The Florida State Seminoles overcame some sloppy play on a sloppy field Saturday night in Tampa and came away with a 30-17 win over South Florida.
The 'Noles won, but they didn't look like a No. 4 team.
Heisman candidate EJ Manuel had a very good night going 19-of-26 for 241 yards and one touchdown. He certainly didn't hurt his Heisman chances, but West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith's performance (45-of-51 for 656 yards and eight touchdowns) against Baylor probably did.
Manuel went 12-of-15 for 139 yards in the first half, but he was pressured often by the Bull's front seven. Manuel also had trouble keeping his feet under him due to the chewed-up condition of the grass.
On the Bulls' first possession, quarterback B.J. Daniels marched his team into the Seminole's red zone, gashing the vaunted defense before having to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Maikon Bonani.
Karlos Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to give Florida State great field position at the Bulls' 37-yard line. Rashad Greene later punched it in from 10 yards out and the Seminoles took a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter.
While Florida State's defense started out sluggish with missed tackles, arm-tackles and linebackers out of position, Daniels couldn't take advantage of the defense's miscues and the Bulls stalled after several promising drives.
Midway through the first quarter on a 3rd-and-four on the Seminoles' 39-yard line, Daniels short-armed a pass to a wide-open Terrence Mitchell and their drive ended without any points scored.
Later on in the first quarter, the Seminoles had the Bulls pinned inside their own five-yard line after a 44-yard punt by Cason Beatty, but Daniels, on the first play from scrimmage, scampered through the Florida State defense picking up 24 yards and a first down. The Bulls looked like they had no fear of the No. 4 team in the country.
After a 12-play drive that chewed up almost six minutes off the clock, South Florida was forced to punt on the Seminoles' 42 after Cornellius Carradine and Everett Dawkins sacked Daniels for a seven-yard loss.
Florida State had some miscues of its own. The Seminoles marched from their own 11 to inside the Bulls' 10-yard line before Manuel was sacked. Facing a 4th-and-goal. the Seminoles played it safe; Dustin Hopkins connected on a 26-yard field goal to give the Seminoles a 10-3 lead, but missed on a 48-yard attempt late in the second quarter.
The Seminoles looked like they were going to go into the half leading 10-3 but Daniels was intercepted by Xavier Rhodes at the Seminoles' 45 and Hopkins eventually made a 45-yard field goal to give the Seminoles a 13-3 lead going into the half.
The second half started out auspiciously for the Seminoles. After a three-and-out, Cason Beatty's punt was blocked and recovered by Tashon Whitehurst on the Seminoles' 8-yard line and BJ Daniels punched it in two plays later to pull the Bulls within three points of Florida State.
But Florida State finally started wearing down South Florida both offensively and defensively in the third quarter. Time-consuming drives and more physical play up front—something that was missing in the first half—took shape and the Seminoles dominated the Bulls in the second half scoring 17 points in the third quarter alone.
What's concerning is the lack of killer instinct by this Seminole team. South Florida had three turnovers, but Florida State couldn't put the game away until the fourth quarter. More concerning is the pressure South Florida put on the Seminoles offensive line.
Obviously, there is a lot of talent on the team, and the exciting combination of Chris Thompson and EJ Manuel keeps the offense very balanced. But Florida State's No. 4 ranking may be a tad premature.
The Seminoles might not get beat in the ACC. But if they want to run the tables and get to the BCS Championship, they have to shore up the O-line, get more aggressive with the play-calling and work on defensive fundamentals like gap discipline and wrapping up a tackle.
Remember, Florida State beat the same South Florida team that lost 23-13 to Rutgers and 31-27 to Ball State.
The No. 4 team in the country can't score more points on South Florida than Ball State?