Personality-wise, I'm not one to panic or to jump to meltdown mode. But today's loss to Wake Forest - or rather the way FSU lost to Wake - has me about as close to a meltdown as I get. So I figured I'd come over to TN to express some early post-game thoughts:
- The run game showed some signs of life. The running back committee rushed for 96 yards on 21 carries for a modestly healthy 4.57 yards per carry. The running backs and OL still made mistakes and did not light the world on fire, but it was progress.
- Bjoern Werner is also establishing himself as a force and even a potential All-American. In fact, aside from some penalty issues, the defensive line continues to impress as a whole.
More after the jump...
- Special teams was hardly special today. It was not a vintage effort for Dustin Hopkins, and there were too many mistakes in the return game.
- The secondary had a bad day pretty much all around. The defensive backs were out of position far too much in the passing game. I haven't re-watched the game yet to confirm (and don't know if I can stomach it again), but I also felt that this was a terrible game for the safeties. Too many big plays for Wake Forest, often because a safety took a poor angle or was otherwise out of position.
- The offensive line was terrible in pass protection all day long. It is tempting to place a lot of the blame on Andrew Datko's absence, but that would unfairly absolve the rest of the unit from blame, and they all deserve a lot of blame. A team of Wake Forest's talent level should almost never be able to get close to the QB when rushing just three. Unfortunately, that's not the way it happened.
- This is not a great defense. I'm not even sure they are "very good." They are capable of great things, but they gave up way too much - and way, way too many big plays - to Wake Forest for them to claim that they have arrived.
- The penalties are out of control. Just...out of control.
- The coaching from Florida State was far from impressive today. The mental errors are starting to go off the charts, and the coaches have to take responsibility as a whole for that. One of the things that coaches have to instill in their players is an understanding of the situation. On an early third down play, Rashad Greene made a boneheaded error failing to get upfield and costing FSU a first down because he was trying to make a play. In the third quarter, Jermaine Thomas made a play that might keep him on the bench the rest of the season when he backtracked and handed Wake Forest a gift of two points (and completely squelching the momentum FSU had gained at the end of the first half). FSU also lacked the intensity and urgency that Wake Forest brought to the game. FSU's coaches need to find a way to motivate these players every single week, or the recruiting rankings just won't amount to a hill of beans.
- Why the hell didn't EJ Manuel start today's game? This goes back to coaching, but it deserves its own bullet point. This is the one that truly infuriates me. If he was healthy enough to go in and play, then I have to believe he was healthy enough to start. Was he unable to practice this week, and thus held out for that reason? Or did Jimbo Fisher not take Wake Forest seriously enough, thinking that he could sneak another week of rest for Manuel? This is a question that needs to be put to Fisher this week.
- I'm growing concerned about the playcalling. Yes, another coaching issue, but also deserving of its own bullet point. The biggest issue I have is Fisher's abandonment of the running game - once again. In past weeks the justification has been that the running game was struggling and the passing game was far better. OK, fine. But in today's game the run game saw some success, the OL was struggling with pass blocking, the QB play was not stellar, and there was a true freshman making his first start at left tackle. Yet Fisher seemed itchy to abandon the running game. Fisher called just four designed runs in the second half! One of the called runs sprung for 23 yards, seemingly because Wake Forest was caught completely off-guard by FSU actually running the football. Three incomplete passes later (which, admittedly, were open), FSU was forced to kick a field goal. OK, I get it, Jermaine Thomas is a bonehead (albeit a bonehead whose error was made possible by the 15 yard sack on first down). The starter went down early. None of the running backs are special. But the passing game wasn't exactly lighting it up and the errors were compounding. There was no reason to abandon the running game so thoroughly and so quickly, and that's another thing Jimbo Fisher needs to be questioned about this week (not "Why isn't the running game working," but, "Why aren't you trying to run the ball?").
Hey, ACC Network, did it really take you until the fourth quarter to make an issue of (or notice) the fact that FSU's senior All-ACC left tackle was not playing and had been replaced by a true freshman? That might have been something you wanted to address.
There's going to be a meltdown for FSU fans over the next 24-48 hours. The coaching staff and team will, frankly, deserve a lot of criticism. On the other hand, people tend to go so far over the top that "fire" websites start going up and crazy suggestions start getting made. For that reason, I want to be very clear that my criticisms are not reflective of a desire for some radical change. The staff just needs to get together and find a way to resolve these issues. Every game from here on out needs to be taken seriously and the team needs to be motivated. I don't care that it is Duke up next. FSU needs to come out with intensity (and with all of its starters actually starting) and play every game the rest of the way like they have something to prove - because they do.