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What we learned on offense from the FSU win vs. Miami

Some thoughts about what we saw from the Seminole attack against the Hurricanes.

Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State topped the 'Canes for the sixth straight time on Saturday, as head coach Jimbo Fisher showed a little more variety in his play calling; we thought we might see some new wrinkles that Fisher perhaps held back against lesser opponents-- and that certainly didn't take long to come to fruition.

On FSU's very first possession, Fisher came out slinging it, and quarterback Everett Golson completed passes on the first four plays from scrimmage. Florida State rotated all three tight ends into this one and kept them on the field often, forcing a less-than-stellar Miami linebacking corps to remain on the field. The 'Noles then ran their first option of the season-- though it looks like something they've done plenty of in practice, as the execution, and result, were perfect. And it also answered any doubts about Dalvin Cook's hamstring-- at least until later in the game.

Golson kept to the left, and Cook maintained a nice pitch relationship, while Golson held it just long enough before forcing a decision from the edge (where Cook said FSU knew Miami was weak), which prompted a perfect pitch. Cook was gone, scoring on his first touch of the game for the second straight week. This time he found pay dirt from 72 yards out to put FSU up 7-0.

The Seminoles continued to push around the 'Canes up front on their next drive, getting Golson in space via play action. Florida State utilized a play-action backside flag to Ryan Izzo, but the offense only remained on the field for three plays; unfortunately for Miami, it wasn't due to a punt. Golson again made a very nice decision, progressing through his reads until he found Cook underneath. 36 yards and one badly juked Miami defender later, Cook was in the end zone yet again, and FSU extended to a 14-3 advantage.

With the line having its way, Golson dealing (he completed his first nine passes and finished 25-33 for 291 yards and a score), and Cook frankly embarrassing his hometown school (going for 228 yards on 22 carries), it looked to the world like Florida State was about to blow out the 'Canes, working their way down the field methodically while using some pre-snap orbit action from Bobo Wilson to get reads on the Miami 'backers. Kermit Whitfield then appeared to have secured a well-placed five-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-3, which would have given FSU three touchdowns in its first three possessions.

But Whitfield was unable to get his hands under the ball, and it made contact with the ground. The call was reversed, and the Seminoles settled for a Roberto Aguayo field goal.

As it turns out, that missed opportunity was the first of many that brought Miami back into the game and really wound up characterizing the Seminole offense throughout the rest of the game. After a flukey Hurricane TD made it 17-10, Cook broke one up the middle that normally would have resulted in yet another long score. Instead, he reached back for his hamstring and was removed for the remainder of the drive. He said after the game that he could feel it about to go, and that's why he pulled up and came off the field.

His replacement, Johnathan Vickers, was serviceable, but provided just 14 yards on five carries, a 2.8 YPC average. That 2.8 would have been more than enough when FSU went for it on fourth and one from the Miami 10 later in the drive. But the 'Nole line failed for one of the first times all day to get a good push, and Vickers went nowhere, while the UM defense danced off the field with momentum.

Not surprisingly, Florida State returned to the scoring column when Cook returned on the next offensive series, as he continued to gouge the Hurricanes. It's become pretty simple, really-- with the explosive Cook on the field, this team is pretty hard to stop. Without him, and still unable to find a deep passing game, the 'Noles are essentially without a home-run hitter, and as we expected, this young squad is not going to string together a lot of long, sustained drives. Basically, in this boom or bust approach, Cook currently constitutes the entirety of the boom.

Still, FSU again came away with three when it could have had seven. When Florida State used motion expertly to diagnose man coverage, Golson put the ball right on Cook's hands on a swing pattern, and the latter simply dropped the sure touchdown. On the next play, Golson overthrew Auden Tate in the front of the end zone (a new prospective contributor moving forward), and the ball bounded off Ermon Lane's hands in the back of the zone; two chances to score missed on one play. Instead of 24-10, FSU settled for 20-10.

The offense got the ball back with 36 seconds to play and one timeout before the half, but Whitfield couldn't haul in a wonderfully thrown flag pass that could have gotten FSU closer for kicker Roberto Aguayo. And you know Florida State is leaving some points out there when he clanks one off the upright, which is what happened on his attempt from 49 yards as time ran out in the half.

The drought continued in the second half, as Miami held the 'Noles to just one first down on its first two possessions (the first of which featured Golson's first decision, all year, to keep the ball on a read-option, which was the correct read). FSU struggled to stay on the field after the first quarter, going just 3-10 on third down on the evening. A 17-play touchdown drive brought Miami to within three at 20-17, and the offense needed badly to give the defense a rest.

After a would-be first down toss sailed through the hands of Wilson -- yet another missed chance for the 'Noles -- the offense finally made some noise again at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth, employing yet another previously unseen look. It used jet sweep action to execute a throwback to Mavin Saunders on the backside. This was the sophomore tight end's first real contribution on the season, as FSU made getting him the ball in space more of a priority, and he made three catches for 26 yards. But Saunders continues to look absolutely lost blocking at times.

And, again: mistakes. The 'Noles had a second and goal from the Miami three yard line, but the 'Canes lone sack of the night meant an 11-yard loss, and Aguayo was summoned again to make it 23-17.

And then came one more first for the FSU offense. After Miami scored to take a 24-23 lead, the Florida State offense was faced with its first deficit of the season. But Fisher wasn't worried. He said there was something new about Golson on the sideline this week. Distinguishing it from games past, he said of Golson: "The look in his eye was different. There was a confidence."

For good reason. Trailing with under 10 minutes to play, Golson led the 'Noles down the field-- and the Seminoles made plays where they'd failed to since the first quarter. Golson's most important pass in a Florida State uniform came on a big third and eight when he found Wilson across the middle between defenders, and he made yet another sound decision on a keeper on a third and one shortly thereafter. After that, Cook finished what he'd started, stringing together back-to-back 23 yard runs, the second of which found the end zone and gave FSU its final lead, at 29-24 (the two-point conversion failed, as the chemistry between Golson and Izzo once again seemed poor).

FSU escaped this game-- and learned something from the scare, too. And Wilson articulated the lesson quite succinctly: "Don't leave plays on the field." That comment speaks volumes about a Seminole offense that had four red-zone possessions against Miami and failed to cash any of them in for a touchdown. He said that if FSU made the plays it could -- and should -- have, "I feel like we could have blown them out."