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Season flashback: FSU’s offensive progress

Florida State’s season ended at 5-7, short of a bowl game, but a season that showed improvement in a number of areas as well as a rivalry win over Miami. We’ll take a look at four areas of offensive progress below, with four areas of defensive progress in the days to come.

Running game

The Seminoles averaged 177.67 rushing yards per game (51st in the FBS) and FSU’s 4.78 yards per carry was tied for 41st. Those numbers reflect some struggles, especially against good rush defenses like Clemson (65 yards) and N.C. State (38 yards) as well as a disappointing day like the one at Florida (145 yards, but 102 by Jordan Travis).

Some of the sub-par rushing totals can be attributed to playing great rush defenses as well as facing injuries on the offensive line. FSU had nine starting offensive line combinations in 2021, which hurts having any continuity up front. There were three different OL lineups in November.

On the positive side, Jashaun Corbin had some explosive runs in September and October. He was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before being held below 35 rushing yards at Clemson, vs. NC State and at Miami. Corbin finished with 887 rushing yards, while Treshaun Ward ran for 515 yards. Corbin was an added year removed from the torn hamstring when he was at Texas A&M in 2019 and it often showed with his vision and productivity.

Travis was the team’s leading rusher in 2020 with 559 rushing yards and in 2021 had 531 yards (this is also comparing apples to oranges with a nine-game season vs. a 12-game season). While Travis changed games because of his ability to run, FSU was often less dependent on him and often had more production from Corbin, Ward and at times Lawrance Toafili.

The numbers aren’t all positive. But if you’re looking for progress, and what the players achieved after an 0-4 start, the Seminoles often won via the run as well as lost when they couldn’t. It does show an offensive identity (“run the dadgum ball,” as we often wrote) and signs of growth compared to 2020.

Travis’ development

Media and fans have praised and critiqued Travis’ play but the numbers show he was a more efficient passer and protected the ball better in 2021. That reflects development of a young quarterback who has had time to grow in year 2 of an offensive system.

Travis completed 62.9 percent of his passes in 2021, which is 7.9 points higher than in 2020. He also had the same number of interceptions (six) in each of the last two seasons, but the difference is in the number of total passes (194 this fall vs. 131). Travis went five full games and more than 100 passes without throwing an interception until he threw one at Florida. 

Quarterbacks get too much credit for helping win games (or blame for contributing to losses) but Travis valued his passes and limited mistakes. He is just 350 passes into his college career and has shown remarkable growth with and done it with continuity issues up front as well as inconsistency at receiver.

Points per game

Florida State scored 27.6 points per game (72nd in FBS) in 2021. The Seminoles averaged 25.8 points per game (85th in FBS) in 2020. 

Against only Power 5 opponents, FSU averaged 25.5 points per game in 2021. A year ago FSU scored 23.9 points vs. P5 teams — but the 56 points in a rout of Duke in December skew the numbers significantly.

Why was FSU able to score more points? The run game showed improvement, Travis was more efficient and the Seminoles maximized their red-zone opportunities. Which brings us to the next part.

Red zone offense

You don’t have to scroll far among the national leaders to find FSU, tied for 19th with a red-zone scoring percentage of 90.48. That’s 38 scores on 42 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, with an impressive 31 touchdowns among the 42 trips. FSU’s 73.81 touchdown percentage is tops in the ACC and seventh in the FBS.

FSU converted 32 straight red zone trips to finish the season, which was the longest active streak in the nation. It may not have been pretty on offense consistently, but if the Seminoles got in the red zone they were going to score consistently. And it happened each time since the final red-zone trip against Louisville, back on Sept. 25, through seven full games.