Florida State's first play was almost intercepted and brought back for an interception. The next 76 snaps would go almost perfectly for the Florida State Seminoles as FSU housed the #7 ranked BYU cougars 54-28 Florida State marched down the field on an 11 play, 80 yard touchdown drive. The defense played tight coverage as BYU's slow but very precise receivers made circus catch after circus catch, but fumbled on the Nole's 14. The 'Noles then marched 86 yards on 17 plays for another touchdown and a two-touchdown lead. BYU's offense moved the ball well, but FSU's defensive backs harassed the Cougar's pass catchers all game. BYU and FSU then traded two 80+ yard touchdown drives and the Noles led 27-14. A fumble on a kickoff right before half and a 1st down later, and the Noles knocked a field goal home to lead 30-14 at half.
The domination was resounding. Florida State had thirty (30) first downs. Thirty. FSU would not punt until the end of the 3rd quarter, with the game already well in hand. The Noles marched for touchdown drives of 60, 70, 80, 82, and 86 yards. Through the first three quarters, FSU held the ball for an amazing 28 minutes, compared to just 17 for BYU. Florida State put 278 rushing yards on the Cougar defense that had held Oklahoma to only 265 total yards. Christian Ponder was nearly perfect, posting a QB rating of 170 on 21-26 passing for 196 yards and 2 TD's. He was not sacked. Florida State was a perfect 10-10 on 3rd downs to start the game.
While Ponder was great, Florida State offensive was even greater. Ponder was not sacked. BYU did not record a tackle for loss on a run play while FSU's starters were in the game. BYU's defensive front 7 was the smallest the Noles will see all year, at a combined 1728lbs, and FSU's offensive front blew them away. It was a great performance for FSU's wrecking crew, last year the youngest offensive line in the country. FSU's starters faced only three third downs of more than 8 yards, because Florida State could get three yards any time they wanted. The pass protection was excellent. Ponder had forever to pick apart the Cougar's zone defense, and when BYU blitzed, Ponder burned the resulting 1-on-1 coverage with big plays. While Oklahoma largely beat themselves against BYU with 10 boneheaded offensive penalties from their inexperienced offensive line, Florida State's cohesive group did no such thing. Florida State did not commit an offensive penalty in the first half. They simply dominated an undersized Cougar front.
The Noles knew that the Cougars defense played excellent in 3rd and long situations with their soft zone coverage, so they simply avoided them. BYU started out playing soft zone coverage, but the Noles planned for this and quickly made BYU play them honestly with a dominating running game and also by immediately flicking the ball out to their speedy receivers if BYU's defensive backs were too far off the ball. The cougar defensive backs clearly couldn't cover the Florida State receivers one-on-one, but Florida State's rushing attack left them no choice. BYU simply had to involve their safeties to stop the run. When BYU bunched up defenders inside, FSU ran outside. When FSU spread out the Cougar defense, they ran inside. On six separate occasions, a Florida State running back ran for 10 yards before he even encountered a potential BYU tackler. While many will assume FSU's speed won this game, that was simply not the case. Florida State physically dominated BYU and appeared to be more composed as well, even though the 7th ranked Cougars were playing in front of their home crowd.
The much maligned Florida State defense played well, considering BYU's excellent passing attack. Playing aggressive man coverage, BYU's receivers were simply too slow to break away fron Florida State's defensive backs. FSU forced BYU QB Max Hall to make the difficult throws, and while the Cougar wideouts made contested circus catch after circus catch, it seemed unlikely that they could continue to do that for the entire game. Florida State was in the hip pocket of every potential pass catcher, daring BYU to go deep, but the Cougars could not. And that tight coverage eventually paid off, as Florida State freshman nickelback Greg Reidundercut All-American tight end Dennis Pitta, intercepting a crossing route from Hall and returning it for an interception to give FSU a 37-14 lead in BYU's opening drive of the 2nd half. After that the Cougars seemed to quit as FSU imposed their will. Florida State's defensive plan was masterful, as they took away BYU's main weapon (short and intermediate passes in the middle of the field), and forced Hall to complete difficult throws. To BYU's credit, their passing offense is prolific, going 19-30 for 306 yards and 2 TD's, but the three interceptions were a killer. FSU's defense also tackled extremely well and allowed very few yards after the catch.
It was a great win for a Florida State program that had been ripped in the press for two weeks after losing a very tight game to the Miami Hurricanes and then sleepwalking through a close win against Jacksonville State. The Noles were physically dominant and won the game on more than just speed, though Ponder did appear to be faster than even the fastest of BYU's defensive backs.The nation now knows that the ACC's top teams are to be reckoned with, and that the close loss to Miami isn't anything to be ashamed of. It was a bad day for the Mountain West Conference, as both the Cougars and the Utes of Utah (who lost to Oregon) saw their hopes for a BCS bowl go up in smoke. Mountain West teams must be undefeated to reach the BCS because their schedules are so weak. While this was a huge game for BYU, it was just another game for Florida State because the Seminoles play the toughest schedule in the nation.
Even though Florida State pulled their starters midway through the 4th quarter, BYU displayed a lack of class at the end of the game, leveling several cheap shots at Florida State's backups and goading the Noles into a personal foul.
Florida State is a dropped 4-yard pass against an excellent Miami team away from being a top ten team. It's really perplexing how the pollsters drop a team so much for losing a game that was evenly played. Pollsters need to look at the play and not just the score. The Seminoles have a 4-point loss to a top 15 team and just obliterated the #7 team in the country.