Throughout the first seven games against FBS opponents this season Florida State’s run defense wasn’t up to par when compared to the 2013 defense. In five of the first seven games in 2014 the Seminoles opponents ran for more than 150 yards. In 2013 teams ran for 150 yards just three times in 14 games. That drop off is to be expected after losing seven contributors from last season, including three on the defensive line, to graduation or the NFL. Not to mention the loss of a starting defensive tackle this year to injury at a position that does not have a lot of depth.
However, during the last four games the Florida State run defense has started playing much better while playing better rushing offenses. Boston College and Miami are two of the best run offenses in the country, and all four of Florida State’s opponents in the month of November came into the game averaging 150-plus yards per game. Three of the four came in averaging over 195, and one over 260. All of which were held to lower than their season average against Florida State. The Seminoles held Virginia to 2.9, Miami to 1.3, Boston College to .7, and Florida to 1.1 yards per carry below their season averages going into the Florida State game.
This turnaround can be attributed to a couple of reasons. First, the play of defensive tackle Derrick Mitchell. Mitchell has played extremely well over the last month and has become a dominant force on the defensive line opposite of Eddie Goldman.
Goldman had some high praise for his counterpart, specifically how he has overcome adversity during his career at Florida State.
“I always thought [Mitchell] was a great player,” Goldman said. “He’s a quick guy that can strike blocks real well, but he’s had a lot of injuries that he’s had to overcome. He actually got one of the players of the game on defense against Florida. It’s tremendous to see how he’s overcome all those injuries and is playing well.”
The second reason is the play of the linebackers, specifically Reggie Northrup. Northrup is averaging 8.5 tackles per game over the last four games, and became the first Seminole since Buster Davis in 2006 to reach the 100-tackle mark. Northrup believes that the linebacking corps mentality has changed.
“We make improvements every week,” Northrup said. “It’s more on improving on your technique and stuff, but it’s also about willpower. You have to want to do it. You want to win, you want to be great, you have to do it.”
Northrup went on to talk about how that plays into stopping the run.
“It’s more physical,” Northrup said. “You have to have that physical mentality. You have to have that it factor.”
If the Seminoles are going to stay undefeated the Florida State run defense will definitely need that mentality this weekend as the Seminoles take on one of the best rushing teams in the nation. Georgia Tech averages 337 yards per game, 6 yards per carry on the ground, and will look to dominate the time of possession against the Seminoles. If the Seminoles want to leave Charlotte with a win, their improved run defense will play a critical role.