Grading the 'Noles: FSU 21 - UF 7

Noles Gators
Score 21 7
Plays 58 61
Yards/Play 1.60 2.93
UF outgained FSU by Outgained by 83% per/play
Field Position Own 46 Own 23
FSU's field position was 100% better per/possession

Grading the 'Noles is a feature we introduced this year, and it's here to stay thanks to your support. By now, you probably know the drill. We take the goals from the game preview and then look to see how FSU did against them. 

When is sat down to write this, I realized I had authored something similar last year for the Miami game: FSU finds hidden yards in beatdown of 'Canes. In that one, I wrote:

If you look at the drive chart, you'll see that FSU started drives at its own 40 and Miami started drives at its own 19. That's a 21-yard difference. A 21-yard difference might not seem like much, but when you compound it by noting that Miami and FSU each had 11 drives, it makes for an enormous advantage of 233 yards in Florida State's favor. Florida State started inside its own 20-yard line only three times, while Miami was pinned there or worse on eight of its 11 drives.

And the 'Noles field position advantage last night was even bigger than the 2010 Miami game. FSU had a hidden yardage advantage of almost 350 yards (340 to be exact). That is nuts. I mean, wow. 

I'm struggling to find the words to describe how big this advantage really is, because we don't often talk about the subject. Would you be satisfied if I told you FSU hasn't had an advantage of this magnitude in a long time? Perhaps the best illustration of how FSU controlled field position is that the 'Noles won easily despite getting outgained by 83% per/play. To put it another way: UF outgained FSU by 84 yards. FSU's field position edge was 4x that. 

The advantage came from special teams, defense and offense that played turnover-free football until the game was in hand.

Now to the goals. We start with the defense, because, well, unless you are Alabama or LSU, your defense is not definitively better than FSU's.

Hold UF to less than 5 yards/play. 

Aced it.

2.93/play is really quite a special night of defense. This is a very good defense. It stayed healthy, has a lot of talent, and well-paid coaches. This should be expected when most everything goes right for a unit, as it has for the defense this year.

Force 2 turnovers

Top of the class. The 'Noles forced four turnovers, and they were not of the luck variety (interceptions are far more skill than fumble receoveries).

No more than 4 big plays (25+ yard pass plays and 15+ yard run plays).

FSU only allowed 1 big play (run of 23)! Excellent. As we said, UF can't drive and is overly dependent on the big play. This was a great job of not allowing explosive plays. UF had one drive and it involved multiple 4th-down conversions, a halfback pass, penalties and  a fake field goal. FSU dared UF to win without its strength. It could not.

50% TDs or better in the red zone.

50% exactly. 

This was a great defensive performance. All goals were easily accomplished. And it was truly a team effort. There wasn't one FSU player that stood out above the rest because they all played well. 

Oh, and the two longest scrimmage plays of the game from either team were interception returns by FSU's defensive backs. Mercy.


Now to the offense.

At least 5.25 yards/play

Awful. FSU missed this goal by a huge margin. The question of how much FSU tried to move the ball versus protecting it after the first 16 minutes (14-0 lead) is absolutely valid. But even so, that effort was embarrassing.

No more than 1 turnover

FSU played turnover-free football until the game was over (Thomas fumbled with a 21-0 lead, 4:32 left in the game and UF without its QB).

If we criticize the offense for not moving the ball, we must also praise them for protecting it and not allowing UF's defense to move it via turnover return. 

No more than 4 operational (pre-snap/alignment/delay) penalties.

This was a major improvement.

FSU was very sharp and handled the 90,000 quite well. Only 1 "operational" penalty was called (an illegal shift). Excellent work in this area. 

At least 60% TDs in the red zone

Top notch. 100%

And even better work here. Jimbo said the team worked a lot on short yardage and red zone stuff. And they got it done. 

What people are calling FSU's worst offensive performance in 55 years (1957) actually accomplished three of the four offensive goals. Perhaps that says more about how far down I had adjusted the offensive goals following the Virginia game. This was by no means anything but an ugly offensive performance. 

But turnovers matter a bunch, folks. See also: the loss to Wake Forest. I'll take this offensive performance over the one against Wake (5 turnovers and a safety) every day of the week. Particularly when FSU has a defense of this caliber. I mean, NFL teams have won Super Bowls doing this. You can be happy that FSU realized its limitations and played to its strengths while still being very disappointed in the weaknesses realized.

And there's so much to be said about the special teams. FSU will likely finish with the top special teams in the country.

UF has really dangerous returners, and not only did FSU not allow them to return anything, but they treated them like they were nothing special. Many teams will give UF good field position because they kick short and avoid the returners. FSU wasn't scared or Rainey or Demps. FSU just hit great kicks and covered the heck out of them.

Dustin Hopkins and Shawn Powell didn't mess around. They simply went out and worked UF silly, pinning the Gators at their own 12, 20, 16, 1, 18, 25, 8, 20, 10 and 20. So basically, on almost all of UF's drives, they were being asked to move the ball 80 (and sometimes 90!) yards against FSU's tremendous defense. The offense let FSU pin UF. It deserves blame, but also praise for letting the defense and special teams do their job in advantageous positions. And what a job those two did with those positions.  

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