Streeter Lecka - Getty Images
Florida State ran the ball very well in the first half. In the second half, N.C. State adjusted. So Florida State went to the pass. But the Seminoles didn't execute it well, and then abandoned it.
With under 2 minutes in the third quarter, EJ Manuel passed on a potential long run after escaping pressure, and instead threw a difficult pass which fell incomplete.
On the next play, he threw an interception, though admittedly, it was not fully his fault as senior receiver Rodney Smith lazily allows the DB to cross his face on the slant.
On Florida State's next play, Manuel botched the throw on a screen pass to Chris Thompson that very likely could have gone for a touchdown.
It was an awful second half from a QB who many Seminole fans wanted to believe was really good, but privately still had doubts. Missed throws, bad reads, not making elementary checks, etc. And he didn't get much help from the offense around him, with missed assignments, blown blocks, etc.
That's an execution issue, and it falls on the offensive coordinator who is also the head coach.
For the first three quarters, Jimbo Fisher actually called a very good game. In the first half, FSU moved the ball well but struggled in the red zone. In the third quarter, instead of getting better, it got worse. Largely because of quarterback play. There were many opportunities for the big play, but Fisher's offense didn't execute.
N.C. State's defense was ripped by Miami and Tennessee largely because of the Wolfpack's own mistakes like blown coverages and penalties (14 in the loss in Coral Gables). Against the Seminoles, N.C. State was very clean on defense and forced FSU to execute.
The 'Noles didn't. Most of that falls on the QB. Despite a lack of N.C. State mistakes, there were tons of plays to be made.
For most of the night, Florida State was perfectly balanced on first down. In fact, up until Manuel's misfire on the screen, the Seminoles had run it 11 times and thrown it 11.
at St47 THOMPSON, C. rush for no gain to the ST47 (Wolff,E.)
at St27 THOMPSON, C. rush for 5 yards to the ST22 (Wolff,E.;Bishop,B.)
at Fs24 THOMPSON, C. rush for loss of 2 yards to the FS22 (McGill,T.)
at Fs32 THOMPSON, C. rush for loss of 2 yards to the FS30 (Teal,T.)
[of course, on the final drive, running was not an option and so FSU had to pass]
That sure looks like a the playcalls of a coach who was frustrated that a good, balanced gameplan has been poorly executed by the offense for which he is responsible (most notably by the senior QB) for the better part of three quarters.
Not only that, but in Florida State's final series with the lead, FSU didn't even act like it was going to pass, running a QB sweep on 3rd-&-9.
1-10 FSU 32 THOMPSON, C. rush for loss of 2 yards to the FSU30 (Teal,T.).
2-12 FSU 30 THOMPSON, C. rush for 3 yards to the FSU33 (Teal,T.;Bishop,B.).
3-9 FSU 33 MANUEL, EJ rush for no gain to the FSU33 (Noel,R.;McGill,T.).
Yes, the drive did force N.C. State to waste its timeouts, but with more than 2 minutes left in the game, that was not as important as getting a first down and keeping the ball.
In shutting it down, Fisher trusted his defense and his running back over the 5th-year QB that he recruited and developed.
Was it the wrong choice? It's very possible. Fisher said in his press conference that he may have gotten too conservative late. He didn't mention the reason for that,however, probably because he didn't want to throw players under the bus.
We'll discuss that later this week along with:
- Looking at how Manuel needs to be used differently (the offense has definitely been simplifed some);
- Examining whether Fisher's ego of developing quarterbacks and running his pro-style offense/Manuel's desire to be a passer and not a runner and getting to the league is hampering Florida State's offense.