FSU Can't Overcome Mistakes, Falls to Oregon

So this is how a streak ends. Florida State could not get out of its own way in the Rose Bowl, with five Seminole turnovers leading to 35 Oregon points on the way to a 59–20 loss.

1) Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Bottom line, you can’t keep turning the football over against an excellent team. Florida State had been able to survive its own self-inflicted wounds through the regular season, but you simply can’t hand the football to a team the caliber of Oregon and expect anything but a beat down. Four fumbles and an interception are not championship football.

2) Sometimes it’s just not your night. It’s easy to forget how fickle the game of football can be after a long stretch of success, but sometimes you just don’t get the bounces and seem unable to do anything right. This was without a doubt one of those nights. All the breaks and bounces FSU got to aid its 29-game win streak finally went the other direction all at once.

3) In the end, this game was all about momentum. Given the final score, it’s easy to forget that Florida State was in position to take the lead early in the third quarter, with the Seminole offense in rhythm and moving the football seemingly at will. But Dalvin Cook stumbled, let the ball get away from his body, and was ultimately stripped from behind by Oregon linebacker Derrick Malone. Oregon proceeded to score, going up two possessions and changing the context of the game as FSU was forced to chase from that point on. That third quarter featured three more turnovers, putting the game well beyond reach as Oregon scored a touchdown off each Seminole miscue.

4) For whatever reason, FSU had terrible footing problems once the sun had set, leading directly to two scores on Winston’s fumble and Mariota’s TD run shortly thereafter. The field looked perfect to my eyes, so I’m not sure why the Noles had trouble there. Oregon certainly didn’t.

5) Despite the score and being dealt his first loss, Jameis Winston played well in what was surely his final game as a Seminole. Winston showed all the traits that will almost assuredly make him the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, repeatedly hitting backs and receivers in stride, whether they caught the ball or not. His one interception came on a tipped ball that still should have been caught by Travis Rudolph.

6) The FSU offense moved the football all game (6.1 YPP) but simply could not get a good return on all its yardage, with two first-half drives stalling in the red zone, including a goal-line stand by Oregon and a terrible no-call on an obvious pass interference against Nick O’Leary that led to a short field goal rather than a touchdown. Five second-half turnovers—most of which came on drives on which FSU had moved the football.

7) Nick O'Leary's hamstring injury was definitely a factor, as the Seminoles' tight end did not move well all game, nor was he a threat in the passing game. That especially hurt in the red zone, where FSU was unusually inefficient.

8) The FSU defense played as anticipated in the first half, giving up 18 points on six Oregon possessions (3 points per drive) but got embarrassed after the offense began turning the football over and gave up short fields. For the first time in two seasons, the FSU defense simply had no second-half answers, as Oregon’s second-half prowess won the day.

9) The defense did look discombobulated and confused at times, particularly once Oregon got rolling in the second half. The back seven still had difficulty communicating and passing off routes, and the Seminoles gave up far too many yards to Oregon’s panoply of wide receiver screens.

10) We expected the FSU defense to have an edge on the interior, but it was a very quiet night from Eddie Goldman, Derrick Mitchell, and Mario Edwards, Jr., while giving up 7 YPC, which is the kiss of death against Oregon. FSU did have an interior edge on the other side of the football, but it didn’t matter when they chose to leave on the turf downfield.

11) Although diminished personnel is a primary cause, the Florida State needs to spend the offseason reconsidering certain philosophical aspects of their defensive approach. I've long thought FSU might be in danger of the same problem Alabama has had of late—getting too big on the edge and not being able to defend laterally or rush the passer as well as they would need to against spread teams. That seems to have been an issue at different points this season and was certainly a problem tonight. Players like Lorenzo Featherston and Josh Sweat are a start, but FSU needs to make sure not to get so big that they sacrifice speed on the edge. They also need to find more ways to put pressure on opposing offenses. Because FSU was unable to take anything away from Oregon offense, the Ducks were able to dictate to the defense all game, keeping them off balance throughout. You simply have to find ways to force offenses to play “left handed,” and Florida State was unable to do that all too often in the 2014 season and this game in particular.

12) Now that the 29-game win streak is over, Seminole fans would do well to consider what a great run it was—we’re unlikely to see anything like it anytime soon. Looking forward to 2015, Seminole fans should expect a bit of a rebuilding/reloading year as the remaining veterans from the 2013–2014 run depart for the NFL. Next year’s starting lineups will have numerous unfamiliar names and faces, and the Seminoles almost assuredly won’t have a generational talent at the quarterback position to bail out their youthful mistakes.

13) On the plus side, this result will leave a bad taste in the mouths of Seminole players and coaches, obviating any concerns about complacency in the offseason—something that definitely was an issue leading up to 2014.

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