TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Rashad Greene #80 of the Florida State Seminoles makes a touchdown pass reception against the Oklahoma Sooners in the fourth quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners survived a scare in Tallahassee before pulling away for a 23-13 victory. It was a far cry from last year's blowout in Norman as the Sooners found themselves tied in the fourth quarter against a Seminole team playing with its freshman backup quarterback and missing three of its top four receivers.
FSU's defense bore no resemblance to the one torched in Norman. The Noles held Oklahoma to just 4.2 yards per play and narrowly missed game-changing turnovers late in the contest. Oklahoma marched the length of the field on its first possession, but was controlled by the FSU defense until a fourth-quarter scoring drive highlighted by two long passes. B. Werner was unblockable on passing downs and Christian Jones and Mike Harris also had strong showings.
Offensively, the Noles never established much of a rythym (even before Manuel's injury) and finished with just 246 yards at 3.5 yards per play. Clint Trickett came in and played admirably (somewhat reminiscent of a young Christian Ponder's appearance at VT), connecting on a Hail Mary-ish 56-yard pass to Rashad Green to tie the game late. He finished 7-15 for 134 yards and an INT. Trickett's lack of mobility means a MUCH difference offensive gameplan than when Manuel is playing. FSU had numerous running plays blown up by OU run blitzes or Seminole lineman beaten badly by their DL counterparts. When Manuel got the ball on the perimeter, he was successful, but those opportunites seemed few and far between.
A key turning point of the game came when Manuel found Kenny Shaw near the goal line for an apparent touchdown. But vicious and simultaneous shots to Shaw's head by OU defenders knocked him unconscious and knocked the ball loose just before he fell in the end zone. The 15-yard penalty was well worth it for the Sooners.
The game revealed fully the inanity of scheduling major powers for non-conference games. Not only did whatever national title hopes FSU harbored suffer a serious blow, but the Noles played a brutally physical game and suffered a number of key injuries the week before its most important conference game of the season, at Clemson.
The extent of EJ Manuel's injury is unclear. It is possible that Coach Jimbo Fisher decided to not subject him to further injury given the importance of the Clemson game. Given the length of time now devoted to making sure concussion victims fully heal, it is doubtful we will see Kenny Shaw vs. the Tigers either.
Overall, FSU did what many fans hoped for -- competed with Oklahoma and showed that great strides have been made since the humiliating loss in Norman in 2010. Still, with better luck on injuries and fewer holding penalties, the outcome could have easily been different.
Devonta Freeman does not appear ready to contribute. He blew a pass protection assignment badly and missed an obvious cutback lane on at least one run
FSU's young WR corps is impressive. Haggins, Dent, Green, Greene are all making plays when called on.
Lamarcus Joyner is playing lights out in the secondary
Senior Nigel Bradham's name only seemed be called when he was making freshman errors in judgment.
The Noles kicking game is stellar, but the return game generated no excitement.
Werner has clearly passed Brandon Jenkins as FSU's top pass rusher.