Florida State Football: 5 Things We Learned from Miami Game
In the history of the rivalry between Florida State and Miami, the Seminoles’ special teams units have been, well, rather ordinary.
On Saturday, the ‘Noles finally flipped the script on their hated rivals.
FSU fended off the ‘Canes 23-19 in a wacky affair that adds another strange, yet competitive chapter to this rivalry that seemingly finds new ways to reinvent itself as one of the nation’s best.
While Miami outgained FSU in total yards, the ‘Noles forced three turnovers and turned in a dominant performance from their special teams unit to cruise to a 23-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Their fifth win in seven tries over the hated ‘Canes is an accomplishment worth reveling in, but this was an ugly performance in which Florida State reverted to some old habits that haunted them earlier in the season.
Here are five things we learned about FSU in their win over Miami.
5. Old Habits Resurface
Florida State may have notched its fifth consecutive win, but it regressed in a few areas that it has seen marked improvement in from the beginning of the season.
The ‘Noles were penalized 10 times for 76 yards, one of which resulted in a touchdown on a runback of the second-half kickoff being negated and another pair that negated interceptions late in the game that would have clinched the victory for FSU.
While there were certainly a number of questionable calls that went against FSU, the ‘Noles clearly let their frustrations get the best of them, which led to the shades of undisciplined play that was prevalent in their three-game losing streak earlier in the year.
4. Offense Sputters
Against an average Miami defense, Jimbo Fisher’s offense was only able to muster a season-low 259 yards of total offense, and only three first downs in the first half.
After four straight weeks of putting up big numbers and establishing a rhythm on offense, the ‘Noles attack only managed one touchdown and three field goals.
Penalties and failure to execute on 3rd-and-short situations were problem areas once again for Florida State.
Despite their shortcomings, the one positive they can take away is that, for the first time all season, they did not turn the ball over.
3. Opportunistic Defense
Florida State came into this weekend’s contest getting stronger on defense as the end of the season approaches, only allowing 268 yards per game.
Miami managed to move the ball against Florida State, amassing 383 yards of total offense.
But after FSU struggled to force turnovers earlier in the season, it managed to grab three takeaways from the ‘Canes, which thwarted several chances for Miami to put pressure on the ‘Noles' struggling offense.
This is the second consecutive week that FSU's defense has forced three turnovers.
2. Offensive Line Still Struggling
A big part of the anemic offensive output for Florida State was the inconsistent play of the offensive line.
Quarterback EJ Manuel was sacked three times and faced pressure on several other attempts.
While running back Devonta Freeman had a decent game (16 carries for 76 yards), Miami’s battered defensive line disrupted several plays and batted several pass attempts down.
True freshman center Austin Barron made his second start in place of Bryan Stork, and with so much movement with guys filling in for injured players, the unit remains a work in progress and, ultimately, the team’s biggest question mark moving forward.
1. Special Teams Shines
For all of the history involving Florida State missing field goals against Miami, it's ironic that the deciding factor in the Seminoles' win was their dominance in the special-teams phase.
Kicker Dustin Hopkins went 3-for-4 on field goal attempts, and punt returner Greg Reid took a punt back 83 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter that shifted all of the momentum to the FSU sideline and sent the ‘Noles into halftime with a 17-7 lead.
As good as they were, punter Shawn Powell may have outdone their performances.
The senior punted five times with an average of just under 55 yards per punt, and he constantly left the ‘Canes offense with a long field to travel.
Even with freshman Karlos Williams’ electrifying second-half kickoff return for a touchdown being called back, the ‘Noles dominated in every special-teams category en route to a huge victory over their in-state rivals.