On a windy, wet day in Winston-Salem, Florida State survived a surprisingly potent threat from the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, who had put up six total points in their previous three games against the Seminoles. In the end, FSU snuck out with a 24-16 win and improved to 4-0 on the season. Despite the fact that the regular season is well underway, there are still numerous observations on the offensive side of the ball from the Seminoles' win over Wake Forest.
Golson not afraid to take chances but still struggling with consistency
Through the first three games of the season, Everett Golson was criticized for what many thought was a lack of complete comfort in the playbook that prevented him from attempting downfield throws. Coming off of a thirteen-day break between the Boston College and Wake Forest games, Golson seemed more confident, attempting multiple big-play, downfield passes and better using his legs to get what yardage he could when there was no open receiver. However, Golson never seemed to fully get into his rhythm, showing that he is now willing to make deep throws but still struggling to string together good decisions and competent throws.
Without Cook, running game may suffer in more ways than one
Entering this week's game against Wake Forest, a heavy dose of Dalvin Cook was the expected prescription, considering he had racked up 476 yards on the ground through FSU's first three games. This rang true early in the game as Cook took his first carry of the game 94 yards for a touchdown, the third longest run in FSU history.
However, there was an unexpected change of plans midway through the first quarter when Cook came up holding his hamstring after an eight yard reception. He left the game, was originally listed as doubtful to return, but came out of halftime in street clothes, never returning to the game.
With Mario Pender still recovering from a collapsed lung and Cook out for the majority of the game, the question became whether Jonathan Vickers or Jacques Patrick would see more time in the backfield. The answer? Vickers, but he never got anywhere close to the amount of carries that Cook and Pender received in the first three games of the season. After Florida State averaged 40 rushing attempts in the Texas State, USF, and Boston College games, Vickers received 10 carries which he took for 33 yards and a touchdown.
Compare that to the 26 passing attempts that Golson made after Cook's departure from the game. Based on his playcalling, Jimbo Fisher either wanted to see how Golson would do as the centerpiece of the offense or he has little faith in Vickers and Patrick, who entered the game briefly when Vickers was injured but never received a handoff.
Experienced receivers did little to help Golson out
Throughout the time since the Boston College game, Coach Fisher has been quick to defend Everett Golson when questions about his play have come up, often saying that although Golson has made some mistakes, there have also been multiple mistakes by those around Golson.
Fisher's words rang true early in the Wake Forest game as the receiving corps dropped a pair of very catchable passes on Florida State's opening drive that led to a three-and-out. Where the major problem in this situation lies is that the two receivers who dropped passes on back-to-back plays were Bobo Wilson and Travis Rudolph, arguably the two most experienced Seminole wide receivers. Additional drops throughout the game did little to help Golson, who was called upon more than in any game so far in his time at Florida State and is still adjusting to the new offensive playbook.
Rudolph and Wilson both bounced back to have good games, with Rudolph bringing in six catches for 69 yards and WIlson leading all Seminoles with 77 receiving yards including a 51-yard bomb that would have assuredly been a touchdown had Golson not underthrown it. However, the sole receiving touchdown of the game went to Kermit Whitfield, his first touchdown since his 100-yard kick return touchdown in the 2013 National Championship against Auburn.
New offensive line unit still finding chemistry
With Ryan Hoefeld and Derrick Kelly making their first starts of the season at center and right tackle, respectively, there were many questions about how much improvement would be made. Although it's a bit early to pass final judgment, there was minimal, if any, improvement with respect to the pass rush. After replacing a few members of the offensive line that allowed seven sacks and 20 tackles for loss through the first three games, the Seminoles allowed 3 sacks and 6 tackles for loss against the Demon Deacons. This is made more jarring when you realize that this Wake Forest defense only had four total sacks through their first four games.
Despite the continual struggles, more members of the inexperienced offensive line receiving playing time is good for the future. In addition to Kelly and Hoefeld, Chad Mavety, who has been recovering from a concussion that occurred during preseason camp, saw his first in-game action of the season when he was subbed into the game for a period of time at right guard.
With one third of FSU's regular season in the books, there are still many questions that linger with this offense. Is Everett Golson done developing into this offense? Will Cook be ready for next Saturday against Miami? If not, will Fisher remain stingy with the amount of carries that he gives Vickers or Patrick? Will the starting offensive line remain the same going forward? We will definitely have more solid answers to these questions and more in seven days when the Miami Hurricanes, far and away the best team on FSU's schedule to this point, make the trip to Tallahassee for their annual grudge match.