Post Game Analysis: Downer in Death Valley

This past Monday Florida State played their third straight Labor Day prime time game, this time against Clemson. Unlike the two games against Miami, FSU was not successful as the Nole lost a tough road game 24-18. NoleDigest takes a look at the key points of the game, the mistakes that cost the Noles the victory, and the poisitions that need to improve to have a successful 2007 season.

The offensive coaches have stated they have never seen anything like it, and that they hope they never do again. What that is the offensive ineptitude that produced one first half first down, 62 yards of offense, 8 three and outs and a score of 24-3 at the half. The first half is what cost the Seminoles Monday night, as they lost at Clemson 24-18 in a game that can be considered a wake up call to many Nole fans. Florida State stumbled through the miserable first half where it managed only one first down and 62 yards. Weatherford was under constant pressure and looked lost when he wasn't. Florida State only crossed midfield once in the first half after Roosevelt Lawson's blocked punt. Field position may have been the other story of the first half along with the poor offensive performance from the Noles.

After the 23 yard scramble the first play of the game by Weatherford, the wheels came off. A fumble by Preston Parker pinned the Nole defense deep in their territory after Cullen Harper's first career touchdown pass. Clemson struck again with a 29 yard run by James Davis. Throughout the first quarter Clemson had the ball on FSU's side of the field each position and that trend continued throughout the first half. The worst field position for the Tigers was their own 47 yard line, meaning that the Tigers had to only go 53 yards against a worn out defense.

Combined with the poor field position, FSU could not get it done on the offensive side of the ball. They looked flat, could not protect and looked very awe-struck. Between off-side penalties, illegal formations and dropped passes, the offense could not get any rhythm going. Drew was able to make a few passes that ended up as drops by veterans Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg. Many fans expect FSU's offense to come out firing at all cylinders, but maybe that was too much to expect. What may be more shocking is the defense in the first half.

Yes, the defense could not stay off of the field, with the glaring statistic of eight 3-and-outs as the mitigating factor. But, the defense was not classic FSU. There were several missed tackles and penalties. On several occasions the defense bailed out the Tigers on 3rd down by jumping offside, leading to easy 3rd and shorts. Roger Williams, the senior free safety, missed several tackles, as did J.R. Bryant. On James Davis' 29 yard run, FSU missed 6 tackles. When running backs get into the second tier of the defense, it is paramount that the defensive backs make the stop. The fact that C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford, along with Davis, were able to break several tackles spelled doom for FSU. Sophomore defensive tackle Budd Thacker said it best, "We didn't outfight them in the first half and it bit us in the butt."

It is safe to state the game was a tale of two halves. FSU came out smoking in the 3rd quarter. The coaches for the Seminoles were able to do something that hasn't been done in years, that being make adjustments. It can be questioned the reasoning on the quickness of them, but they were made. FSU's defense came out firing, make tackles and getting 3 and outs. A safety on a bad snap got the score to 24-5, and FSU was able to protect, run the ball and score. Antone Smith was on fire in the second half, both in the running and passing game. As the offense was able to stay on the field, the defense got the rest they needed. While there were still several missed tackles, the Nole defense was able to contain and get quick stops. The touchdown early in the fourth cut the lead to 6, but FSU was unable to get the winning score after having the ball two times with 5 minutes left in the game. Why the coaches decided to go away from Antone is concerning, as he was the workhouse in the second half. Many people are wondering why he wasn't leaned on more going in for the win.

What does this all mean? First it is the first game of a new era. These coaches have a lot of work to do, and it showed early. Giving up 24 points and being down 3 scores was too much on the road for a young tea, like FSU. Starting three freshman linemen may have been an error because they got abused before adjustments were made. Stability at the quarterback position was a major concern coming into the season, and it looks like that may continue, especially if he cannot get the protection needed. Bobby Bowden said, "He wasn't sharp and I was surprised. He had a lot of sacks and I don't know if he wasn't reading the right thing or if they just had a guy free and he couldn't get away from him." The knack of stepping into the pressure and holding the ball too long needs to be fixed. There were guys open, but the decision-making wasn't there.

Antone is the best player on offense. For the coaches to have success and for FSU to excel, it may be time to line up and give Smith 25 carries a game. He showed the potential with 90 yards on 14 carries. His ability to catch the ball is an added dimension that needs to be used, especially if the receivers continue to drop passes and look like they don't care. Preston Parker made the critical mistake early in the game, but showed his playmaking ability as a receiver and returner. It is vital to FSU that Carr and Fagg step up and be leaders to FSU.

When you have a freshman (Hudson) a redshirt freshman (Rose), a new starter at center (McMahon) and get down in a hostile environment they were bound to play bad. Trickett made the right adjustments at halftime and the line did great until the last drive. It seems that the young guys actually responded to adjustments and the yelling. If Drew is going to continue to be the quarterback, the lineman must improve on their protection. It is going to be a long year if they don't. The second half, though, showed that things will most likely work out.

The defense needs to tackle better. They defensive tackles played very well, and it looks like the rotation of Fluellen, Griffin, Thacker and Guion is going to be great, Everett Brown and Neefy Moffett played well, but they must get more pressure off of the ends. Like I mentioned earlier, the defensive backs looked terrible when it came to tackling. Teams cannot afford to miss, especially when playing against a team with two backs like Spiller and Davis. The backs did a decent job in coverage in itself, but cost the team on Kelly's touchdown when they missed tackles. It was a redundant theme for the defense. Geno Hayes played average, but as the guys coming off injury get better, their will be a slight decrease in play there. The Noles need for Ball and/or Nicholson to get better sooner than later to be successful. FSU cannot let teams continue to get into the second tier of the defense. This is an area where the linebackers need to improve.

There is a silver lining. The team did not give up, and they almost pulled out the stunner. Fans should be pleased that the team played better in the second half. They were in shape and there were no injuries, which has been a continued problem with the Noles. They fought to the end, but could not get it done with the game on the line. There will be improvement across the board, and the team will continue to get better. After game 1, it is obvious the question marks at quarterback, offensive line, steady receiver play and free safety are still a concern. The success for the Seminoles falls on these guys getting better. I am a fan who thinks it will, but there are going to be ups and downs this year. This team has the coaches to get it done; now it is time to get the players to get it done.

**Took quotes from AP

Nole Digest Top Stories