What a game! What an offensive explosion! Ok, bring it together, we are playing an FCS Samford. However, there were some things to take note of in that "pre-season" game.
1) The offense was never a question -- Christian Ponder and the trio of running backs (Jermaine Thomas, Lonnie Pryor, and Ty Jones) had no problem whatsoever coming up with 481 total yards of offense. Ponder threw for 167 yards and four touchdowns in only 14 attempts. He really did not have any trouble with hardly any breakdown in the pocket behind his veteran offensive linemen. There really is no clear number one receiver or running back. This works well for Florida State because all have speed and talent and, at any time, a player can be called on to make a big play. Look at Ty Jones 57-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The offense will be reliable against any defense.
2) The defense is vastly improved -- Players were running to the ball the likes of which has not been seen since the 1990s. The defensive line dominated the running game and made pressure on the quarterback on almost every play. The only times that the line got burned was over-pursuit on draw or screen plays. The linebackers were all over the field making tackles. FSU has never been short of excellent linebackers. The best improvement is seen in the secondary. Not once did the corners or safeties get burned over the top. In fact, I did not see any receivers get behind the secondary. Now, it is just Samford. But, they did throw around 40 times, testing the backfield. Even better, most of the time the freshman recruits were on the field in some manner. Add in a punt block, interception, and punt return for touchdown and the defense outperformed 2009 by leaps and bounds.
3) The cornerbacks need to learn to tackle better and not play so far back -- Mark Stoops incorporated his new zone defense which was a definite improvement to last season. However, the underneath pass was open as the cornerbacks were playing nearly 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. In an effort to not get beat over the top, they might have gone too far in the other direction and let the underneath pattern be open. A team can be beat just as easily in both ways. Also, when Samford threw a short pass, the cornerbacks struggled with open field tackling (Greg Reid diving over the receiver on a hitch pattern in the second quarter). These problems will be amplified against better talent in future weeks.
4) Lack of penalties -- Florida State struggles with giving away yards to penalties. Today, they only committed four penalties for 40 yards, another dramatic improvement from the past five years.
Overall, this was exactly what needed to happen to get ready for Oklahoma, BYU, and the ACC conference season. The excitement is high. Let's carry it into Norman next Saturday.