Watching FSU navigate its way through the matchup against UVA left some glaring questions in my mind. Specifically, the offensive line play left much to be desired. When FSU can’t block up front, it has reverberations all over the field. First and most notably, not being able to block defensive linemen forces the likes of Karlos Williams to the outside, resulting in some of the most headache-inducing plays in recent memory. Watching Williams repeatedly try to bounce towards the sideline is like watching a Ford F250 SuperDuty King Ranch tow an aluminum johnboat. Guys like Karlos Williams don’t need to bounce to the outside—he’s 240 pounds, damnit—they need to have one or two quality bocks in the trenches to run behind, through, or over. Not around. “Around” is bad, because “around” is time consuming. “Around” results in no gain.
Beyond that, questionable offensive line play creates games where Jameis Winston (you may have heard of him) winds up on his back quite a lot. When that happens, he gets out of rhythm, hurries, and winds up making miscues. Throwing two early interceptions was evidence enough of that. Oh, and not to mention the physical toll it took on him. Repeatedly colliding with the ground at the mercy of a 300 lb defensive lineman for 4 hours does not sound like my idea of a nice evening of football. Towards the end of the game, his expressions said enough. He was in pain. Thank God Jameis is a sizeable human being, or we might be starting Sean McGuire next week vs. Miami…and I don’t think any of us want to go down that road again.
Apart from Jameis’ troubles, our offensive line also managed to miss a crucial block that cost Dalvin Cook the ability to play the rest of the game. Preliminary injury reports are generally positive, including a Facebook post from his mother saying that he will play next week. However, Dalvin is the best back to step foot in Tallahassee in a very, very long time and should be blocked for as such. Every snap he misses due to injury or every snap he actually takes from behind an unfocused offensive line will cost him dearly in the long run.
Jameis’ early turnovers went for 14 quick points, and if UVA hadn’t had two boneheaded mistakes of their own, it might have been a very, very different game. Poor offensive line play manifests itself all over the field. Apart from that position group, I can’t be too negative about Saturday night. The receivers played well most of the game, especially the young guys. Rashad continued to put double moves on guys with so much ease and nonchalance I wondered if at times I was watching a reincarnated Jerry Rice (spare me your outrage—this is simply a literary technique called hyperbole).
Also, most of the mistakes on defense weren’t Charlie Kelley’s fault, despite what some yahoos on sports twitter might have you think. Inexperience and youth were the main crux of the inconsistencies we saw in that regard. In fact I noticed a sizable uptick in the effectiveness of FSU’s pass rush towards the end of the game (if I remember correctly—I was coping with the frustration using alcohol, a topic we will revisit shortly). Across the board, though, FSU has an unbelievable stable of talent on defense, and we will watch them progress in leaps and bounds over the next couple of seasons.
In the end, the Seminoles emerged victorious—in the weakest sense of the word—due to a pure talent disparity, not due to competitive drive, a visible passion for the game, or a killer instinct. They played flat, unsound football and still won. Overall, it was a game that will have a “W” next to it in the record books, and a [insert skeptical emoji face here] next to it in our memories.
As a final note, many people are beginning to question the overall progression of FSU over the course of this 2014 season. We all knew at the start that the likelihood of repeating last year’s conquests would make statisticians laugh uncontrollably. We knew that there would be a sizable “regression to the mean” effect take shape. After all, the central limit theorem isn’t an accident. However, at what point does “regression to the mean” simply become “regression”? At what point must we ask ourselves whether or not FSU can cut the nonsense and start playing the caliber of football we know they are capable of? I know FSU is one of only two unbeaten teams left in the nation, and I know they control their own destiny in the ACC and beyond. My issue with this is not based on a record, or a statistic, or even a margin of victory. It does, though, have everything to do with the lack of a perceived sense of purpose.
Whatever cohesive mechanism drew our team together so strongly and passionately last season seems to have withered. I get the sense we have devolved into a team that is task-oriented (“Win the game”) as opposed to relationship or process oriented (“How do we most effectively win the game?”). This upsets me because attitude, drive, playing with a focused sense of urgency—these are the only things an individual player can control. Without these things, you’re not playing football, really. Without these things, you’re just running around because someone told you to.
An early UM Preview
Frankly, Miami has me a bit worried. FSU will face its two archrivals in the next three weeks, and it’s our game next week at Doak South that keeps me awake at night. Luckily, the de-facto neutral site game shouldn’t pose much of a threat intimidation-wise. In fact, I don’t think any visiting team has felt intimidated in Sun Life stadium. Additionally, I am not worried about Miami beating FSU based on skill, position matchups, competitive drive, or athletic ability—we have the objective edge in all of those categories. To be clear, the only thing that worries me is FSU beating itself. We can’t have a season like this one, one that has relied so heavily on reacting to precarious situations, and expect to come out completely unscathed. Eventually, if you react long enough, you’re going to get burned. Auburn proved that last year.
If FSU can buck the trend and pick up an early lead in this game we might just be fine. The offensive line having the ability to hunker down and protect Jameis and our plethora of elite running backs is an essential component to the formula. If there is ever a time for a leader to emerge in the trenches, it’s now—as FSU enters the final quarter of its regular season.
As with most FSU/UM games, I see this one going down to the bitter end yet again. If you want to be fully prepared, I would recommend a Xanex or two (I feel like I shouldn’t have to mention that I am not a medical doctor and you shouldn’t take my medical advice, but in my best legal interest now is a good time to bring those two points up). If you’re not a fan of pills, try beer. Or whiskey. Or wine. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a downer—because as this game goes deep into the fourth quarter, having the ability to refrain from throwing heavy items at your TV will be a skill reserved for the artificially and only temporarily apathetic few.