Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE
Every week, we set out specific benchmarks in the game preview, based on what the teams have done to date, health, tendency and other situational factors. Then, following the game, we review the goals.
Please remember that all goals are before garbage time (the point in the game at which, even if the losing team could have scored, gained an onside kick and scored again, it still would not have tied or won the game). Though it may have felt like earlier, garbage time officially set in when UF punched in its TD to go up 37-20.
More than 5 yards/play before garbage time (300 yards on 60 plays, 350 yards on 70 plays): Fail
Florida State had 50 plays for 223, which is 4.46/play. That's below goal, significantly, and is a failure. But a failure to move the ball to expectations is not the reason Florida State lost this game.
In the preview, we wrote that FSU would have to throw the ball to beat Florida. Manuel, despite good pass protection and open receivers for most of the night, threw 27 times for only 144 yards before garbage time (5.3/attempt). That's horrid. And that doesn't even mention the turnovers. Manuel cost himself some NFL money Saturday.
No more than one turnover: Fail
This is where Florida State lost the game. EJ Manuel, under either zero pressure (or, on the first interception, pressure that was his fault for an incorrect protection call) lost the game for Florida State. He gave away four possessions, and the game, via turnovers that were not at all the fault of any other player on the field but his own. They play calls and pass protection were good on the interceptions, and the routes were indeed open on two of the three. His poor pocket mobility and awareness doomed him on the fumble. We noted that Florida would likely struggle to drive the field against Florida State's defense, but giving Florida extra possessions and advantageous field position, certainly showed up in the fourth quarter when UF scored 21 points on a defense that looked demoralized.
50% or greater TDs in the red zone: pass
2-2. Can't do better. Florida State was great in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on both of its trips before garbage time.
Less than 3.75 yards/play before garbage time (225 on 60 plays, 263 on 70): Fail
5.47. Mercy. 394 on 72 plays. I'd buy into the "defense was worn out" mantra more if Florida had run 85 or 90 plays, but 72 really isn't that much. Florida State's defensive tackles were easily handled, and they lost NFL money Saturday. Florida went with more 22 personnel, forcing FSU into more 4-3, as we noted was a worry in the preview. And Florida State's likebackers played poorly. That position group has not played anywhere near its defensive line and secondary counterparts, and position coach Greg Hudson should be looked at. He's not much of a recruiter, and if he's not going to pull his weight on the recruiting trail, the linebackers should absolutely have better fundamentals than they do. Angles were awful, they did not shed blocks (and I say this with full credit to Florida for blocking it up quite well), and far too many tackles were missed.
Florida State really needed to do two things to win this game: 1) limit turnovers, and 2) make Florida's offense look as bad as it had for much of the year. It did neither and lost the football game.
I should also note that I fully believe Florida was working on FSU in practice for the last three (and certainly the last two) weeks as it played Missouri, Louisiana Lafayette and Jacksonville State. It's risky, and it almost got the Gators beat at home by Lafayette on homecoming, but it paid off. Their offense rolled out a lot of newer wrinkles, and while UF often couldn't execute it, it confused FSU's defense some and kept it on its heels. But that does not excuse the lack of physicality and discipline from a defense that usually does not suffer from those issues.
Force 2 turnovers: Fail
The Seminoles grabbed only one turnover. Terrence Brooks had a chance for an early interception on Florida's first drive and could not come up with it. That was really the only ball Driskel threw that should have been intercepted, from my recollection.
Fumbles are fairly random, and are a major reason teams have wild swings in record from season to season (oh hello there, Michigan 2011 to 2012). But I have to give Driskel a ton of credit. Unlike Florida State's Manuel, Driskel held on to the ball while taking some serious hits, including the monster shot by Bjoern Werner.
50% or less TDs in the red zone: Fail
Florida was 2-3 on touchdowns in the red zone, though it probably felt like more to you.
It's hard to set specific special teams goals, because they are largely dependent on field position. However, Karlos Williams' fumble on the kick return was the biggest play in the game in terms of field position value. By far. Dustin Hopkins was great. Cason Beatty punted well for the most part, but one coverage error led to a big return. Kenny Shaw caught every punt and did a great job returning them. Still, the special teams turnover means that special teams were a net negative on the night, despite some other great efforts by the special teamers.