I'll start out by noting that Florida State came into this game overconfident. Both the coaches and the players were cocky coming in and this has been a humbling experience for the team.
A lot of credit needs to go to Oklahoma. Back in July, I wrote that Oklahoma might very well be the best team in the country. I'm not sure they are the best but that looks like a very good or elite team. Oklahoma's defense was far better than anything FSU could simulate in practice, and it did a great job mixing up its looks as well.
Christian Ponder still needs to learn to slide. That means feet first. He was erratic for much of the day and even on the first drive he overthrew Easterling. He probably had more missed throws yesterday than he did in any two games combined last year. I do not, however, put the two Hualstead errors in the second series on Ponder. The out ball to Easterling was a bit off but credit Taiwan for getting to it. The ball to Reed was an awful throw and it looked like it slipped out of Ponder's hand because he stepped into the throw correctly. Maybe the wind had something to do with it too. The ball to Easterling on 2nd-&-10 is well thrown with a ton of heat right in Ponder's face. Ponder showed good patience on the throw to Thomas on the 6th play of the 3rd series. The pass protection on the first "sack" (2nd & 13) was fine and Ponder had happy feet in the pocket for the first time in a while. He made his oline look bad there and there were guys coming open late. Easterling slipped on the play, otherwise he is definitely open and the ball is out quicker. Ponder needed to stay in the pocket on the 2nd sack as well, though this one is definitely more on Jermaine Thomas. I think Ponder lost confidence in his wideouts, but much of the blame does fall on him for losing that confidence and continuing to look for them downfield as they were open a few times. Ponder was "sacked" 4 times. Let's break these down:
- Ponder intentionally grounds the ball (scored a sack). This isn't on Ponder or the line, it is on Haulstead (see below). Fault: Haulstead
- Ponder runs himself into a sack with happy feet. Fault: Ponder
- Ponder sacked. Good OU blitz and the RB doesn't pick it up well. Fault: RB
- Ponder sacked. This is on the OLine.
2 sacks before the game got out of hand and there's a very good case that neither are the fault of the offensive line.
Here is the visual representation of the game during "non-garbage" time, which means that the losing team still had some theoretical chance to come back:
I am not fooled by the 4 drives in garbage time. FSU put up 3.7 yards per play before the game got out of hand. That's poor.
The receivers were a problem. On the 2nd down and 8 play in on the second series, Willie Haulstead ran an incredibly poor slant route. It was reminiscent of the route Greg Carr ran against Georgia Tech that ended up getting picked off. If Haulstead runs his slant route worth a damn that's a catch and probably 1-2 more yards, setting up a 3rd-and-3. That is inexcusable and I am positive he was ripped for some of his play. Instead, the corner is able to break on the ball and cause the PBU. FSU has to face 3rd and 8 on the ensuing play and Haulstead misses the screen check. As Fisher put it, "we had the screen set up and 10 guys got the call and the guy getting the ball misses it. In fact, Bert Reed even turns to Haulstead and tells him its a screen. What an awful series for Willie Haulstead. Credit Easterling for having a decent game. He is very valuable for his ability to sit down in the zone. He saved Ponder on the 5th play of the 3rd series by quickly recognizing blitz and sitting down in the vacated area of the zone. Easterling slipped on the 2nd-&-13 play, otherwise he is definitely open and the ball is out quicker (Ponder had happy feet on this play). Haulstead and Smith really need to step up and play at a more mature level. I know this is their first year starting and that they combined to catch only three balls last season, but there is no excuse for the lack of intensity and mental toughness shown by those two on some plays. Easterling was solid for the most part and I don't have any major complaints about Bert Reed. Those two young guys have to become mentally tougher and bring intensity and focus on every down. I am also concerned that the young guys might be tipping the screen plays somehow. Oklahoma was extremely quick to recognize them. FSU must self-scout and identify tendencies there.
I thought the offensive line was average. You don't expect an elite defensive line to be dominated nor do you expect an elite offensive line to get dominated. Neither happened while the game was competitive. OU rarely got pressure with just four. It wasn't until OU brought some serious blitzes that Ponder was pressured. Zebrie did miss some cuts, but he also did a nice job against Beal on some other plays. Beal is an elite end and he will get his, as I said in the preview. The offense punched in its only goal-line opportunity, which is a problem FSU had last year. Fisher said that those looking to blame the offensive line should look elsewhere. He was less kind when asked about the receivers and Ponder. As I mentioned above, there was no protection issue on the 3rd down play of the second series. The line quickly got out and was set up for a nice screen, but Haulstead missed the check. It's easy to see why Fisher and Trickett were livid there because the play was set up to go for big yards. Protection was good on the 5-step drop to open the third series. At this point the protection had been good. The blocking should have been better on the 2nd-and-2 play though this might have been one of the plays Fisher said wasn't run really well by the backs. FSU did block the 3rd-and-1 well and picked it up. The protection was tremendous on the 1st-&-10 play (4th play of the 3rd series). Sanders penalty on the 7th play of the 3rd series definitely hurt because it put FSU behind the marker. On the 8th play (1st-&-15), Zebrie Sanders and Beau Reliford have a combo on the defensive end. Zebrie turns the end and Reliford is responsible for climbing to the linebacker if the linebacker shows to the outside, which he did. Reliford blows this block. Florida State's tight ends are awful (including Jabarris Little). Thomas was hit for a gain of only 1 when the play could have easily gone for 7 or 8 and put FSU back in manageable down and distance, considering the penalty on the previous play. The pass protection on the first "sack" (2nd & 13) was fine and Ponder had happy feet in the pocket for the first time in a while. He made his oline look bad there. The second "sack" is on Jermaine Thomas and perhaps a bit on Ponder. Overall the offensive line played about average until the game got way out of hand. I think there's something wrong with Rodney Hudson as he is not dominating like he usually does. Perhaps his off-season illness prevented him from getting the most of the off-season program, because he is playing like a 7th-round draft choice right now and not a first or second round pick. Spurlock did have a classic error in which he ignored a delayed blitzer hanging around the line of scrimmage and that guy came and hit Ponder, preventing him from stepping into a throw to Easterling. The line was not at fault until the game got wildly out of hand.
Greg Reid looked good in his offensive carry on a nice little inside zone play.
Watching Ty Jones, there's a reason he's been third string (consistency). He missed the hole on a 2nd-and-8 play on the 4th drive that would have made it 3rd and 2 at the absolute worst. Pass pro from the backs was hit or miss and was unimpressive overall even before the game got out of hand. Jermaine Thomas ran hard and had a few nice runs, though he did clip himself on an offensive lineman twice. Thomas did a nice job catching the ball on the 6th play of the third series. Thomas seems to have regressed a bit, however, in terms of the zone running. Credit OU, however, for mixing up its looks. The second "sack" was on Jermaine Thomas and perhaps a bit on Ponder.
The poor offensive performance was a combination of an off day for Ponder (mentally and accuracy), poor play from the young receivers, Ponder losing confidence in those receivers, a few small mistakes that proved to be enormously detrimental because FSU needed to score on every single possession (OU's first 5 drives were 80, 80, 55, 80, 45) , mental errors, and finally getting down big to an elite team on the road. This is one of the worst offensive efforts I have seen from Jimbo's crew and they must perform better.
I am confident that the offense will be back and humming soon, provided that either Haulstead, Smith, or Reliford can step up and Ponder doesn't let Oklahoma beat him twice.