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Notes: Noles ‘shocked everybody’ with run defense

Florida State went into the Notre Dame game determined to minimize the run. The Seminoles allowed just 65 rushing yards on 35 carries against Notre Dame, which is the lowest against an FBS opponent in Mike Norvell’s time as FSU’s head coach.

“We did what we were supposed to do,” defensive tackle Fabien Lovett said. “We shocked everybody. We played hard. The key to our defensive line is just playing hard and doing what we’re taught to do.”

FSU’s run defense was a major weakness in 2020, allowing 199 yards on the ground per game. Notre Dame racked up 353 yards in a 42-26 win over FSU last October, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. On Sunday night, the Seminoles allowed 1.9 yards per carry.

“We need to play with that edge,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “We need to play with that effort. I thought our defense played with a mentality. Traditionally that’s an offense that runs the ball really well but I thought our guys took a real purpose to make sure that we were stopping the run.”

It was the first time FSU held an FBS opponent under 100 rushing yards since Arizona State in the 2019 Sun Bowl.

“Our front handled pass game, run game really well,” defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. “I really liked their responses throughout the whole game, all four quarters to be honest with you. I thought we built a wall really well in the run game. I felt good about our pass rush. So those were the positives.”

Fuller mentioned two negatives: Big plays and missed tackles. At times, the missed tackles resulted in a big play. Fuller noted there were 13 missed tackles, with two coming on the game’s first play.

“I told them it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s got to be done hard,” Fuller said. “And the effort showed up, the physicality showed up.”

Johnson honored by ACC

Jermaine Johnson set a career high with seven tackles as well as recorded 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in FSU’s loss to Notre Dame. The full list of ACC players of the week can be viewed here.

Mistakes stick with Norvell

Beyond the missed tackles that Fuller outlined, Norvell mentioned mistakes on offense, defense and special teams — three turnovers, nine penalties, bad snaps and other costly plays — as being the difference in an overtime loss to Notre Dame.

“A lot of self-inflicted things that cost us in critical moments,” Norvell said. “We’re still a youthful team but a team that has to improve. They have to continue to grow. That’s the challenge.”

On fourth down

Norvell has historically shown a desire to go for it on fourth down. FSU was successful on 15 of 28 fourth-down chances in 2020, which is just 53.5 percent efficiency. But it illustrates a desire to roll the dice with confidence in the offense as well as helping the defense get a breather on the sideline. He said on Tuesday that part of his philosophy is rooted in “faith in how our players are going to execute.”

Norvell went for it on fourth-and-2 from the FSU 33 in the third quarter, trailing 31-20 after Notre Dame scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives. Under pressure, Jordan Travis was intercepted and Notre Dame scored a touchdown a few plays later to extend the lead to 18 points.

“All analytics are dependent on game situation,” Norvell said. “That goes hand in hand. I coach games to win games. That’s what we want to do. We’re going to be smart.”

Norvell opted to go for it again but this time on fourth-and-2 from the Notre Dame 28 on the following drive. Jashaun Corbin ran for four yards on what ended up being a 15-play drive that resulted in Travis’ touchdown pass to Andrew Parchment.

Observations

Guard Dillan Gibbons left Sunday’s game with an injury but was very active in Tuesday morning’s practice. Travis and McKenzie Milton were both sharp in passing drills.

Among the visitors at practice were two longtime assistants, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews and linebackers coach Wally Burnham. Center Clay Shiver, who is now a high school coach in Boca Raton, is in Tallahassee to speak to the Tallahassee Quarterback Club. Defensive lineman Bobby Rhodes also watched practice at the IPF.