Florida State showed fight in the second half on Saturday. Mike Norvell showed his passion on Monday, too.
The Seminoles’ coach said he’s “pissed off that we’re 0-4” but in a lengthy answer to a question on his message to 2022 recruits offered his view of where the program is and his vision.
“They watch the games too,” Norvell said. “They see the opportunity for themselves. They see the opportunity and they have a belief in who they are. That’s what I want to be around. It’s easy to maybe go an easier route, something that is established. There’s been a lot of change around this program over the last few years. That affects all. It affects everything. It affects recruiting, it affects the guys that have to come to work every day. When there’s change in the standard of operations, when there’s change in how you do things, when there’s change in what you’re looking for, the priorities of the individuals, when you lay out the vision of what you want, you live it out every day.
“The best recruiters we have here are the players because they’re the ones who get to talk about what it is day in and day out, how our coaches care about our players, how our coaches invest, the focus on teaching fundamentals, the focus on putting playmakers in an opportunity to make plays. We’ve got to go out there and we’ve got to do a better job in every one of those areas. But I’m looking for guys that want to be a part of that process too. Guys that want to be successful, guys that want to be challenged, guys that are willing to step up and step out.”
FSU’s 2022 class features five-star Travis Hunter and a number of four-star prospects, including quarterback A.J. Duffy and athlete Sam McCall. With under three months to the early signing window on Dec. 15-17, none of the commitments have backed off their pledge.
“They’re going to have to defend, ‘Well, why are you going there?’ Because it’s the best dang fit for them,” Norvell said. “It’s an opportunity where they’re going to go get pushed, they’re gonna get developed, they’re gonna have an opportunity to play at one of the greatest places in the country with a wonderful fanbase that cares. I’m pissed off that we’re 0-4. We can bring up how many years it’s been, I don’t really (care). I can’t control that. I can control this team at this moment and right now with the opportunity. So we’re gonna work our butts off to go get better and we’re going to do it the right way. We’re going to have a standard of how we operate and it’s going to be the same standard that we’re going to ask them to do in the classroom, the same standard of everything that we do. I’m gonna hold myself to it because I’ve got to be the example.”
Norvell said the coaching staff is “setting the foundation.” He later said the team fought through adversity when trailing 31-7 against Louisville.
“If I was a fan, I would be pissed off, 31-7,” Norvell said. “Some of them stayed, some of them didn’t. The ones that did got to see a team that came back and responded and played their butts off to the end. Were we successful? No, it was a failure. We did not win that game. We came out, I felt very confident in it, I felt that we were going to put ourselves in a great position, but we came up short. But they did not stop, they continued to believe. For the guys that we recruit, for the coaches that are on this staff, for the players that are on this team, that’s what I want.”
Special teams issues
FSU’s offense and defense played its best half of the season. While Alex Mastromanno’s punting was consistently good, two missed kicks and two punt return issues were detrimental to the Seminoles’ attempt to rally.
In the third quarter, Mark Vassett’s punt went well beyond returner Keyshawn Helton’s head and continued to the FSU 4. The Seminoles were pinned deep and couldn’t get a drive going.
“They had had a couple of shorter kicks and had directionally kicked, so we had him up a little and they ended up kicking a 50-yard punt,” Norvell said. “Keyshawn went to re-trace. Made the decision that he couldn’t field it quickly and let the ball bounce. And that was a big play in field position, and that’s something for us, we go through, you have a distance you want to see your punt returner and you adjust through the game. We obviously had him up too much there.”
Helton was also set up at FSU’s 6 or 7-yard line for a punt late in the fourth quarter and fair caught the punt. In prior years, coaches would have opted to have a returner stand on the 10 and let the ball go if it is beyond their head. Now that’s no the case.
“We do not say the 10-yard line, and the last few years we’ve backed it up a few yards from that, but we do have a stop-point,” Norvell said. “That’s where the decision-making process of a punt returner, they have to take in the angle of a kick, is this something we feel is the ball, the trajectory of it, one that we believe is going to take it into the end zone, will it land between the 6 and the 10, or is this a ball that has a chance to stop and get pinned within that? That’s really changed here the last few years as punters have gotten more skilled in being able to kill the ball inside the 5-yard line.”
Special teams coordinator John Papuchis said punters have become more skilled at how to control where a punt lands.
“We’ve changed the parameters on that a little bit,” Papuchis said. “Punters have gotten so much better at being able to control the spin on the ball, location, all the influence of the Australian punters in the game, you know there’s a lot more backspin that punters have the ability to put on the ball.”
Fitzgerald also missed an extra-point attempt in the second quarter and a 47-yard field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter. But Fitzgerald later made a 45-yard field-goal attempt to cut the deficit to eight points.
“The two this past week I thought were very technical in nature,” Papuchis said. “It’s just something that you know we’ve got to obviously address throughout the course of the week and he’s aware of. There’s some things we can clean up. I was happy though that he came back and responded later. After missing the PAT and then missing the field goal, that was a critical kick because it made it in one possession game. I thought that was a good response by him.”
Fourth-down trick play
One of the plays that has been second-guessed is a fourth-and-3 call where McKenzie Milton looked to the sideline and the ball was snapped to Jashaun Corbin, who only got one yard as there wasn’t nearly enough of a push up front.
“Some of that throughout the game and in our study, something we thought we can take advantage of,” Norvell said. “There was, not just one position, but some things we could’ve done better. Ultimately I’d like to have that call back, and it was mine. At the end of the day, you sit there and it was not successful, and there’s things we could’ve done better.”
FSU went 0 for 4 and is just 1 of 9 on fourth-down opportunities this season, which is near the bottom of the FBS at 124th nationally.
Reflecting on Milton’s performance
Milton completed 24 of 39 passes for 248 yards, a touchdown and an interception on the final FSU offensive play. While Milton completed a respectable 61.5 percent of his passes, many of them in the face of a significant pass rush, there were also times where he left throws short with a clean pocket.
“At the end of the day, I coach him,” offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said. “So whatever he puts on the film is a reflection of me. And I got to do a better job with him just creating some consistency in the drop, consistency with his eyes, to be more confident. Obviously being year 1 in a system and not having a lot of reps in fall camp due to unforeseen circumstances, things are happening out there sometimes for the first time for him within this scheme. So I got to do a better job putting him in positions to feel comfortable and letting him be the playmaker that he’s shown to be.”
Norvell said center Maurice Smith “is getting closer” to playing. Smith was limited in practice last week. He did not offer updates on defensive tackle Fabien Lovett or tailback Lawrance Toafili.