Not many expected much from Florida State without their all-star quarterback Christian Ponder as the 'Noles rode into Wake Forest to face the Deacons on senior day. But the 'Noles offense didn't skip a beat. Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher got redshirt freshman E.J. Manuel ready to go. Fisher gave the freshman safe throws and some designed runs to ease him into the game. Manuel played well and didn't try to do too much. Importantly, he didn't have any bone-headed fumbles or dumb throws into the flat. His play-fakes were exceptional as Fisher called bootleg after bootleg. Wake's defense bought the fake repeatedly, especially in the first half, and Manuel completed multiple safe throws. He got the ball to his playmakers in spacem and they made plays. It's not an official stat, but FSU's wideouts had a ton of yards after the catch as Manuel went 15-20 for 221 yards with 1 TD and 1 Interception.
And those play-fakes were largely effective because the 'Nole's sensational running game was dominant. The 'Nole's excellent offensive line paved the way for 226 yards on 40 carries, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. FSU milked the clock when they had the ball and were excellent on 3rd down because they rarely put themselves in 3rd-and-long situations. Sophomore running back Jermaine Thomas had 148 yards on 25 carries, a 5.9 average per rush. He scored one touchdown and did not fumble.
Florida State's offense put up 439 yards on 61 plays, an exceptional average of 7.2 per play. That mark was 10% better than anyone had put on Wake Forest. Florida State also became the first team to score 40 points on the Deacons. And those numbers are even a bit misleading, as Florida State was averaging 8.3 yards-per-snap of the ball midway through the 3rd quarter, a truly exceptional mark.
And for the first time this season, Florida State's defense helped out the offense. It was well publicized that the Seminole defense might have been the worst in the country. Going into this contest, they had allowed every opponent to post their season high in Points, Yards, or Yards-per-play:
But the defense forced two turnovers, and Wake did not obliterate their previous season highs. The Deacons 6.6 yards per play was close to their season best, but when an offense is rocking like FSU's, the defense just needs to avoid being horrible. Wake managed 454 yards on 69 plays, for 28 points. And with this year's unit, that is a win.
Florida State's special teams also pitched in in a big way. Freshman Greg Reid took a punt return back for a score to make the game 31-7, and freshman kicker Dustin Hopkins had 4 touchbacks on kickoffs. FSU did not allow Wake Forest to start a drive outside of their own 40 yard line. Making big plays and being solid in all the other areas makes for a winning special teams combination.
Florida State went from being favored to not make a bowl to now being favored to make a bowl game. A win over Maryland will do it for the 'Noles.