Those searching for bright spots in Saturday's 34-0 loss saw the Warhawks hold the nation's No. 6 team to 92 rushing yards and 372 yards of total offense. The outing continued a recent trend under Reffett, whose defenses have led the Sun Belt in rushing defense the past two years.
Reffett saw busted plays, toasted cornerbacks and a poor rate of stoppage on third down opportunities for ULM's defenders.
"I think we did OK in our goal line defense. We did some good things down there," Reffett said in his post-game radio interviews. "But third and long, (we) didn't do a very good job. Coverage wise, (we) lost leverage. (We) didn't get enough heat on the quarterback. So, I don't see a whole lot of positives."
Reffett came down hard on his depleted secondary, which was missing injured cornerback Otis Peterson to injury. He said he needs better showings on the edge from the athletes who do take the field.
"I just want to see the film to see exactly what happened," Reffett said. "I'm just really disappointed in some of the big plays. We felt like we were going to do a pretty good job against the run. We knew coming into this game, we had to minimize the big plays and we had to get off the field on third down – neither of which we did."
Reffett and ULM head coach Todd Berry were of like mind in their takes on the game.
"We're always going to load the box up and present people with problems in the run game," Berry said in his separate radio interview. "The thing we need to improve on that we didn't improve on was all the big plays. We couldn't get a pass rush when we brought pressure. If we didn't bring pressure, we couldn't cover that long. So they kept getting the big plays. There wasn't an easy answer there."
ULM spent the offseason trumpeting its returning experience but game day saw the Warhawks go green at cornerback. Former Jonesboro-Hodge standout Rob'Donovan Lewis, a transfer from Memphis, made his first collegiate start while sophomore Vincent Eddie made his second.
"The problem is that at some of the most critical, pivotal positions, we are not experienced," Reffett said. "We've got Rob'Donovan Lewis starting his first game at corner. He's never played a snap of football before today. Within any scheme of defense, if you don't have good experience and good talent out there on the corner, it's going to be a long season. You can only play so much zone and try to protect them in so many ways. Vincent Eddie, he started a couple of games and played a little bit last year. So, two very important positions on this defense have the two least experienced guys, which is a little bit troublesome."
ULM had a good start with two three and outs to open the game. Florida State didn't collect the game's initial first down until the 6:31 mark of the first quarter.
"There was no fear," Reffett said. "There was nothing that this team felt like it couldn't do against Florida State. We started fast, probably as fast as we have since I've been here. We came out there and tried to hit 'em in the mouth. We got them off there two series in a row. But you just can't keep giving a team like that opportunities."
Florida State converted 8-of-14 third down chances and hit four passing plays of 20 yards or more, including a 50-yard touchdown pass by FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel.
"People question this defense and our ability to stop the run because we only play with three defensive linemen," Reffett said. "But it's something we've been somewhat proficient with. But we still are a work in progress when it comes to coverage. We threw a lot of different coverages at ‘em between man and zone. It wasn't a matter of playing man and getting beat in man. We mixed it up and gave them multiple looks to try to confuse them a little bit. There are guys in position who just aren't making plays. They're hanging on a receiver but they don't find a way to get the ball out. I understand that Florida State is really good. But I think we're really good and I expect those guys to make those plays."
The Tool Man: Cornerback Tim Taylor, who never made much of an impact as a wide receiver, was an active participant in his ULM defensive debut. Taylor registered a game-high nine tackles and had one tackle for a loss.
"Tim coming out of high school was an all-state defensive back," Reffett said. "He's got a background there. The one thing that he brings is a little bit of maturity. He's played in a lot of these games before. He wasn't going to get shell shocked."
Lackluster offense: Florida State held ULM to just 191 yards in the game with 99 coming on the ground.
Redshirt sophomore Kolton Browning finished the game 11-for-19 for 85 yards passing and led the Warhawks in rushing with 28 yards on 11 carries (he gained 61 yards from scrimmage, but had 33 negative yards of rushing). ULM collected just 12 first downs and converted five of 15 chances on third down.
Enemy lines: Quarterback EJ Manuel hit nine different pass catchers while completing 22 of his 34 passes in 3 1/2 quarters. He finished the game with 252 yards passing, two touchdowns, one interception and 22 yards rushing.
"I thought ULM played hard the whole football game," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We knew that they were going to be different. When they were on defense, they caused us some issues. I was proud on how they stayed focused in the game and we were able to make plays at key moments of the game when we needed to-even when sometimes things weren't going well and all of sudden, they rallied back up. We have a lot we need to clean up. We have a lot to get better on. It was a good first ball game and I think ULM has a pretty good team. I really do. They're hard to go against."
Added Manuel on facing ULM's 3-3-5 scheme: "It was kind of tough, we thought we'd see some more stuff they did on film but they didn't. It's something we've been working on in practice. They're a great team and did a terrific job of changing up their scheme."
Quote to note: "I'm tremendously disappointed really. Of course, they've got a great team. But we made too many mistakes today. These were mistakes that we've talked about in camp and we've worked on too many times. So it's disappointing. " – ULM coach Todd Berry in his post-game radio comments.
Up next: ULM and Grambling face off in football for just the second time next Saturday at Malone Stadium. ULM recorded a 28-14 win in front of 30,101 fans in the first Malone meeting on Nov. 10, 2007.
On Saturday, Grambling marked the return of Doug Williams as coach with a 21-14 win over Alcorn State in the Port City Classic at Independence Stadium in Shreveport.
Freshman quarterback D.J. Williams, son of the Grambling coach and former NFL Super Bowl MVP, hit 16 of 21 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
Tail feathers: Free safety Darius Prelow picked off a pass in the end zone on a first-and-10 attempt from the ULM 17 in the second quarter. Prelow also had a sack and four tackles … In 2010, FSU led the nation with 48 total sacks and ranked third with 3.43 sacks per game. Against ULM, FSU recorded four sacks, putting it ahead of last year's pace. …Attendance for the game was 72,226, the 20th largest crowd to see ULM play. … Backup QB Cody Wells played a first-half series and finished for ULM. He was 1-of-3 passing for 7 yards.