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What we learned on offense in Florida State's win over Chattanooga

Some observations from the offense on FSU's 52-13 win over the Chattanooga Mocs in their final home game of the 2015 season.

Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook
Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

In their final home game of the season, the Florida State football team did exactly what they were supposed to, running the Chattanooga Mocs off the field with a convincing 52-13 victory.

First and foremost, let all the positives that I rave on below be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, there are far more positives than negatives from the offense in today's game. And yes, this success came from the same Florida State offensive unit that has struggled at times throughout the entire season. However, these successes must be kept in context by acknowledging that they did this against an FCS opponent, albeit a highly-ranked FCS team.

That said, one big positive that the Seminoles can take away from Saturday's win over the Mocs is that they thrived in some offensive aspects that they have struggled with all season long, even against inferior opponents.FSU finished the game six of nine on third-down conversions (66.7%) after entering the game 80th in the FBS in third-down conversion percentage (38.6%) and an even more meager 15-49 (30.6%) on third downs in their last four games leading up to the Chattanooga game.

Another aspect where the 'Noles saw vast improvement was their ability to finish drives. Florida State entered the red zone on seven occasions, the most red-zone trips in a game this season for FSU, and scored on all seven opportunities. Although that's a welcome change from a team that not scored on every red-zone possession since the Syracuse game on Halloween, it is made even sweeter by the fact that the Seminoles finished six of those seven trips with a touchdown, settling for a field goal on the sole trip that did not end with seven points. Their 85.7% red-zone touchdown percentage in Saturday's win is the team's highest since the Boston College game in week 3.

In the win over Chattanooga, Florida State ran with an offensive efficiency unlike any they have shown this season. With the starters in the game, none of FSU's scoring drives was longer than eight plays or took more time than 3 minutes and 34 seconds. At halftime, the Seminoles boasted a gaudy 8.0 yards per play. Even with second and third-teamers playing significant minutes in the second half, Florida State's yards per play fell only to 7.1 on the game.

On the impressive offensive output, Sean Maguire was quick to praise his fellow offensive teammates, saying, "Efficient is the best way to describe our whole offensive performance today".

Maguire, who entered a game week as the starting quarterback for the first time in his career this week, was efficient against the Mocs, in spite of his stat line that appears fairly average at first glance. He finished with 152 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and no interceptions, completing 12 of 17 passes (70.6%, his highest completion percentage in a start in his career). With regard to Maguire's decreased amount of passing yards (152 is his career-low in a game he started), that can be attributed both to a very lucrative starting field position for the Seminoles (FSU's average starting field position was their own 44-yard line) in addition to him being pulled midway through the third quarter in an effort to save him for the two games left on Florida State's schedule.

Dalvin Cook, who has carried a lot of the offensive load this season when it was not clicking on all cylinders, got off to a rocky start against the Mocs, amassing only one yard in the first quarter after injuring his leg on his first carry of the game. However, he re-emerged on an early second quarter drive that saw him account for 52 of Florida State's 75 yards on the way to his first touchdown of the game. By the middle of the third quarter when he was taken out of the game, Cook had 106 rushing yards and two touchdowns, bringing his season totals to 1,475 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. Cook continues to climb up the school list for career rushing yards as he now has 2,483 career rushing yards, good for seventh in the Florida State record books and just 52 yards out of fifth on the list.

In addition to Cook, Jacques Patrick totaled 77 yards on the ground and two more touchdowns and Colton Plante, the walk-on backup fullback who was in due to Freddie Stevenson's concussion, scored a touchdown on his first career carry. Florida State's five rushing touchdowns was the most the Seminoles have accumulated in a single game since they scored five on the ground against Clemson in 2012.

With Chattanooga keying in on Florida State's #1 receiver, Bobo Wilson, and limiting him to 2 catches for 4 yards, the Seminoles needed another receiver to step up and become the playmaker needed to spark the receiving game. For the second straight week, Kermit Whitfield rose to the occasion, turning a pair of simple slant routes into touchdowns. Whitfield, who had no multiple-touchdown games before the NC State game last week, now has had multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games, earning 91 receiving yards to go along with his two touchdowns.

When the Seminoles entered garbage time, the freshmen receivers were called upon to show what they can do going into next season. Da'Vante Phillips, Auden Tate, and Nyqwan Murray all saw snaps but Murray was the only first-year receiver who made a reception. In fact, he snagged four catches for 59 yards, the second-most receiving yards behind Whitfield.

The Seminoles' offensive line, which had committed 18 false starts over the past five games entering Saturday, responded with an much improved performance against the Mocs that saw them commit only one false start, a far cry from the backloaded 2.4 false starts per game they had entering the game with Chattanooga. There is still for room for improvement as the Seminoles OL allowed Chattanooga one sack, three hurries, and numerous additional hits on Maguire that seemed to take a toll as the game wore on. However, the biggest issue for this front to overcome is ceasing to hurt themselves and that was, without question, better on Saturday.

Although this offense is far from polished, they will enter next weekend's showdown with the Florida Gators off of a very impressive offensive performance of 52 points, made even more impressive when compared to the 20-14 overtime win that the Gators snuck out with against 2-8 FAU. There's no doubt that next week will be a much stiffer challenge as the Seminoles face the UF defense that entered Saturday as the No. 5 overall defense in the country. However, if confidence was the issue with this offensive unit, there is no telling how essential this win will be for the remaining two games of Florida State's season.