowns. That continued last night with the Seminoles defense forcing a turnover on downs at their own one-yard line on the first possession. If Florida State can find a way to minimize the damage past the 25-yard line this defense could be very good.
That being said it is extremely hard for the defense to be good when they are playing Tyrell Lyons at linebacker due to so many injuries. Florida State was without the ACC’s leading tackler Terrance Smith, E.J. Levenberry, Ukeme Eligwe, and Jacob Pugh. Mathew Thomas, who got his first career start at Florida State, played most of the game with a shoulder injury because there was no one else to come in for him. Louisville attacked that all night, and it is a major reason why Dyer had so much success running the football.
What would this column be without the bad play of special teams. That being said it wasn’t Cason Beatty. Beatty averaged 45.6 yards per punt. Which was almost 10 yards more than his counterpart for Louisville. Roberto Aguayo got his on field goal miss of the year out of the way, but was 6-6 on PAT attempts. The real issue is kickoff returns. After being No.1 in the nation last season the Seminoles are 96th in the country this season. Florida State works on this every day in practice during the first period. It’s not the returner. Kermit Whitfield is still back there. Florida State is having issues blocking it right now, and until that happens the results will remain unchanged.
Florida State is in a great position to win out and put itself into the first ever playoff. However, Florida State will have to find a way to start much faster if they want to have any chance of repeating as national champions. Spotting Alabama 21 points can’t happen. The good news is that there is still a month left for the regular season, and two months until the playoffs would start.