Nothing is ever easy with the 2014 Florida State football team. Just when it seemed like the Seminoles were going to blow out Florida a special teams mistake, one of many on the day, put the Gators right back into the game. What would have been a 12-point halftime lead turned into just 5.
Normally this would not be an issue for Florida State because Jameis Winston is usually at his best in situations like this. That was not the case on Saturday, however, when Winston threw for just 125 yards and 2 touchdowns while throwing 4 interceptions, 3 in the first half. Throughout the game Florida State had to rely on its defense, and when the Seminoles needed it most they stood tall.
The Seminoles defense has been under fire all season for their performances, but in the last two games they have played extremely well. Florida started 5 drives on Florida State’s side of the field and scored just 13 points. The Seminoles defense held Florida’s rushing offense to just 113 yards and 3.4 yards per carry. That is 84 yards less than what the Gators normally gain on the ground and gained 1.1 less yards per carry. The defense was also able to put points on the board when, after Winston’s third interception, Terrance Smith intercepted a tipped pass and took it 94 yards for the touchdown.
It wasn’t all bad on the offensive side of the ball however. Florida State was able to run the football effectively on the nations No. 12 rush defense to the tune of 181 yards at 4.4 yards per carry. That is 71 yards and 1.4 yards per carry more than what the Gators normally give up. It is also 54.4 yards more than what Florida State usually rushes for.
Two factors went into Florida State dominating the Gators on the ground, Dalvin Cook and the offensive line. Cook was spectacular rushing for 144 yards on 24 carries for 6.0 yards per carry. He had 7 runs of 10 yards or more and also added 2 receptions for 30 yards. The offensive line was fantastic and has really played well since Cam Erving moved to center and true freshman Rod Johnson stepped into his place at left tackle. The offensive line, plus Nick O’Leary, did a fantastic job of opening up huge holes for Cook to run through. They also did an excellent job in pass protection giving up just a single sack and quarterback hurry.
Special teams were an absolute nightmare for the Seminoles. Beatty had a punt blocked, but he was hit on two of them as Florida almost got to his first punt as well. He had three punts that he did get off for a 36.3-yard average, much lower than his season average. The kickoff return unit was abysmal as well starting inside the 25-yard line 6 times and inside the 10-yard line twice. It has been an incredible fall for the unit that finished with the best kickoff return average in the nation last year.
Florida State didn’t play well in two out of the three phases of the game, and yet the Seminoles still found a way to win and finish the season undefeated for the second straight year. A feat that had never been done in Florida State history. The Seminoles also extended their school best winning streak to 28 games. Perhaps more importantly Jimbo Fisher is now 9-1 against Florida and Miami, something that will make Seminole fans extremely happy.