FSU was a 35-point favorite over UMass in its homecoming game on Saturday afternoon in Doak Campbell Stadium and it looked like it as the Seminoles rolled out to 38-3 halftime lead and cruised to a 59-3 win over the Minutemen in a game that took just slightly longer than that to decide.
Heavily favored and with Clemson up next week on the road it was important FSU operate like a finely tuned, smooth and reliable Rolex watch against an outmanned UMass team. And it did just that against the Minutemen. A fast start and dominant performance in the first half would help validate wins over Syracuse and North Carolina while continuing to build confidence heading into what looks to be a winnable game at Clemson next Saturday. It would also give Mike Norvell and his staff the opportunity to give some of its more inexperienced players some playing time, which could prove beneficial as the team gets deeper in the season and depth becomes more important.
The FSU offense was both efficient and productive, scoring on all five of its first-half drives (including four touchdowns). All five drives were of 75 yards or longer and all of six plays or more. It would go on to score three touchdowns on six of its second-half possessions, including the drive it took a knee twice to end the game.
The defense was dominant and it should have been against one of the nation’s worst offenses. They gave up three first-half points but only because Travis Jay fumbled the game-opening kickoff, giving UMass the ball on the FSU 28-yard line. Even then UMass lost two yards on the drive before converting their field goal. The defense only allowed one sustained drive in the first half (eight plays, 71 yards), which resulted in FSU picking off a pass in the end zone to end a UMass possession. Outside of that the Minutemen were only able to muster just 60 yards of total offense on 24 plays. The defense also decided to get involved in the scoring. After a UMass kickoff return gave the Minutemen the ball on the FSU 48-yard line, cornerback Jarvis Brownlee picked off a pass three plays later and returned it for a touchdown to make the score 38-3 at the half. The defense allowed just one sustained drive in the second half (12 plays, 64 yards) but UMass would only gain 48 yards on its other four second-half possessions.
It was important that FSU make this a decidedly one-sided game early and it did just that. The game was decided before the end of the first half. For the game FSU piled up 586 yards of total offense, including 365 yards on the ground. UMass managed just 241 total yards of offense in the game.
In a game that FSU should have been able to be dominant early and throughout, it did and it was. Winning a game convincingly that it should win in that fashion was another step in the right direction for Norvell as he attempts to take FSU back towards relevance in the ACC and in college football. Now the toughest part of FSU’s schedule will tell its fan base just how much time the Seminoles need to get that accomplished.
Put Me In, Coach
FSU’s lead entering the third quarter allowed Norvell to empty the bench to finish the game with plenty of backups seeing action before the final quarter.
Quarterback Chubba Purdy saw his first action of the season and he looked very sharp considering he hasn’t seen game action since last November. He threw two really nice passes, both completions, on his first drive of the season with one resulting in a touchdown to tight end Cam McDonald. Purdy would finish the game completing all five of his passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns and looked confident in doing so.
Tate Rodemaker also saw his first action of the season when he was inserted into the game late in the fourth quarter but didn’t attempt a pass.
The list of players to either see their most extensive or first playing time of the season on offense included: tight ends Jackson West, Markeston Douglas and Austin White, offensive linemen Zane Herring, Lloyd Willis, Ira Henry III and Bryson Estes, wide receivers Darion Williamson, Jordan Young and Kentron Poitier and running backs DJ Williams, Lawrance Toafili and Ja’Khi Douglas.
Toafili would finish the game as FSU’s third-leading rusher with 63 yards on four carries. Williams finished the game with 31 yards on four carries. Williamson and Young each had one catch in the game.
Plenty of players on defense also saw their most extensive or first playing time this season. That list included: defensive ends Patrick Payton and Marcus Cushnie, defensive tackles Josh Farmer, TJ Davis and Tru Thompson, linebackers DeCalon Brooks, Stephen Dix and Cortez Andrews, defensive backs Hunter Washington, Demorie Tate, Shyheim Brown and Omarion Cooper.
Dix, Andrews and Copper were credited with three tackles apiece. Brooks, Cushnie and Cooper all finished the game with two tackles.
While for many of these players the playing time today was an investment by the staff with the balcony view in mind but it may pay dividends later on this season for some.
Special Teams Tune Up
The only issues FSU had in the game seemed to be relegated to special teams. Jay fumbled the opening kickoff of the game and decided to fair catch two punts inside FSU’s 10-yard line and let another punt that landed on about the 20-yard line roll to the 5-yard line. In the second half with three returners back to field a UMass punt, Keyshawn Helton mishandled a punt towards the sideline but was able to recover it himself.
The Seminoles also gave up a kickoff return that allowed UMass to start one of its first-half drives inside FSU territory.
These are things FSU will want to get cleaned up with games left against Clemson, NC State, Miami, Boston College and Florida left on the schedule. They will not be as easy to overcome against its remaining opponents.