On a night in which Florida State needed just one stop or one more scoring drive, they found neither as the Miami Hurricanes bested the Seminoles 38-34.
TomahawkNation.com warned everyone who would lsiten that this FSU defense could be historically awful, but even we didn't think they would be this bad. The 'Noles had no answer for Miami's offense as the Canes rocked the Nole's defense surrendered 476 yards only 64 plays, over 7 yards per play. 25 first downs and 38 points. The star for the Hurricanes was quarterback Jacory Harris, who torched the 'Noles for a cartoonish 386 yards on 21-34 passing, more than 11 yards per passing play. While the 'Florida State defensive backs are taking a lot of heat for their performance, the real story should be the 'Nole's complete inability to pressure Harris without bringing a huge blitz. As we discussed in the preview, bringing big blitzes is risky. We told 'Nole fans to expect FSU's corners to get burned a few times, because FSU likely couldn't get pressure without bringing a bit blitz. That is exactly what happened. Harris was rarely harassed and often had 4 or even 5 seconds to throw in the pocket and was sacked only once. Harris had an incredible QB rating of 164! I'm not criticizing FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrew's playcalling- which was fine from my vantage point.
But the defensive staff must shoulder the blame for this loss for another reason: their lack of recruiting in 2006 and 2007. FSU's defense appears poorly coached and it speaks volumes that they must rely so heavily on underclassmen. The 'Noles even started a walk-on at defensive end, which hurt the 'Noles dearly as he was easily handled by Miami's offensive linemen. The blame for the lack of quality depth on defense falls squarely on the shoulders of the defensive staff and the man overseeing them in 2006 and 2007- Bobby Bowden. They aren't likely to get better until next season, so FSU fans need to get used to the idea that a Mickey Andrews defense just means a defense that is coached by Mickey Andrews. That no longer holds special meaning, and realistically, hasn't for several years.
Perhaps the most distressing unit was the Florida State kick coverage, led by horrible special teams coach Jody Allen. We profiled his troubles last week, and those problems again reared their ugly head as the 'Noles allowed a preposterous 35 yard kick return average to Miami running back Greg Cooper.
The 'Nole offense wasn't without fault, but they were by far the most impressive Seminole unit. The FSU passing game was very good, as Christian Ponder had a QB rating of 130, passing for 294 yards on 24-41 passing, with 2 TD's and one interception. The FSU offensive line was much improved in pass protection from a season ago, allowing only two sacks on 43 passing plays, an excellent clip. One of those sacks, however, ended in a costly fumble as Miami's Marcus Robinson sped past FSU's right tackle Zebrie Sanders to strip the ball from Ponder.
The 'Nole's run game couldn't get going until the final drive, as FSU had just 58 yards on 21 plays through the first 3 1/2 quarters of the game, and 69 rushing yards in the final 7 minutes, ending with 127 yards on 28 runs. Miami definitely emphasized stopping the run game, and played a lot of cover-3 with 8 men in the box. For the most part, FSU punished the canes with the passing game. The 'Noles lack of a consistent rushing attack might have hampered the offense for much of the game, though the passing game was mostly able to overcome it.
Everyone will focus on the final drive, and how the Noles couldn't punch the ball in, and whether the right plays were called, but points scored in the first quarter count just as much as points scored in the fourth quarter, and FSU's defense allowed the Canes to score touchdowns on their first and last drives. We made FSU's lack of quality defensive coaching and the 2006 and 2007 defensive recruiting gaffes (before Jimbo Fisher and co. arrived) a major theme of this off-season, and unfortunately for 'Nole fans, those problems cost Florida State a game in this storied rivalry.
There will be much more analysis in the coming days, including play-calling, film review, and where FSU needs to go from here. I just hope all of y'all now understand what I am talking about when I say that FSU isn't playing with a full deck. Bowden and the defensive staff just are not quality D-1 coaches and their mistakes, both tonight and over the last 4 years, buried the 'Noles tonight.