We expected an inconsistent offense from the 'Noles this season, and we got that once again in FSU's 14-0 win over the Boston College Eagles. But if the offensive attack has wavered, the defense, and especially the defensive front, has proven remarkably steady, and Friday night was no exception.
For the most part, BC did what we thought they would: running between the tackles, using play action, and showing jet-sweep looks. And FSU's defense did just what it had to do, playing smart, clean ball and keeping things in front of it while essentially daring Boston College to take shots downfield.
Boston College was content to run clock and reduce the number of possessions in this one, and FSU's bend-but-don't break approach obliged. The Eagles mustered up a little something on most drives, usually in the form of a decent run up the middle, but they seemed entirely uninterested in testing the talented Florida State secondary. Lamarcus Brutus has been a bright spot; after he was ejected early in FSU's last game, against South Florida, the 'Noles struggled a bit at the safety spot, but he announced his return with authority in this one.
In the second quarter, he played center field perfectly, shading over to a deep ball on the sideline and high-pointing it to make the game's only interception. On the next drive, when it appeared that Eagles QB Darius Wade would scramble for a first down on third and 16, Brutus pursued efficiently and intelligently from the opposite side of the field, taking a nice angle to hold him short and force a BC punt. Brutus also broke up a pass, as he repeatedly positions himself to make plays on the ball-- that is, when teams attempt to test the Florida State secondary. Through the air, Eagles QBs were an anemic 5-15 for 56 yards, with the aforementioned pick.
BC worked mostly on the ground and underneath throughout, and the 'Noles got off the field repeatedly-- despite spending plenty of time out there due to a sputtering Seminole offense that, after looking quite impressive on its first series that resulted in a touchdown, couldn't get out of its own way thereafter. Boston College rushed 43 times for just 139 yards, an average of 3.2 yards per carry.
A big part of this was the superb play of the interior defensive line. Nile Lawrence-Stample, Derrick Nnadi (who really flashed), Demarcus Christmas, and Giorgio Newberry continue to combine as a formidable rotation upfront. They clogged up lanes nicely on most plays and pursued BC passers smartly, hemming them in instead of flying at them wildly in hopes of the big hit. NLS had five tackles, and 1.5 for loss, including a sack that sent Wade out of the game. Nnadi's three tackles included a sack as well, and Christmas batted a ball at the line of scrimmage. Additionally, first-year player Josh Sweat got his first career start and looked strong registering three tackles (one for loss).
There weren't a lot of huge plays for the Florida State defense to make-- until it needed to. With the game hanging at a precarious 7-0 in the fourth quarter and Boston College driving, fifth-year senior Terrance Smith, who's moving around very well after being hampered by injuries through most of last season, made a pair of huge plays. With BC driving for the tying score, Smith flew to the ball carrier on a reverse and made a stop behind the line of scrimmage on a play that really could have been the big one that the Eagles needed -- but never got -- all evening.
On the very next play, Smith forced a fumble (one very much facilitated by Christmas) that Jalen Ramsey scooped and returned for a TD that equaled the FSU offense's point total. Linebacker Ro'Derrick Hoskins, in his first start, looked good alongside Smith once again, leading the 'Noles in tackles for the second straight game, with seven-- including one for loss.
Despite the shutout (Florida State's first since a 63-0 pummeling of Maryland in 2013 and first on the road since a 2003 blanking of Notre Dame), there were still a couple of discipline issues in this otherwise dominant performance. Cornerback Marquez White's aggression came back to haunt him when the Eagles caught him gambling toward the backfield on a play-action pass in the third quarter for a 20-yard gain. But some perspective: that was Boston College's biggest play all night, and White nevertheless recovered to make the tackle.
And Jacob Pugh got up the field too quickly on a big third-quarter third-and-ten play that BC converted in the shadow of its own goal post to regain some momentum, while DeMarcus Walker lost contain on the aforementioned reverse in the fourth quarter erased by Smith.
That said, FSU did a nice job in coverage on an attempted wide-receiver pass early in the fourth quarter, and there are always things to work on, especially with this much inexperience and this early in the season. This Florida State defense really looks like it could be one of the country's better units this year. Head coach Jimbo Fisher certainly wasn't complaining after the game-- andy why would he? Boston College never got the ball into the red zone, or even field goal range, for that matter. He characterized the defense as follows:
"Incredible. I mean, our defense has gotten better-- I've felt very good about it all year. To dominate the game at the line of scrimmage like that, with the misdirection and all the things they did, and then to be able to score on defense, I mean they carried the load, there's no doubt about that, but that's what good teams do, one side just picks up the other side. Tremendous, tremendous job."