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What we learned about the FSU offense vs. South Florida

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Some observations about the Florida State attack against the Bulls.

Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, Florida State kicked off amid rainy conditions in Tallahassee today, and early on, the Seminoles' offense looked as gloomy as the weather. But the Seminoles fell back on a historic performance that helped them pull away for a 34-14 victory.

Given the youth of this year's offense that features just a lone senior (quarterback Everett Golson), we figured we'd see a good deal of inconsistency from FSU this season, and today was a perfect model of just that. Actually, perhaps that's being a bit too kind, with regard to the early play. Inconsistency, after all, implies moments of success, and those occasions were all but nonexistent for the 'Noles in the first half.

FSU mustered just 110 yards of total offense in a first half that concluded, somewhat mercifully, in a 7-7 tie. At the break, Golson was 1-9 for six yards, and sported a passer rating of just 16.7. The offensive line struggled mightily to keep USF defenders off Golson; he was sacked three times and rarely looked comfortable dropping back early. We knew that the right side was a work in progress, but frankly, the left side did not look nearly as dominant as it did last week.

After the game, unit leader Rod Johnson confirmed that the Bulls threw a lot at the 'Noles, saying that they saw stunts and "all kinds of blitzes," but not passing the buck: "It's on us."

Golson didn't exactly get a lot of help from his pass catchers, either. After an extremely clean game last week, the receiving corps regressed a bit on Saturday. Bobo Wilson dropped a couple of balls, and Ja'Vonn Harrison, Travis Rudolph, and Ermon Lane all let one get away as well.

After showing out last week, tight end Ryan Izzo largely struggled, too, getting called for a silly penalty and missing some blocks. And Mavin Saunders, who's yet to register a catch, could have come down with a ball in the end zone in the fourth quarter. That said, the receivers continue to block their tails off down field-- which factors largely into springing big plays.

Which brings us to Dalvin Cook. Cook seems to get better every time he suits up. His 74-yard touchdown scamper was pretty much the lone bright spot of the first half for the FSU offense, and he broke off a 24-yard touchdown run to open a much more efficient second half for the 'Noles. He also capped the scoring when he rushed to pay dirt from 37 yards out when USF was stacking the box to stop the run.

How good was Cook? His 266 yards on the ground is the second-highest single-game total in Florida State history. He's the first 'Nole RB to go over 200 yards since Sammie Smith. In 1988. Cook's talent is well documented, but on display today was a toughness, a tenacity. When Cook smells the end zone, he simply refuses to finish the run anywhere else. Johnson expects nothing less, admitting that when he sees Cook break into the open field, he "just know[s] he's going to go all the way."

If Cook continues to gets better as his career progresses (a scary proposition for opponents), the Seminoles seem to do the same thing as games wear on, offensively. Against Texas State, FSU scored on every possession of the second half before taking a knee, and it replicated that feat against USF.

And if FSU stagnating while nevertheless flashing big-play ability is about what we figured for this talented squad, we have gotten one vey pleasant surprise this season: through two games, those peaks and valleys have yet to include a single offensive turnover. So while this Florida State offense may not yet be a model of consistency, it has, thus far, proven quite steady at taking care of the football.