Florida State Football: Grading the Seminoles vs. Wake Forest
Why did I choose this school?
Eleven months ago, I got accepted to both LSU and FSU. Both schools had their respective academic advantages, but it came down to one thing. Football.
Of course, watching LSU games would be insane. But on the other hand, playing in the SEC West would probably give me near heart attacks every week. And then of course there was family, in-state tuition and other "important stuff."
Now I sit with you, mourning the 2-3 team that could have been so much more.
Florida State's schedule gives them a strong opportunity to finish the year with nine or 10 wins, but the team has to change from the turnover machine that we saw in Winston-Salem.
What has to change?
Florida State Quarterbacks
The Demon Deacons inhabited Wake Forest defenders. Clint Trickett, the impressive backup star at quarterback, had an erratic day. He only missed five passes, but two of those plays ended up as interceptions. Maybe the off-week broke his "groove" in the quarterback position, or maybe he just underestimated Wake Forest. One of Trickett's picks, though, could have been anyone's ball, so his stats are actually skewed against him. Nevertheless, he also fumbled the ball. Bad, bad day for him.
Once first-string quarterback E.J. Manuel entered the game, the Seminoles fortunes improved. Unfortunately, Manuel's two touchdown passes were marred by two interceptions. One came in the end zone! Both of these players are close to being stars, but turnovers at critical points kill any consistency.
Overall, the two talents threw for two touchdowns, four picks and a lost fumble.
Florida State Running Backs
Seen here against Clemson, veteran running back Chris Thompson had the headlines.
It was for the wrong reason.
The Seminoles' most seasoned running back broke his back. Thank goodness that he isn't paralyzed, but any rushing game the Seminoles could have hoped for died with his injury.
As of now, the Seminoles rank 112th nationally (dead last in the ACC) in rushing offense, and continue to be the reason why FSU hasn't won in a month.
Ty Jones was able to score, and so did James Wilder, Jr. At the beginning of the season, I did not see what qualities Wilder had, but apparently he's better than Devonta Freeman (who didn't play at all).
Wilder brings hope to the rushing game in the long run, but when the team rushed for 110 yards the Seminoles still fell. Yes, it was the second highest rushing output of the year and they were playing Florida recruits with Wake Forest, but the performance is inexcusable.
Florida State Receivers
Game ball goes to Rashad Greene.
Whether Manuel or Trickett was behind the ball didn't make any difference to Greene. Greene went for 163 yards, roughly half of the Seminoles' passing yards.
Greene, a freshman, brings hope to FSU's failed revival this year. Having him on the roster means that the passing game will be solid in future years.
This position gets an A+ for carrying the game when the rush attack failed.
Florida State O-Line
Jimbo's less-than-elated impression tells it all.
The O-Line allowed two sacks, but continued to get pushed back by Wake Forest defenders. Manuel and Trickett rarely had running room to rush the ball even to the line of scrimmage. Forget option plays, the Noles had to run up the middle.
And by the anemic numbers, we all know how that went. The O-Line failed at both its main tasks: 1) to protect the quarterback so he can make a play, and 2) let the running backs gain yards on the ground.
Offensive line coach Rick Trickett is distracted. Maybe it's his son who has the spotlight, or the group he has doesn't know how to handle expectations. There are no excuses. This is Florida State football, and Trickett has 38 years of experience. He's even the assistant head coach! With such authority and influence, how can this running game not prosper?
Alright, the rant's over. Maybe it's just growing pains.
Florida State D-Line
These names should scare Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe.
Brandon Jenkins. Bjoern Warner. The other guys.
These linemen were touted to bring the Seminoles' defense to national relevance.
They did great. Wake Forest was limited to under 130 yards on the turf.
Josh Harris and Brandon Pendergrass accounted for all of that yardage, though. While the Seminoles were able to make big plays on offense, it was Harris who hogged the show on the ground. This sophomore (ah! at least one more year with this monster) outgained the whole Seminoles rushing offense.
Give the D-line some respect, though. They had to work with five turnovers. Similarly talented teams (like Notre Dame) will lose to lower ranked teams (South Florida) if turnovers come as often as touchdowns.
The defensive line also made this a game that the Seminoles could of still taken in the fourth.
Relax, Mr. Jenkins. You and your pals are doing fine.
Florida State Linebackers
Like their performance against Oklahoma, celebrations were short-lived at linebacker.
Given Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price's ability to throw the ball (and the ghost-like Josh Harris), it did not matter that the linebackers played man to man. The Demon Deacons' experience outdid the 'Noles by a long shot, who only have two upperclassmen at the position.
Given that, grading should be lenient.
Florida State Secondary
Tanner Price went for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The secondary didn't do much of anything. While other positions made up for the quicksand of failure on offense (specifically, O-Line and the quarterbacks), the secondary could have made at least one pick. Consider the margin of defeat. Five points. Get a pick and the Noles could have had a touchdown.
Maybe they got lackadaisical from the offense's putrid showing. But this team isn't Texas Tech; these guys could've mustered more.
FSU Special Teams
Dustin Hopkins continued hitting field goals. If he could play this well at quarterback, the Seminoles would be at least 4-1. When it came to stopping Wake Forest from returning punts, there was a huge weakness.
As long as the other positions don't meld well, special teams won't have a reason to be noted.
Florida State Coaching
Fisher gets Clint Trickett's talent. But he should not be a full-time starter yet.
E.J. Manuel has the confidence and experience to pull his teammates up by the jockstraps. His freshmen year saw the Bobby Bowden meltdown. What is this compared to that catastrophe?
I really can't blame Jimbo for any on-field performance besides waiting to put E.J. in the game.
Having a heart-to-heart with Rick Trickett would not hurt either.
Mainly, experience is the difference. Wake Forest has 30 Sunshine State players who were at home and fully mature.
This loss—while unexpected—can at least be rationally defended.
If Florida St. loses to BC, Duke or NC State, no excuse will work.
Honeymoon's over, Jimbo.
Florida State Intangibles
The Florida State Seminoles, while enormously talented, are not cohesive.
The defense and the offense belong to entirely different teams. FSU's offense belongs with the likes of Western Kentucky, while their defense is as sturdy as Oklahoma's.
The O-Line isn't worth a hill of beans—they don't work well together. But that will change with more practices and game play. Unlikely interceptions also bring this team some mad, bad karma.
Things will change next week, once the Noles play some easy teams. Their increased confidence will help them to win out in conference play.