FSU avoided an upset on the road Friday, beating Boston College 14-0.
It was not a pretty contest, as expected. The Eagles made life difficult for the Seminoles’ inexperienced offense, but FSU’s defense rose to the occasion and carried the team.
Here are three things we learned about FSU on Friday night.
The defensive tackles are the strength of FSU’s D
FSU’s defensive tackles have played well all season, but the group was tested Friday. And it passed in convincing fashion.
Boston College makes no secrets about what it wants to do offensively: The Eagles primarily attack the core of a defense with power running, which it did Friday by piling up 43 rushes. However, the only compiled 139 yards and averaged 3.2 yards per run, with top backs Jon Hillman and Miles Willis averaging 2.93 yards per carry.
FSU’s defensive tackles deserve a bulk of the credit for that output, or lack thereof.
Starters Nile Lawrence-Stample and Derrick Nnadi were dominant, combining for 8 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. The two rotund and stoutly built linemen held up at the point of attack and were rarely pushed back, setting the tone for FSU’s nine other defenders. Giorgio Newberry’s length was again effective in the Dime Rabbit personnel grouping while redshirt freshman Demarcus Christmas (3 tackles, 1 tackles for loss) built on a strong showing against USF. Derrick Mitchell had a tackle and held up well against the run.
FSU’s linebackers also cleaned up on tackles, a sign that the defensive tackles were doing their job in eating up blocks. Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Reggie Northrup and Terrance Smith combined for 15 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss
The defense in general was fantastic, allowing Boston College to cross midfield just twice (the Eagles never passed FSU’s 39 yard-line). But it was the defensive tackles that clamped down and took away Boston College’s bread and butter.
We had a feeling this group could be relied on entering the year, simply because of its experience. But Friday demonstrated just how deep and dominant this unit is.
Zone-read may not be a reliable option for Golson
Everett Golson came to FSU with a reputation for being able to run the football. Or at least move around with it in the pocket.
The quarterback exhibited some athleticism Friday (see his two spin moves to get out of a safety) but also demonstrated a disturbing inability to operate FSU’s zone-read attack.
Coach Jimbo Fisher expressed concern that Golson was simply not making the right reads against Boston College defenders when running the option look. FSU went with Golson over Sean Maguire because of his mobility, and that included the potential to have the option run be a part of the arsenal (Fisher said he could do this when Golson first transferred in from Notre Dame.) Golson, however, admitted last year that he was not truly comfortable running zone-read, and appeared lost whenever he was required to read the tendencies of certain defenders on Friday. Watch this play (click hyperlink) as the end comes crashing down the line late in the fourth quarter, a clear sign that Golson should become the runner instead of handing the ball off.
“The quarterback should have pulled it,” Fisher said.
Golson apparently has been competent running this concept in practice, but that did not transfer over to the game. Fisher likely needs to accept that this cannot be a regular part of Golson’s repertoire going forward.
Dalvin Cook is not Superman
We figured out Dalvin Cook’s kryptonite Friday, and it’s the same as every running back in the country: poor blocking.
The Seminoles’ offensive line simply was not physical enough against Boston College’s stout defensive line, causing FSU backs Cook and Mario Pender to be held to 73 yards on 26 carries (2.8 yards per carry.)
Cook – whose streak of consecutive 100-yard games stopped at five after netting 54 yards – had 83 percent of his rushing yards on two runs in the first half. The back was held to four rushing yards on six carries in the second half and appeared to suffer an injury to his chest area.
It was a sobering showing a week after Cook rushed for 266 yards against USF. Normally so dynamic and explosive in the open field, Cook was regularly bottled up by BC before he could get going Friday.
The lack of impact blocking up front was exacerbated by Golson’s inability to run the zone read, but the defense was primarily able to key on Cook because the passing game never got going. Golson was sacked twice and hurried three more times on 24 passing attempts.
Without much room to work with – Fisher essentially said FSU’s offensive line was not physical enough Friday – Cook looked very average. The sophomore is capable of churning out one big play after another, but he needs a few creases to do so. He did not get those on Friday and appeared frustrated at times because of it.
Cook will mask a lot of FSU’s deficiencies throughout the year, but even he cannot regularly make something out of nothing.
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