Florida State 30, USF 17: What did we learn?

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Take the 30-17 win on the road over a team with a decent defense. Just don't brag about it.

At no point Saturday did you get the sense that Florida State was at all in danger of losing to South Florida. Not with the plan Florida State's defense had against USF's offense.

On the other hand, you can't feel great about the performance, either.

In an obvious letdown situation off the Clemson win, against a team playing the biggest home game in its program's history, Florida State took care of business. It just wasn't pretty.

Florida State's first-string defense allowed one touchdown. It came after USF blocked a Florida State punt and started from Florida State's eight yard line. The Seminoles' second-string defense allowed a 73-yard TD drive in the fourth quarter.

FSU started out playing a lot of man coverage, and USF moved the ball some. But starting with the second quarter, they went to more zone, and that was all she wrote.

In the second and third quarters, Florida State's defense executed the plan to perfection, allowing only 7 yards on 17 plays. They denied the deep ball, stopped the run, kept USF QB BJ Daniels in the pocket, and (when Daniels actually completed them) tackled the short routes. It was a disciplined execution of USF's offense. And for Bulls fans, it was probably terrible to watch.

Florida State got its backups a lot of playing time on defense. That's a big plus and something we're argued for in the past. The season is a marathon and quality depth with reps in meaningful snaps must be built.

In the preview, we wanted to see no more than 5 yards/play allowed. Try 4.1. Awesome. It's good to see FSU's defense sticking with its plan when the issue is execution (Clemson) and changing it up when a change is needed (USF).

We were told that USF's offense was better than its defense. I never believed that. And on Saturday, my suspicions were confirmed.

Offensively, we learned a few things about Florida State as well. And we learned some about USF's defense, too.

First, the opposing defense. USF has good defensive talent, and is not a bad defense. When it wants to be. The unit I saw on the field Saturday was motivated and hungry. The defense I saw on film v. Ball State couldn't care less. Motivation, effort and focus matters in football.

We also learned that Clemson's defense is very, very bad. So bad that it makes evaluating Florida State's offensive performance against them difficult, as I noted in the film review.

Florida State's offensive line is not all world. USF's quickness gave them trouble, the 'Noles probably need to communicate better up front, and the inexperienced tackles are still a work in process.

6.4 yards/play isn't a great effort, but it's not terrible, either. In the preview, we wanted to see 6.75 yards/play.

QB EJ Manuel threw the ball pretty well, particularly on third down. 19-26 for 242 with no interceptions is very good. He also should have had a touchdown in the second half, but USF's defensive back was allowed to pull the jersey off of Florida State's receiver and it was not called. He was sacked twice for a loss of 20 yards.

Florida State rushed for 203 yards on 38 carries (removing the two sacks which the NCAA counts as rushing plays for some unknown reason). That is pretty good. But, it also lost 26 yards in reaching that number, which is too much. Some of that was due to penetration given up by the offensive line, and some of that is due to missed zone reads by the QB, giving the ball when he needs to keep it. Both items must be cleaned up, and at least one should improve as the season goes on.

We said if Florida State's offense did not turn the ball over, it would not lose this game, because USF's offense could not drive on FSU's defense. No turnovers is good to see.

But it still needs to be better than that.

The biggest concern is the special teams. Another week, and another special teams turnover. Last week is was Rashad Greene dropping the punt. This week, it was having a punt blocked. Unacceptable, and a result of a lack of focus and attention to detail. It was the most important play of the game and prevented the mounting blowout. And Dustin Hopkins missed another field goal.

Ultimately, Florida State was expected to win by 17. It won by 13. And that's with running back Chris Thompson kneeling on a long run that was going for a score.

A road win. No (known) major injuries. A 5-0 record. Take the win, but don't brag about it. Nothing special.

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