The game was statistically over when: Lonnie Pryor scored with 7:53 left in the third quarter to put the 'Noles ahead 45-3. We will not be doing a play-by-play analysis for the 1-AA opponents. We're incorporating more opinions and voices into this year's reviews.
Overall, the offense looked good, but not great. 8.7 yards/play in regular time is very good, but there were some concentration lapses, as we'll note below. It's also interesting to note that FSU repped both tempos.
EJ Manuel looked comfortable in the pocket, and it's clear that he has an expectation of protection that he did not have last year. Manuel went through his reads from what we can tell, and didn't dally in the pocket. It was 1, 2, 3 and go. Holding the ball too long was a major issue last year, and so far, so good. That was encouraging. He also slid well a few times, which needs to be a constant against the lesser teams on the schedule. Manuel's reads were better than his throws, however, as the ball came out of his hand funny a few times, and he needed to throw the ball with more zip on a few plays. There were several misfires. When he needed to take some velocity off throws for touch purposes, he did it very well. Overall, it was a good day for the senior QB.
"EJ knows when to take some pace off the ball, but he needs to learn to put some extra mustard on throws to the wide flat. The good news is that the flat is usually the 3rd read and he rarely got to that guy last year. As everyone has noticed, looked a lot more comfortable operating the offense and showed a good balance between patience in the pocket and not hanging around too long. If nobody is open after 3.5-4 seconds, get out of there," Alan said.
Running back Chris Thompson showed some true appreciation for being back on the field after the broken back. He ran extremely hard and Fisher got him out quickly after he was able to take a few hits. Thompson looked very good. Devonte Freeman was OK, but not great. He did not shine compared to the performance of Chris Thompson and James Wilder Jr., who looked good but perhaps not as good as some fans are thinking. If his performance was truly that special, he'd probably be the starter. And he's not.
Lonnie Pryor blocked very well and also ran well. Could Florida State have its 2010 version of Lonnie again? It's too early to tell, but he did look healthy.
At receiver, Jarred Haggins looked good and will be an asset in the slot. It's good to see him with a healthy return.
Kelvin Benjamin was a mixed bag. "He was in on the Pryor long TD run. Looked decent blocking. But he has work to do. As Jimbo said, the throw Kenny Shaw bobbled, Benjamin was open but ran the wrong route. You can see him later in the game on the catch from Coker, Haulstead has to tell him where to line up. You can see why coaches were talking him up, but clearly has plenty to work on," OBR said. I was impressed with Benjamin's acceleration as he quickly made a move to turn upfield. That's a move he doesn't make in 2011. Alan notes that Benjamin played some snaps at slot, which is not his normal position.
Rodney Smith did not look good. His routes did not look sharp, and his effort was not spectacular. He does have a habit of showing up for big games, though.
Catch the ball, Kenny Shaw.
Overall, the receivers did not play great. Very few special catches and little to no special moves after the catch.
Tight end Nick O'Leary's blocking was a mixed bag, but was considerably better than most of last year. He was targeted five times (we think), thrown to three times, and caught two.
|Murray State 3, Florida State 69|
|Avg Starting Field Position||39||39||39|
|Avg Starting Field Position Against||25||29||26|
The offensive line play was much improved, as we covered in this article Sunday.
On Cameron Erving: "All agree he did very well, even if against poor competition. But what encouraged me most was an outside zone run left that went for about 6 yards. The left side was the wide side of the field. Erving's reach step was excellent. He then proceeded to run his guy 25 yards out of bounds, about 4 or so yards into the defensive backfield. What stood out to me was his tenacity. Erving is a hungry kid and likes to maul people. He was athletic enough to play DT with this mindset, and it translates well to a zone-blocking offensive lineman. He is only a RS-So. folks." -- Ricobert1
Sophomore guard Tre Jackson played very well, as did Menelik Watson (though he does need to watch the holding on some of the outside zone runs).
Bryan Stork played OK, but several times the nose was able to shoot through. We're not sure if Stork is just unable to make the block at this difficult angle, if he is supposed to make a call and ask for assistance from the guard next to him (usually Matias), or if he did make the call and Matias missed it. That's for Florida State to worry about. For our purposes, we'll just note that it needs to be fixed.
The 'Noles defense was tremendous (2.2 yards/play allowed in meaningful time to a very good D1-AA offense). The performance was better than that of the offense, though that was expected. Should also be noted that FSU didn't just man up and press these receivers all day. The 'Noles wanted to work on different coverages and defenses, and could have probably held MSU under 2 yards/play had they wanted to. FSU blitzed a lot and from all directions.
This is something Mark Stoops has done during his time in Tallahassee. He shows a lot in the preseason type games, while Jimbo Fisher's offense does not.
"As others have mentioned, FSU destroyed their screen game. Never seen anything like it. It was like the 'Noles were in their huddle. They tried a lot of fades when FSU went man and didn't complete a single one of them that I recall. There was a ton of communication among the defenders on the field, which was great to see. Sure seemed like Vince knew what was coming several times and was calling out the offense's play to his teammates." -- Alan
Bjoern Werner was beating on the backup right tackle for Murray State, but he stayed very disciplined and assignment sound despite the obvious advantage he held over his blocker. Great game with a billion sacks and TFLs.
Tank Carradine showed good athleticism, but he seemed a bit overeager and lost contain a few times. He's now a starter with Brandon Jenkins going down with the foot injury, so hopefully he can settle down a bit. Giorgio Newberry did not play to the level he had been playing at during fall camp.
Christian Jones showed great closing speed and athleticism. "Christian Jones is going to make so much money. Watch the play where their running back scrambles forever to get a few yards. The play called back on a hold. Jones seals him off, guy goes backwards and around folks to other side of the field, Jones gets a bit caught up in the wash and is still the first player to make contact on the opposite side of the field. Crazy play," OBR said.
Vince Williams is playing at his highest level ever and has improved as a player, it seems. Quicker to the ball and it's clear he has been in the film room quite a bit.
Nick Moody needs to get better if FSU is to field a top-five defense. He got turned around a few times and blew a few assignments. He gets a pass as it was his first game at the new position.
Cornerback offered reason for optimism and pessimism. Xavier Rhodes made some very nice plays, but he also gave up far more than we are used to seeing from him. Nick Waisome looked decent and was not burnt. Ronald Darby showed his scary physical skills jumping a route and almost intercepting it. He has similar physical skills to Patrick Robinson. But remember, it's one game.
FSU's safeties are ridiculous. Murray State rarely had time to throw deep on the 'Noles due to the excellent pass rush, but even when they did, the safeties showed so much range that the receivers just weren't open. Terrence Brooks tackled very well in space.
The punting was much better in this game than it was in the spring. However, it was still not special and continues to be an area of concern. Beatty needs to get more distance and height when not trying to pin the opponent inside the 20. The joys of freshmen punting. The protection was fine.
Kickoff coverage was excellent, as were most of Dustin Hopkins' kicks, though Fisher said Hopkins missed three kicks by enough yards (left or right) that it threw off the coverage to an extent. FSU has freaks on the coverage team, and against an opponent like Murray State, freak athletes can hide mistakes. See our article on FSU taking advantage of the new kickoff rules here!
Punt Return was just OK. Great blocking on the punt return for TD. Freshman TE Christo Kourtzidis and RB James Wilder had nice blocks.
But Rashad Greene hurt the team a lot with his failure to catch the football. The football cannot be allowed to bounce. When the ball bounces, two things happen, and they're rarely good: 1) the punt bounces toward the team's own goal line and results in poorer field position, and 2) it could hit off a blocker and result in a fumble.
Jimbo Fisher told me Saturday night that Rashad Greene would continue to be the returner, but if he fails again, Tyler Hunter or someone else needs a look. This cannot continue.
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