Florida State was playing without its top receiver. And receivers coach Ron Dugans was sick and did not make the trip with the Seminoles to Louisville.
But the receivers’ performance was a source of disappointment as a number of drops throughout the game halted the Seminoles’ ability to build or sustain drives in a 48-16 loss to the Cardinals. They were evident early when FSU was in the game as well as in the second half with Jordan Travis. And they were even evident in the final minutes as Chubba Purdy tried to gain some experience in his first college game.
“As you go through it, everybody wanting to make a play,” coach Mike Norvell said. “You have a couple negative things that happened — whether you’re down on the scoreboard, whether you missed an opportunity before — you just need that explosive play. With all the right intentions, you abandon your fundamentals, you start looking up the field too early, start trying to score the touchdown instead of secure the catch. Those are things that in any one of those moments might be the play that springs us forward.”
The Seminoles clearly miss Tamorrion Terry, who had a 1,000-yard season and was just hitting his stride with nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown in the loss at Notre Dame. Terry said a few days after the game that he had been battling injuries and he had a knee procedure on Oct. 15.
Of FSU’s 14 receptions, nine were by receivers: Ontaria Wilson caught five for 27 yards, Jordan Young had three for 27 yards and Warren Thompson had a 14-yard grab. Tight end Camren McDonald had two receptions for 48 yards, including a 30-yarder, while La’Damian Webb caught two passes and Jashaun Corbin caught another pass.
“We’re shorthanded, there’s no doubt about it,” Norvell said. “Terry’s out, had a couple different situations that occurred at receiver, Warren, he didn’t practice much last week and wasn’t going to be able to finish the game. And so those guys are being asked to do a lot.”
Without Terry, receivers like Wilson, Young and Keyshawn Helton have been asked to make the jump from complementary targets to go-to options. Helton said his performance was “disappointing” and was clearly frustrated by his drops on Tuesday.
“I’ll be the first one to say it,” Helton said. “I’m the most critical person of myself. All I can do right now is look myself in the mirror. It comes back to doing those little things. On both of those passes I took my eye off the ball and tried to turn upfield before I secured the ball. It goes back to those little things, going back to bad habits. … That’s a bad feeling. Bad feeling. Especially the expectation I hold of myself. I won’t ever let it happen again. That’s why I stayed after practice aand did some extra work.”
Jordan Travis completed 14 of 32 passes for 141 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The interception came as a result of a tipped pass by an FSU receiver and drops were also a significant factor in Travis’ and the offense’s efficiency. Travis has also been fighting through a shoulder/arm injury.
“Jordan’s doing fine,” Norvell said. “He’s sore, he went into the game sore. He practiced the week prior. I was really proud of him for what he did. That’s kind of part of it as you’re coming along throughout the season. Trying to be smart with all of our guys this week and just what we’re doing because we do need to heal up.
“There are position groups all across our football team that are thin and that are banged up. We’ve got to get guys back out there on the field so trying to make the most of this week to be able to do that. I think Jordan’s doing well, he practiced today.”
First impressions of Purdy
True freshman Chubba Purdy made his first appearance for FSU, going 0 for 9 with a large number of drops by receivers. Purdy missed the majority of August following collarbone surgery after he was hit in FSU’s first scrimmage.
“He missed out on scrimmages there earlier in the year so to be able to see him go out there and operate, he did some good things,” Norvell said. “Obviously, some learning experiences just with his eyes and the progression that he’s going through, but he made some really good throws in moments, had a couple of drops that didn’t help him out. I liked his composure. On the fourth-down situation, being able to scramble and throw a great ball down the field, we’ve got to be able to finish on that. One of the most impressive plays was seeing him step up into the pocket, he actually took a shot on one throw, no hesitation. It was good to see a young quarterback do that, especially a guy coming off an injury.”
Purdy said he was in meetings with coaches and players the day after his surgery in August, and he was able to keep up with learning the offense and the playbook. He said he feels confident when he’s on the field and later described his initial emotions on the sideline when coaches told him to warm up late in the Louisville game.
“When they called my name and told me I was going in the last couple of drives, I just started warming up,” Purdy said. “Just really wasn’t thinking about much. Just be calm and just execute my plays, go through my reads, and make sure everything was going good, make sure I know what I see out there on the field and make sure my footwork was good. Just making sure I know the plays.”
Seeking growth, consistency
If there are two themes to Norvell’s interviews of late, it is a search for improvement and progress as well as finding consistency on offense and defense. FSU has shown it for long periods — scoring on five straight drives against Jacksonville State and the entire first half against North Carolina are two examples — but there have also been sluggish quarters. And FSU didn’t score in the second half against the Tar Heels or manage an offensive point at Louisville.
“As we look at a football team halfway through, I’ve seen an improvement in how we prepare, I’ve seen an improvement in the effort we’re giving in practice, and the effort that we’re pouring into each other,” Norvell said. “It is a unique year in a lot of regards. The thing with this team is being able to see the examples that build the confidence. We’ve had those, we’ve had plays, we’ve had quarters and halves of being able to achieve that success. We just have to put it all together.”
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