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What we learned on offense in FSU's win over NC State

Some observations on the Seminole's offensive output in their 34-17 win over the NC State Wolfpack.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

After a rough start that saw Florida State trail 17-7 at the end of the first quarter, Florida State controlled the rest of the game behind strong performances from Sean Maguire, who started the game on the bench, Dalvin Cook, and Kermit Whitfield, doubling up on the Wolfpack 34-17.

This past Thursday, Jimbo Fisher surprised the media when announcing that Everett Golson would be FSU's starting quarterback amid rumors of Sean Maguire not being completely healthy which forced Fisher's hand. However, even in his postgame conference, Fisher denied any such health issues, saying that he felt Golson's skill set presented a more beneficial matchup for the Seminoles.

Golson, who had not played since suffering a concussion against Georgia Tech, showed throughout his appearance in the game that he was unafraid to attempt the deeper passes that he has been criticized for passing up on, airing the ball out on multiple occasions. However, Golson's tendency to take too long to make reads and deliver late passes was on full display early and often as he had a pair of interceptions on late passes across the middle of the field. By the ten minute mark of the second quarter, Golson had amassed three turnovers after turning the ball over only once in his first seven games.

After Golson's third turnover, Jimbo Fisher made the decision to bench Golson and bring in Sean Maguire, who many assumed was unavailable with an undisclosed injury. From the instant he came into the game, it seemed clear that Fisher's decision was the correct one, as Maguire led FSU to points on each of his first four possessions after Golson led only one scoring drive in his five offensive possessions. By game's end, Maguire had accumulated 231 passing yards to go along with his two touchdown passes. Impressively, Maguire had that stat line in just about 40 minutes of game time and even more impressively, he did it against an NC State defense that came in allowing only 183.1 passing yards per game, good for 5th in the ACC and 19th in the FBS.

For a more striking look at how successful the transition to Maguire was, one simply needs to look at the yards Florida State accumulated in each quarter. Golson led the Seminoles to a dismal 42 yards in the first quarter. After that, FSU racked up 151, 159, and 127 yards in the second, third , and fourth quarters, respectively. There was a sizable improvement on third down as well as Florida State was 0-2 on third downs in the first quarter and responded in the final three quarters, going 6-12 (50%) on third downs the rest of the way.

When asked about what Maguire brings to this offense when he is on the field, FSU running back Dalvin Cook sang his praises, saying "He is one of the leaders on offense and he is bringing a spark now. He is very vocal and that's how I see that he is ready."

As much as Maguire rose to the occasion when he was called upon, his job was made significantly easier by having a player as special as Dalvin Cook in the backfield with him. Even after Cook engraved his name in the Florida State record books early in the win, he kept the pedal on the metal, totaling 138 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, moving his season totals to 1,369 yards and 14 touchdowns. The highlight play of his performance was his 30-yard run in the second quarter where he showcased his strength, speed, stiff arm, and elusiveness, continuing to leave all who watch him in shock and awe despite the fact that he breaks similarly impossible touchdown runs nearly every week.

In addition to Cook, the Florida State receiving corps was improved in their ability to get our of their own way, only committing one drop as a unit. With every game seeming to provide a different receiver who steps up to the plate, today belonged to Kermit Whitfield. Whitfield, who had been held in check with 85 receiving yards over his last three games entering Saturday after he had his explosive career game against Louisville, utilized his elite track star speed on a pair of touchdowns where he caught medium-length sideline passes before turning on the jets to create separation and take it into the endzone. Whitfield wrapped up his game with 117 receiving yards on six catches with two touchdowns, his first career multiple-touchdown game.

After the game, Whitfield was asked how close he feels he is to becoming the complete receiver that he wants to be, Whitfield simply stated "I'm close. I'm very close."

Despite the positive performances from players in each skill position group, there were definitely some offensive issues that need to be addressed in the coming weeks before the Seminoles travel to Gainesville. FSU's offense, which entered Saturday with 20 false starts on the season, added four more false starts in the win over the Wolfpack, moving their season total to 24, an average of 2.4 false starts per game.

In addition to pre-snap penalties, the turnover bug, which had been kept at bay by the Seminoles through their first nine games, reared its ugly head on Saturday. In addition to Golson's three turnovers before he was pulled, the Seminoles added a Sean Maguire interception and a late Jacques Patrick fumble to bring their total for the game to five turnovers, more than Florida State committed in the first nine games combined (4). Luckily for FSU, the five turnovers came in a game that was not closely contested late in the game. In a different situation, that many turnovers could easily flip the script and turn what would have otherwise been a win into a loss.

Fisher's message to the team after their loss to Clemson preached how this young Florida State team will respond to a tough loss against a top-ranked team in a challenging environment. Although it took awhile to get clicking, the Seminole offense ensured that they would not be responsible for another loss, ending the game on a 27-0 run and avoiding the bad loss that seemed imminent when FSU trailed 17-7 midway through the second quarter. Next week, the Seminoles welcome the Chattanooga Mocs to Tallahassee, the final tune-up before their regular-season finale against the Florida Gators on November 28th.