by Jeremy Z. at College Football 2Day
Another road game for FSU? No Problem. The Noles clearly came out focused and ready to claim their spot in the ACC Title Game. It wasn’t like any of the years in the past where Florida State had control of their destiny and screwed it up. This year, the Noles made sure nobody would second guess if they should be there in December. Now, all that remains is Florida. First, let’s see where the Noles got it done this past week.
Offensive line: A-
Huge improvement from the last few games. I think we are still seeing some missed assignments, but this group is still learning. They opened up running lanes, and at times, gave Manuel the time he needed to make some good passes. I was very relieved to see this group get some of their swagger back (it seemed to be missing the last few weeks). This is just the kind of game they needed to get their confidence up for the big game against the lizards.
Running backs: A+
The Stats certainly looked better for the backs this week. They combined for 237 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Freeman had a huge game. James Wilder Jr. looked strong. Anybody else think we should be giving him the ball more? I’d like to see him get the ball twenty times or more. He is a back that could handle the load. Either way, Freeman and Wilder have their work cut out for them against the lizards. This may be the game that Wilder really makes a name for himself.
EJ Manuel may have hit most his passes (17-23 2 TDs and 1 INT), but he missed some that he can’t afford to miss this week. Hard to pick on him though, because he did throw two touchdown passes that were picture perfect throws. I hope EJ can take a few less sacks this week. Maybe throwing the ball away, or taking off sooner would be a good strategy this week. That has seemed to be a common problem with him most of the season. I’d like Fisher turn him loose and just let EJ be EJ. I get this feeling that Fisher has kept him bottled up for most of the season. Other than option runs, when have we seen him on a designed run out of shotgun formations? Point being, he hasn’t been running enough, in my opinion. I think we will get to see the offense at another level this week. Let’s hope so, right?
Wide Receivers: A-
Rashad Greene had another solid game. He and Nick O’Leary had touchdown catches. Rodney Smith was thrown to a few times, but only managed one catch. One pass looked like Rodney lost track of it which almost caused an interception. Kelvin Benjamin is still trying to find his place in the mix of talented receivers. Benjamin had three catches but for only seven yards. Again, that could be because Fisher is holding something back. All this talent at receiver has to translate into something big eventually.
Defensive grades after the jump.
Defensive line played as solid as we have grown to expect. Tank Carridine has come a long ways. Even the young guys got to show their pass rush ability. Casher, and Mario Edwards got some quality playing time down the stretch. It will be important this week against Florida to rotate them more often. Florida’s whole strategy will be to wear down the defensive line.
There were a couple of misses in coverage, but they are getting really good at fixing their mistakes during the game. At one point in the game, Christian Jones over ran a play. If you watch after the play, you could see him take responsibility for it, and own up to it. That’s what the Noles need. They need to be able to tell when they have made a mistake, and correct it in game time speed. And I think they are showing that they are getting to that point. The linebackers have done all they can to prepare themselves for this week against the Lizards.
Okay, this is where I am a little worried. I think the Noles’ secondary is getting a little too relaxed. That may be because they are used to the defensive line putting pressure on the QB, but they can’t relax in those situations. There were a few times that the Terps’ receivers were running free. This can’t happen against teams with better QBs. It also didn’t help to see Darby make a very poor play on the ball at the end of the game when the Terps got their final touchdown.
Special Teams: A+
So, Fisher has so much confidence in the punt return game that he put two players back to field the kicks. Nice adjustment, right? Well, whatever works and keeps them from turning the ball over. Dustin Hopkins had a great game, and he is now in the record books for most points scored by a kicker. I hope he has to kick a lot more in the game against the Lizards (of course, I hope he is kicking more extra points than field goals).
Overall Team Performance: A
It was the game they needed to have before a rivalry game. The run game looked strong and healthy. The passing game was nothing stellar, but it was what they needed. Defense played solid, minus a few misses in the secondary. Let’s see how they adjust for the Lizards this week. Go Noles! Finish Strong!