Florida did get a shot play open early to Dunbar, but missed it as Driskel threw long. The Gators moved the ball with some success early, mostly with crossing routes and some short runs. FSU had two crucial missed tackles early and Florida's drive netted a field goal, spanning 54 yards on 13 plays, an average of 4.2/play. Florida used a ton of motion to keep the Seminole defense off balance.
The subsequent drive started at Florida State's 35 as Florida's kickoff went out of bounds. FSU opened up with an 11-yard misdirection run, and followed with a great 22-yard pass play to Rashad Greene off play action. Manuel showed great elusiveness and awareness in the pocket, to dodge the rush and find Greene open. After two plays for no yards, Manuel retreated to pressure and launched a ball high over the 6'5 Rodney Smith's head for an interception. It ruined a chance for a field goal.
Off the interception, Florida's drive began at the 12. Florida hit a two-yard pass on misdirection, and then had a nice run around the end for 10. A pass for 8 and a run for three netted another first down. But Florida State's Bjoern Werner got to Driskel and made it 2nd and 19 from the 28. A draw for six set up third and 13, but Jeff Driskel had a tremendous run for 31 yards on the scramble. Florida set up a third-&-1, failed on a play action pass, and then on fourth down faked a field goal that was beautifully designed, but terribly executed, and Florida State took over on its 27.
Florida State started with an incompletion, hit a run for nine, and was stuffed on third and 1. Florida State had run some creative plays to this point in the game, but the third-&-1 run from shotgun wasn't a great call, particularly when Florida State had James Wilder Jr. available, or a mobile QB in EJ Manuel. I wonder if this was a misread by the QB?
FSU punted 43 yards, an excellent punt for true freshman Cason Beatty, who had struggled in his freshman season. The punt was the final play of the first quarter.
Florida gained 4.76 yards/play in the first quarter. Florida State gained 5.5 The difference? Florida did a great job converting third downs, and held the ball for 25 plays, while Florida State ran only eight.
The other difference? Manuel's interception.
Florida's ran twice to set up third-&-4, then false started opposite of Bjoern Werner to bring up 3rd-&-9. Florida was flagged for offensive pass interference, which was declined.
The subsequent punt was caught by Kenny Shaw and returned to the Florida State 46.
The 'Noles threw a play-action out for six (high, caught by Rashad Greene), then ran for three, and set up a third-&-1. James Wilder Jr. was stuffed as the interior line did a poor job of blocking.
Florida State punted on fourth-&-1, a questionable decision if you understand math. The punt pinned UF at its own 18.
From there, Florida picked up one third down, and then on a third and six, Driskel made a great play to get Florida a first down. Under pressure, he moved his feet, shuffled in the pocket, changed his arm angle and found the open man who was probably his third option. Then, on another third down, Florida ran a trick play, which Florida State sniffed out, and Jeff Driskel ad-libbed for a great play, but the throw was just out of bounds. Florida's field goal of 45 yards was good, 6-0 Gators.
Karlos Williams then made a questionable decision to take the ball out of the end zone from two yards deep, and fumbled. UF ball at the FSU 21.Florida ran an end around for seven, and picked up the first down, giving it first-&-goal at the nine. On first and goal from the nine, Florida ran a nice misdirection run play, scoring the touchdown. The turnover proved extremely costly.
FSU got the ball back after the kickoff, and EJ Manuel then threw a terrible interception on third down despite having perfect protection on play action. It was a brutal mistake by a senior quarterback. On first down, with no pressure
Florida took over at the the FSU 24, committed a holding penalty, had an end-around for four yards, and then false started. Florida then tried to throw a reverse pass, and Driskel was sacked for a loss of 10, to set up 3rd-&-31. A draw went for only two yards, and Florida State did not take a timeout, wasting more than 20 seconds. Florida punted to inside FSU's 20.
Then, FSU took a timeout coming out of the huddle, some seriously poor clock management.
Florida State then ran a QB sweep on first down, which was stuffed, but at least made sense in theory because the QB was likely to get out of bounds. What followed, however, did not, as FSU ran another running play. It looked like FSU would try to get to the half, but then it started throwing for 10, 4, and 17. Manuel then scrambled 22 yards to set up a 50-yard field goal, which cut the lead to 13-3.
Florida State ended the half with a timeout in its pocket.
One key thing in the first half is Florida State's snuffing Florida's trick plays. Florida ran four by my count, and did not have success on any. If Florida had hit one (or more), the game could have been a blowout at halftime.
At the half, Florida had 192 yards on 42 plays, for 4.57 yards/play. Florida State ran 20 for 109, an average of 5.45/play.
The key differences were the turnovers (three by Florida State and zero by Florida), and third down conversions (5 of 10 for Florida, 1 of 4 for FSU).
Florida had seemingly worn down Florida State's defensive line and a major question for Florida State would be if its defensive line depth would hold up.
Florida State took the kickoff to the Florida State 26, Manuel hit freeman on a deep flare/wheel for a first down, the next run was stuffed, Manuel then couldn't find anyone open and ran for a gain of one. Manuel then hit Greene on a deep crossing route for the first down. Then, on 1st-&-10 from the Florida 46, Manuel threw his third interception in as many quarters. He and receiver Rashad Greene appeared to miscommunicate, and Florida's Marcus Roberson made a great play on the errant throw. The interception was terrible since it came on first down and wasn't forced at all by defensive pressure.
Florida took over from its 46, had a nice run, was called for holding, and FSU then had a nice pass breakup to bring up 2nd-&-20. A bubble screen went for seven, and FSU again faced a critical third down. FSU had great coverage and forced an intentional grounding.
Florida punted from its own 12, and Kenny Shaw had a great return to the Florida 25. The punt was low and poor.
FSU again ran the quick dive to Freeman from singleback for 20, setting up 1st-&-goal. FSU lost a yard on first down, after hurrying to the line. Manuel then couldn't find anyone, bringing up third-&-goal from the five. FSU then could not get the play off in time, and had another clock management error as it was forced to use a timeout on third down.
But FSU made it count, as Manuel found Nick O'Leary on a beautiful throw and catch with a blitz beater. FSU picked up the blitz beautifully (Freeman), and the 'Noles pulled to within 3, 13-10. Plus, Florida was flagged for roughing the passer.
Florida State kicked off, touchback, Florida's ball at the 25. With the crowd pumped beyond belief, Florida mishandled a snap, and Bjoern Werner intercepted, returning the ball to the ____. A long run by James Wilder Jr. on the same quick dive play that had accounted for most of Florida State's offense on the day gave FSU first and goal from the 2. FSU was stuffed, but Florida was flagged for too many men on the field, and then offsides. Manuel then ran it in on a bootleg to make it 17-13 Seminoles.
In the second half, Florida State's offensive line was pass protecting much better, as were its backs like Devonta Freeman.
A poor kickoff was well covered and Florida started at its own 22. Driskel threw for 21 yards on a crazy throwback scramble. Vince Williams missed a tackle in Florida's backfield, and a four-yard loss became a two-yard run for Florida. On second-&-8, Florida State's Bjoern Werner had a vicious sack on Driskel. Florida then had to burn a timeout because it could not get the play off. Florida did not attempt to get the first down, and instead ran Driskel on a loss of 4.
A great Florida punt of 53 yards, however, was negated by a big FSU return of 17 yards plus a personal foul of 15 yards for a facemask.
From its 48, Florida State threw deep and Florida was flagged for pass interference. Florida State had Nick O'Leary well open behind the defense, but Manuel overthrew him. A screen netted three, but Florida state false started (Josue Matias), and FSU could not complete deep to Kelvin Benjamin.
But on senior day, senior Dustin Hopkins' 53-yard field goal was good, putting Florida State ahead 20-13.
Florida State kicked off and covered UF to the 21, which is totally not doing it justice as FSU's Karlos Williams destroyed Florida's returner. Florida has a run of 12 after linebacker Nick Moody had a huge blown contain assignment. Florida had a run for 2 on first down, FSU then jumped offsides (Carradine), and gave Florida a 2nd-&-3 from UF's 40. Florida then had a run of 10 to the 50, but was backed up 15 by a personal foul. FSU then played tremendous leverage defense to back Florida up to third-&-14, but UF converted with a TE middle screen of 17. Florida State then stuffed another Florida run, threw a roll out pass for seven, setting up third-&-three from the #Noles' 42. Florida ran a great wildcat play (QB around) for 24 to Florida state's 18. FSU's defensive wear and tear started to show, as the play was run against Florida State's reserve defensive ends.
At the end of the third quarter, Florida had gained 280 yards on 59 plays, for 4.7/play. FSU had gained 182 on 35 plays, good for 5.2/play. Turnovers, however, were another story, as Florida State had turned it over three times, while the Gatord had done so just once. But the Seminoles led, 20-13.
Continuing the drive, Florida State stopped Driskel on a scramble for no gain, and then stopped a TE shovel for 3. Driskel's pass was incomplete on a slant, with Nick Waisome potentially pass interfering, but the call was close as he jammed and rode the receiver throughout the short slant route.
FSU returned the kickoff to the 30, threw a quick out for 4 that went for only a yard as the receiver was knocked back, but senior fullback Lonnie Pryor picked up six on an extremely tough run. FSU then converted the third down on an out to Greene against the blitz, a good throw by Manuel. On the resulting first down, Manuel tried to scramble and was crushed by a Florida linebacker, fumbling. Manuel was down on the field for a long while.
On the resulting first down, Florida's Mike Gillislee dashed 37 yards on a cutback run, to give Florida the lead, 23-20.
Florida smartly elected to not allow a kickoff return, and FSU took over at its 25. Clint Trickett entered the game in place of Manuel, and James Wilder Jr. lost three to open the drive and may have missed the hole. An arrow route to Wilder netted six, and Trickett was almost intercepted on third down.
Cason Beatty then hit a long punt, and Florida had a great return to Florida State's 32. Florida State's gunners got pinned inside.
On first down, Gillislee carried for 3, and was then injured. He left the field under his own power, but Florida picked up the first down on a sweep. Florida then carried for three, and then three again. The crowd came alive on 3rd-&-4 from the 14, and Florida converted for the TD. 30-20 via Florida on a rollout flood play.
After a kickoff (touchback), Manuel re-entered the game, and his pass was promptly dropped. A short throw to a back in the flats netted two, and Manuel scrambled for 11 for the first down. Manuel then found Shaw for 20 on a deep cross, and Greene for 14. Manuel then missed Dent over the middle, took an awful sack for a loss of 16 yards, and, couldn't connect on a screen, and couldn't convert the subsequent 4th-&-26. The sack was huge, as it took Florida state out of field goal range.
Florida took over and rushed for 14, and 13, then Driskel took a loss of four. The game was mostly over at that point. On the play, however, senior defensive end Tank Carradine injured his leg and had to be helped of, wincing in pain. On the following play, freshman Matt Jones scampered 32 yards for a touchdown, right at Carradine's replacement, for the 37-20 lead.
At this point, I headed down to the field to get to the tunnel for Fisher's press conference. I felt terrible for Tank Carradine, a senior with a bright NFL future. I felt bad for EJ Manuel, a good kid who almost single-handedly gave Florida the game. I arrived in time to watch Manuel's final play in Doak Campbell -- a long touchdown scramble to pull the game to 37-26.
In total, Florida gained ran 72 plays for 394 yards, good for 5.5/play. That's a complete defensive breakdown. Florida's offense is not, or should not, be good enough to do that (in our preview, we set a goal of 3.75 yards/play).
Florida State's offense gained 4.9/play, which is 0.1 off of the 5.0 goal from the preview. But, four turnovers by the senior quarterback make the offensive performance a fail.
And a long punt return and crucial fumble on a kickoff return certainly negate Kenny Shaw's good work on punt returns, making the special teams a fail as well.