Before Florida State's showdown against Louisville, few would have believed that the Seminoles would put up 41 points against a Cardinals defense that returned many players from last year's team and added multiple talented transfers. However, after a rocky first half, the Seminoles exploded offensively for the entirety of the second half, scoring on five of six offensive possessions in the third and fourth quarters on the way to their 41-21 win over UL, with the sole drive not ending in a touchdown coming late in the game on a Sean Maguire-led drive. Over the course of the game, FSU compiled over 500 yards of offense, aided by Everett Golson's best performance in the garnet and gold and another milestone day for Dalvin Cook., as well as a career day for Kermit Whitfield.
Golson has grown under Fisher and Sanders
In his 2014 season with Notre Dame, Golson struggled to avoid turnovers, totaling 22 turnovers over 13 games over the course of the season (1.69 TOs per game). Although there are six games left in this regular season, Golson looks like a completely different quarterback when it comes to ball control, with no turnovers committed through six games this season.
A portion of that can be attributed to his growth as a passer in his brief time at Florida State. He is making better reads and delivering balls with increased accuracy. Another portion is due to his increased ball security when scrambling outside the pocket. And his willingness to make downfield throws when the opportunities present themselves helps as well.
However, arguably the largest portion of this change comes from better decision making when plays break down. On multiple occasions throughout the win over Louisville, Golson was pressured and got rid of the ball, chucking it out of bounds, instead of attempting a risky pass like he was more liable to do last season. In the end, Golson completed 26 of 38 passes for 372 yards, a new personal best at FSU, and three touchdowns. Although that's only a 68.3% completion rate, there were a notable number of "good incompletions" thrown in there where he made the safe play instead of the risky one. With a running back as good as Cook, the safe play is definitely the correct choice.
Cook's hamstring can't keep him down
Dalvin Cook entered Saturday's game with Louisville with the status of his hamstring still up in the air. He was held out of practice on Monday, did some agility drills on his own on Tuesday, and fully participated Thursday. Early on the morning of the game, he was announced as the starting running back for the game against Louisville, which was expected considering he was good to go against Miami and had no setbacks through the week of practice leading up.
However, it was clear early on that he was not at 100%, health-wise. He was limited early on, earning just six yards on two carries in the first quarter and only 28 yards on the ground at half. Late in the first half, he caught a pass out of the backfield for 26 yards but came up holding his hamstring, just as he did at the end of a long run against Miami. Despite the setback, he returned out of halftime and broke off a 54-yard touchdown run one minute and 51 seconds into the second half.
In the end, Cook had 223 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns. Despite a late fourth quarter moment that saw him pull up lame at the end of a carry, it will be hard to count out a running back who has compiled 492 all-purpose yards over the past two games while dealing with an injured hamstring.
Whitfield is here to stay
Kermit Whitfield has been a factor in the kick return game for the entirety of his time in Tallahassee. However, he had not developed into the receiving threat that many felt he was capable of being by the end of last year. Due to the numerous talented, young receivers entering the program each of the past two years, it was assumed that Whitfield's chance to see significant reps on offense had come and gone. He has proved that thought very wrong to this point in the season and it can no longer be argued that Whitfield's success is only temporary.
The career day that he had in the win over Louisville has cemented his place in the starting lineup moving forward. For a little perspective, he had 11 catches for 145 yards with no touchdowns throughout the entirety of the 2014 campaign. He surpassed those marks in yards and touchdowns in today's game alone as he racked up 9 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. The highlight play for Whitfield was his run-of-the-mill crossing route that turned into a 70-yard touchdown catch solely because of his superior speed. When asked if he thinks there's anyone who can catch him once he is in the open field, Whitfield replied, frankly, "There's no one who can catch me."
With six games in the books and three of Florida State's seven "loseable" games firmly in the win column, you can see the FSU offense grow in confidence with each passing week and for good reason. 500+ yards of offense against an impressive Louisville defense that entered Tallahassee ranked 25th in the FBS in total defense is a significant improvement from the offensive output that we saw in the Seminoles' wins over Boston College and Wake Forest.
Next, Florida State travels to take on a Georgia Tech team whose season is in shambles. The Yellow Jackets sit at 2-5, losers of five straight games and owners of the 53rd-ranked total defense in the FBS. However, Bobby Dodd Stadium will likely be the toughest road environment that Florida State has encountered to this point in the season, so we should learn a good deal from seeing how Golson adjusts and improves in that situation next week.