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First Impressions: Passing Pack to much for FSU

FSU fell to NC State at home on Saturday afternoon 28-14. The loss leaves FSU with a 3-6 record and 2-3 in the ACC.

Coming into the game the Osceola identified four keys to an FSU victory. First, don’t allow NC State big plays in the passing game. Secondly, FSU needed to find big plays in the passing game. Thirdly, the Seminoles needed to be better at running the ball than NC State was at stopping the run. And lastly how would player availability due to a flu bug that swept through the team this week effect FSU’s ability to play cohesively. It also had to show resiliency coming off a tough loss at Clemson last week. Here are the Osceola’s first impressions from Saturday’s game.

Limit Big Plays in Passing Game

FSU ability to defend the pass has shown improvement over the course of the last month. NC State came into the game as one the best offenses in the country at producing pass plays over 20 yards. FSU needed to limit those plays in order to have a chance to pull off an upset. However, NC State was able to find success in this area. The Wolfpack scored on pass plays of 62, 45 and 43 yards in the game. FSU’s defense held NC State to its average of four pass plays per game of over 20 yards but the three long scoring pass plays proved very costly in the outcome of the game.

Find Big Plays in the Passing Game

FSU’s ability to find big plays in the passing game was going to be vitally important regardless of who started at quarterback but it became even more so with McKenzie Milton replacing Jordan Travis, who was unavailable for the game. FSU had four pass plays of 18 or more yards but could not find enough game-changing plays in the passing game to make a difference.

Be Best at What You Do Best

FSU needed to do a better job running the ball than NC State did stopping the run. For the second straight week the Seminoles’ ground game was non-existent. Running backs Jashaun Corbin and Treshaun Ward combined for just 37 yards on 16 carries. For the game FSU totaled just 38 yards rushing the ball. FSU didn’t look like a team that was ranked 21st in the country in rushing offense, where it was averaging 209 yards per game. NC State looked and played better than the 18th-ranked rushing defense in the country. FSU’s success in the passing game has been predicated off its success in the running game and, with Milton as the starter, it was even more important that the Seminoles have success in the traditional running game. They could not muster any threat of consistency in the running game, which most assuredly hurt its passing game.

Punt and Pin?

Down 21-14 with a little over 8 minutes left in the game Norvell chose to go for it on fourth-and-4 on FSU’s own 43-yard line. They didn’t convert and gave the Wolfpack great field position at a very critical juncture in the game. NC State ended up scoring on a three-play drive to take a 28-14 lead with 7:53 left in the game. With FSU’s defense playing very well you can’t help but second-guess the decision. The analytics might have said go for it but it is only natural to think about what could have been had FSU decided to punt the ball, pinning NC State deep inside its own territory, forcing the Wolfpack to drive the length of the field in order to make it a two-possession game. Hindsight is 20-20 but this was the key turning point in a game that FSU battled hard to get back into after going into halftime down 14-0.

Availability and Resiliency

Availability due to the flu bug that swept through the team this week certainly had an impact. FSU was without its most dynamic offensive weapon in Travis and was also without starting guard Dillan Gibbons, who was dressed but did not play. Running back Lawrance Toafili, who had been a big part of the offense the last two weeks also missed the game. We will never know for sure how much of an impact their being available might have been but it certainly would have enhanced FSU’s chances at pulling off the upset. We also don’t know exactly how healthy the players that did play were. A number of key players missed time at practice this week or were limited at practice.

The one thing we think you can’t fault this team on is its resiliency. Dealing with flu all week and coming off a physical game at Clemson last week you wondered if those factors might contribute to a letdown by FSU. It did not. As we have become accustomed to this season, Mike Norvell’s team will fight for four quarters and it did so again Saturday.