Jimbo Fisher's Florida State Offense Saves Seminoles from Embarrassing Defensive Effort as FSU Storms Back to Beat UNC, 30-27

The 'Nole's offense has to be getting pretty tired of this.  34 points at home against Miami and lose.  54 points against BYU and the game never felt comfortable until midway through the 3rd quarter.  44 points and over 520 yards of offense against Georgia Tech in Tallahassee and yet another loss.  Losses against excellent defenses in Boston College and South Florida in which Florida State's defense allowed 4 plays of 70+ yards to putrid offenses.

On Thursday night, Florida State traveled to face off against one of the finest defenses and worst offenses in the country.  North Carolina's defense came into the game ranked 10th, their offense 99th.  FSU's offense entered the game ranked 8th, their defense 101st.  Florida State knew coming into the game that reaching 21 points would be a huge accomplishment against the ferocious North Carolina defense that features multiple future early NFL draft picks.  It would be up to FSU's defense to make UNC's horrible offense look, well, horrible. 

But in the back of their mind, Florida State had to know that their defense would be a colossal disappointment.  UNC hadn't rushed for more than 4 yards per carry against anyone.  Against Florida State, the Tar Heels averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 38 rushes, totaling 255 yards!  Yes, the 'Noles allowed 70% more yards per carry to the Tar Heels than any other team.  6.7 yards allowed per carry is unacceptable for any defense, but for Florida State's defense, against this putrid offense?  It would be up to Florida State's offense to again carry the defense; a seemingly impossible task against Carolina's defense.

Or so it seemed...

[click "continue reading".  If you read this last night, click refresh because we added a lot of content.]

Florida State started slow.  A drop and a rash of penalties hurt the 'Nole's offense early.  It didn't help that North Carolina put the pressure on, marching 80 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive, something they had not done all season.  The Tar Heel crowd was into it.  Down 17-3 in the 2nd quarter, Bobby Bowden called for a field goal on 4th and 3.  Florida State head coach in waiting/ Offensive Coordinator Jimbo Fisher looked disgusted.The 'Noles were down 17-6 going into the locker room at halftime.

Florida State would get the ball at half, however, and they went 3 and out.  Carolina took the ball 45 yards on 6 plays for the touchdown. 

At this point, it would be helpful to point out just how bad the FSU defense was, and you need to remember how terrible Carolina's offense is.

UNC Offensive Performance



1
Opponent at UCONN ECU Gtech UVA Florida State
Opponent Defenisve Efficiency Ranking (Opponent Adjusted) 54th 98th 60th 27th 101
Plays 67 63 44 59 68
Yards Per Play 4.1 6.9 3.5 2.9 4.9
Rushes 29 37 17 21 38
Yards/ Rush 2.4 4 1.4 2.3 6.7
Passing Plays 38 26 27 38 30
Yards/ Pass Play 5.4 11 5.9 3.3 2.7
  • Yards-Per-Play is used because it is the best standard measure of defense.  Total yards is moronic (please don't try to argue this, just use the search feature at right).  It really isn't the fault of the defense if the offense allows the opponent to get 17 possessions or take the ball in UNC's red zone three times in a contest.  How many snaps did you have, what did you do with them (or allow your opponent to do with theirs).  Simple enough.
  • Sacks have been re-allocated to Passing plays (since they are the result of a failed passing play and not a run play)
  • FSU allowed 40% more yards per play to Carolina than Carolina had gained against any other ACC defense. 
  • FSU allowed 190% more per rush to Carolina than the Tar Heels had gained against any other ACC defense.
  • Carolina's 24 points were more than double their best output of the year against an ACC team
  • Carolina had yet to crack 175 total yards against any ACC defense.  They not only cracked 175, but cracked 200, 225, 250, 275, 300, and 325!  Carolina had 338 yards against Florida State!
  • Carolina had 8 running plays of 15+ yards!

So FSU punted, Carolina scored, 24-6.  The FSU's offense, averaging about 4.4 yards per play (which we will see in a minute was not terrible against Carolina), kicked it into another gear.  It was a gear FSU fans have seen before against Miami and BYU and Georgia Tech, but many didn't think the 'Noles could shift into that gear on the road, down 18 points, with 25 minutes to play, against an elite defense.  But they did.

Florida State began to pound the flats.  They got into the Pistol and ran the ball with their zone blocking schemes.  They made UNC make tackles in space.  They did everything to negate UNC's great size.  Amazingly, they repeatedly ran 5-man protections (no tight ends or backs blocking) and did very well with it.  The line beautifully handled UNC's defensive line in pass protection and gave Ponder the time he needed to through all of his reads.

FSU took the ball and marched 76 yards on 14 plays for a touchdown.  24-13.  The North Carolina's quarterback T.J. Yates got greedy and launched a ball for the endzone, not within 15 yards of his receiver.  Florida State's Jamie Robinson caught it and was down at the 'Nole's own 3.  It was like a punt, a very effective punt.  Florida State then false started.  Backed up on their own 2 yard line, FSU called a hitch-n-go to Rod Owens.  Owens had killed UNC on the previous drive with short catches, and UNC corner Charles Brown bit on the play.  From his end zone, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder lofted a beautiful pass to Owens who avoided getting tripped up and raced 98 yards for the Florida State score.  It tied for the longest pass pass in Florida State history, and the 'Noles were within 4 points, 24-20. 

UNC's offense stalled on the next drive as FSU's defense finally made the Tar Heels offense look like what they are- garbage.  An 11-play 54-yard march ensued, culminating in a field goal after tight end Beau Reliford misread a block and cut outside, when an inside cut on a beautifully designed and timely called tight end screen play would have netted 20+ yards. 

At 24-23, UNC stopped passing entirely.  They marched 78 yards on 10 plays, ALL RUNS, and foolishly settled for a field instead of going for 4th and inches at the Florida State 19 yard line.  That stupidly conservative decision made it 27-23, but it would prove to be costly.  The 'Nole's offense took over at their own 37 after a short kick.  They calmly marched 63 yards on 4 plays for the touchdown, 30-27 'Noles.

The pressure was on UNC and they couldn't sustain a good drive, despite marching the ball from their own 29 to FSU's 46.  A foolish punt went for a touchback, allowing Florida State to take over at their own 20.  The 'Noles chewed the clock from 4:10 to 0:47 on 8 plays, including a brilliant QB sweep call that fooled the Tar Heel's defense.

The Heels took over with 0:47, no timeouts, and 79 yards needed for a score, 54 for a realistic chance at a field goal.  They couldn't get it done.  The Heel's strength tonight was their run game, and with 0:47 and no timeouts left, that wasn't going to work.  Neither did play-action.  They went only 17 yards on 8 plays to end the game. 

It was a miraculous comeback for Florida State and the star was Christian Ponder.  The Junior quarterback went 33-40 for 395 yards and 3 Touchdowns with zero interceptions.  He was pinpoint and could have easily thrown for 450 yards had he not been victimized by 3 drops and an offensive pass interference call. Ponder might be the best quarterback in the country.  You'd be hard-pressed to find one who is playing better.  Considering the opponent and situation, Ponder's performance was one for the ages.  He posted a QB rating of 190 (NFL equivalent of 133).  Ponder finished the game 16-16 for 236 yards. 

And while the receivers did have 3 drops, they also made some phenomenal catches and played extremely well.  Senior Rod Owens, Ponder's former roommate, caught 9 balls for 198 yards.  Bert Reed caught 9 for 79.  In all, 8 different players caught balls. 

Let's use a quick chart to put this in perspective.  Just how good was FSU's performance?  To find out, you must compare it to the other teams who played the Heels:

Team v. UNC's Defense at UCONN ECU at Gtech UVA Florida State
Rank of Offense 49 62 2 56 8
Plays 61 61 77 68 65
Yards Per Play Allowed 3.2 4 5.2 3.8 6.7
Rushes 31 28 65 37 23
Yards/ Rush Allowed 3.3 2.6 5 3.7 2.3
Passing Plays 30 33 12 31 41
Yards/ Pass Play Allowed 3.1 5.3 6.9 3.8 9.2
  • Yards-Per-Play is used because it is the best standard measure of defense.  Total yards is moronic (please don't try to argue this, just use the search feature at right).  It really isn't the fault of the defense if the offense allows the opponent to get 17 possessions or take the ball in UNC's red zone three times in a contest.  How many snaps did you have, what did you do with them (or allow your opponent to do with theirs).  Simple enough.
  • Sacks have been re-allocated to Passing plays (since they are the result of a failed passing play and not a run play)
  • Kneel-Downs are not included as they are not a competitive play.
  • Carolina's defense hasn't allowed anyone to gain more than 5.2 yards per play.  FSU put up 6.7 yards per play.  Doesn't seem like much?  Think again.  Florida State gained 30% more yards per play than anyone else had on the Tar Heel's defense.  And they did it in North Carolina, on a Thursday night.   
  • 1st team to crack 410 yards against UNC’s defense (438), and did it IN NORTH CAROLINA.  Georgia Tech had 406, but they did it in Atlanta, and did it on 85 plays.  FSU did it on 15 fewer plays.  That's about 20% fewer snaps for FSU, but a lot more yards and as shown above, a lot more yards per play.
  • 1st team to put 30 points on UNC’s defense and did it IN NORTH CAROLINA.

So yes, on a Thursday night, Florida State went into the house of one of the best defenses in the country, got down by 18 points by allowing one of the worst offenses in the nation to set season-highs.  Then with UNC knowing they would have to pass, they did just that.  And did it again and again and again.  Florida State obliterated the even the worst numbers that Carolina's stellar defense had allowed all season.  The 'Noles put up 30% more yards per play than anyone else had against the Tar Heels, and they did it in Chapel Hill, on a Thursday Night. The credit goes to Jimbo Fisher's halftime adjustments and Christian Ponder's once again excellent play. 

Seminoles vs Tar Heels boxscore (Note, this isn't adjusted for sacks of kneeldowns, etc)

What did we learn?

If you don't think FSU is one of the best 5 offenses in the country, you need to wake up.  Think a bit smarter and realize the opponent quality when you look at the production. FSU didn't get cupcakes this year.

  • No offense has scored more points against Miami than FSU. 
  • Florida State's 54 points against BYU is 26 more than the next closest effort by any other team against the Cougars. 
  • Fisher's offense dropped 44 on Georgia Tech; no other team has even cracked 35 on the Jackets, and the one who cracked 30 was Mississippi State who did it in garbage time (31 points).  
  • And you saw the figures from above.  FSU put up 30% more yards per play than anyone else did against UNC.  And of course they set new season highs for points allowed and yards allowed by UNC. 

Also, Ponder is a Heisman candidate.  Seriously, is there a better QB right now?  Tebow's not playing better.  Neither is McCoy.  I'll give you Claussen, maybe.

There aren't 20 defenses in the country worse than FSU.  Literally, they belong outside the top 100. They are probably worse than even the most pessimistic of fans realize.  Every team sets their season high against FSU's defense!

  • Miami's season high for points, yards, and yards per play, against a D1 team?  You guessed it, the 38 point effort @ Florida State
  • BYU set their season high for yards per play (8.9) against... Florida State
  • Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest held Boston College to 1.1, 2.9, and 5.4 yards per play, respectively.  FSU allowed them 7.1 yards per play, again, a season high against D1 competition.
  • USF's offense is horrible, ranked #94, and FSU allowed them to set their season high against D1 competition in yards per play at 6.0.  What's worse is that USF ran the prevent offense in the 3rd quarter.
  • And UNC, well, you saw the figures above.  FSU's defense did do better than #99 ranked East Carolina, but then again, that's East Carolina. 

l

What does this mean?

We'll discuss this more in-depth over the weekend, but realistically, not much.  FSU is still in an uphill  battle to win the ACC Atlantic, though they probably are heavily favored to make a bowl game.

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