Florida State and BYU Look To Forget Last Week's Losses: 5 Keys To a Win
Everybody has now heard about (or saw) how Florida State was pummelled in Oklahoma, looking very desperate on both offense and defense for anything to go right. Now, most people have turned their sights to this weekend at home against BYU as a way to forget the 47-17 thrashing.
Brigham Young opened their season with a big win against Jake Locker's Washington Huskies before travelling to Air Force and being soundly beaten 35-14. The defeat of Washington gave BYU a 24th place ranking the USA Today Poll before last week's loss sent them out of the polls.
Last season Florida State played their best game of the season at BYU by putting up a 54-28 win. This season BYU travels to Tallahassee for the rematch. Both teams enter this game coming after a big loss and seeking a win to make up for it. However, in this encounter, BYU also wants to account for the significant loss they had at home to Florida State by doing the same at FSU's home turf.
Who has the upper hand? Let's look at five keys to the win.
Florida State Defense Pressuring The Quarterback
It was no secret that the defense of Florida State lacked any pressure on Oklahoma last week. Landry Jones was able to complete 30 of 40 passes with relative ease. The Seminoles did not even get set at the line of scrimmage on many plays later in the game when Oklahoma ran the no-huddle offense.
From their first two games, BYU does not seem to run the hurry-up offense. The average time per play that Oklahoma spent on offense was 22 seconds. From BYU's game against Washington, they spent 27 seconds per play. Those five seconds between each play will be critical for the defenders to get set and catch their breath.
Because Florida State was not able to get set on defense, there was never a possibility of calling a blitz. They were playing on their heels each time. If the Seminoles are going to have any success defensively, they have to put pressure on the quarterback.
To further clarify, this does not have to come strictly from the defensive line (although Everette Dawkins can handle his own if he plays his hardest), but get the safeties, cornerbacks, and linebackers coming at the quarterback from all directions. This is especially true since BYU runs no true running back and alternates quarterbacks (one of which is a scrambler who has the most rushes on the team). They cannot give BYU the kind of time they gave Oklahoma.
Sophomores kicker Dustin Hopkins and cornerback/kick & punt returner Greg Reid are key to the Seminoles success on special teams. Against Oklahoma, the special teams were a huge let-down. Not once did Florida State have a kick or punt return beyond their own 30-yard line. Because of that, the offense never had a chance for good field position.
Every kickoff, there was a mass of Sooners beyond the Florida State blockers before the returner had reached the 20-yard line. The Seminoles have to tighten up the kick and punt returns to give Reid and Lamarcus Joyner a chance at a return.
Hopkins has proven that, even at a young age, he is a very reliable kicker. He is perfect on the season (2 for 2) with a range of 50+ yards. If the Seminoles can get on BYU's half of the field, Hopkins is a weapon that they can use.
Sophomore Riley Stephenson is the best weapon that BYU has. In the Washington win during the first week of the season, Stephenson had three kickoffs and eight punts and was so accurate that the average starting position for the Huskies was their own 15-yard line.
If BYU is to have success, they have to pin Florida State back in order to give their defense as much help as possible. The Seminoles, however, have to get many more yards from the kick and punt returners than they did at Oklahoma.
BYU Rushing Defense and Florida State Running Backs
Florida State took too many passing attempts after seeing Oklahoma's blitz schemes. They left the run game way too early. The key for Christian Ponder is to have an established running game because he is not a threat when the team becomes one-dimensional.
Brigham Young has struggled to stop the rushing attack. Last week against Air Force they allowed 409 rushing yards on 65 attempts (allowing almost seven yards per rush). In two weeks, they have allowed over 530 rushing yards and need to fill these gaps.
Florida State has to expose this problem in the Cougars front line. They must use the trio of running backs constantly. This will be hard for Ponder who will want to rebound himself after his worst performance since the four interceptions against Clemson.
However, the offense needs to run between 45 to 60 running plays to wear down the defense and keep the clock in their favor. BYU will have to use their linebackers to assist the defensive line to shut down any hope Florida State has of running the ball.
BYU Duo of Quarterbacks
BYU has started the season with two quarterbacks running the offense. Riley Nelson, junior, is a scrambler while Jake Heaps, freshman, is more of a pocket passer. BYU is trying to get playing time for its rookie.
In the game against Washington, both threw for 131 yards and was given close to equal playing time. However, when BYU struggled against Air Force in week two, the Cougars stopped playing the freshman and relied solely on Nelson. It was too little too late though.
Having two quarterbacks run the show never works. An offense has to get used to one style of play for there to be any success. Therefore, if BYU comes out alternating quarterbacks, expect there to be confusion and offensive problems.
Florida State needs to make its presence felt defensively. BYU will want to run the ball behind Nelson. The Seminoles have to learn from last week's mistake of failing to tackle the player and make sure they do not give up extra yards.
Christian Ponder has to lead the Florida State Seminoles if they are to win. His play looked like the rest of the team -- confused. Ponder only had 113 yards passing on 11 of 28 completions. Mainly, he looked like a deer in headlights.
Ponder needs to have a game that makes people forget Oklahoma. This does not necessarily mean 400 yards passing or five touchdowns (see slide three). Instead, he needs to prove his leadership by making wise decisions on every play.
The team will play to the level of their leader. Tim Tebow found success, not because he was an amazing quarterback, but due to his insatiable apetite for winning and trustworthy, Braveheart-level leadership. He needs to be the one heading the charge on offense and the encouragement on defense.
How Christian Ponder and the Seminoles rebound from this loss will be seen not only against BYU but for the rest of the season.