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Offensive observations from Florida State’s dominant win over Boston College

FSU rode a hot offensive start to a big victory.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State entered its Friday night matchup with Boston College as either 21 or 20.5-point favorites, depending on which site you looked at. This was a BC team, though, that has had FSU’s number of late, sticking around in games despite all surrounding factors showing what should be a dominant victory for the Seminoles. This time around, FSU finally went into full-on beatdown mode against the Eagles, burying them 45-7 and pitching a shutout until the closing minutes of the game.

What can this domination be attributed to on the offensive side of the ball? There are a number of factors.

First, FSU got off to an extremely scarce quick start in the win over BC. The Seminoles scored their first first-quarter touchdown against a power-five opponent since November 24th, 2015 on its opening drive. Then, in a shocking development, Florida State scored another touchdown, opening up a 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.

How undocumented was Florida State’s fast start? The Seminoles’ 14 first-quarter points were more than they scored in their first seven first quarters against power-five opponents combined.

A large part of this early production can be put on the shoulders of a strong (and rare) opening for quarterback Deondre Francois. In the opening 15 minutes, Francois was 9-11 with 95 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns to the sophomore sensations, Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate.

Speaking of Tate, the 6’5 wideout displayed the benefits of tall receivers on multiple occasions in the win. Going up against an overmatched Boston College secondary, Tate turned 50/50 balls into something more accurately described as 75/25 or even 80/20 balls. Tate used his size to great effect and showed off his back-shoulder-catching skills on multiple occasions, as did Travis Rudolph.

After his red-hot start, Francois cooled down in a major way when his accuracy issues reemerged. The same quarterback who opened the game completing nine of eleven passes finished completing only seven of his final thirteen. Francois struggled once again with overthrowing his receivers and holding onto the ball too long which resulted in a number of sacks and unnecessary hits.

Now, that doesn’t absolve the offensive line of all blame. FSU right tackle Brock Ruble was completely and totally helpless in trying to block Harold Landry, BC’s stellar edge rusher. In fact, Ruble, who gave up two sacks in FSU’s final possession of the first half, was benched coming out of halftime in favor of Rick Leonard, who started the year at RT before giving way to Ruble in the fourth week of the season. Leonard showed moderate improvement but was still powerless to stop Landry and the BC defensive line. In all, the Golden Eagles finished with four sacks and 10 tackles for loss as the Florida State offensive line regressed after a solid showing last week at NC State. Perhaps the bigger issue for the FSU OL is that with no third-string right tackle listed on the depth chart, there’s no immediate fix for the Seminoles’ problem at right tackle. This upcoming offseason could be a very interesting one with regard to who who will step up to challenge the returning starters.

With so much to discuss, I have failed to touch on the near-story of the night from Friday’s game: Dalvin Cook’s approach on history. Cook struggled early in the victory, managing only six yards on his first four carries as BC loaded the box as a preventative tactic against Cook. However, Francois’ ability both as a rusher on designed QB runs and as a downfield passer forced Boston College to spread out its defense and opening up the field for Cook. By game’s end, Cook had 108 rushing yards and a touchdown, the first of his career against BC, in just over three quarters before he was pulled by Jimbo Fisher with the game well in hand. Cook may have finished the game a mere 19 yards short of Florida State’s all-time rushing mark, he singlehandedly surpassed Boston College’s average of 106.56 rush yards allowed per game, 8th in the FBS.

I can see the argument for both sides of the case on whether or not Cook should have been pulled. On one hand, it would be ideal for Cook to take the record at home so that the game can be stopped and the proper recognition paid to him inside Doak Campbell Stadium. I also see the other side of the case, though. Football is a dangerous game in which players are liable to get injured on any given play. As such, I agree with Fisher’s decision to yank Cook as an injury to FSU’s star running back with the team leading by 35+ would be viewed as a catastrophic mistake.

Finally, Florida State’s back-up quarterback Sean Maguire did all that was asked of him in a relief effort. Maguire, coming off the bench for the 15th time in his career, picked it right up after coming into the game for Francois, who suffered a shoulder contusion. Over his three complete drives as the QB, Maguire led the Seminoles to 17 points, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Tate and fullback Freddie Stevenson on 5-7 passing to fully seize his senior day moment. Although Fisher assured the media after the game that Francois could have returned if the team needed him and that it was just a shoulder bruise, Maguire would be a serviceable signal caller against Syracuse next week if Francois proved unable to go.

Yes, overwhelmingly positive takeaways from this game should be taken with a grain of salt considering the opponent is a 4-5 Boston College team. That being said, FSU has struggled to finish drives, get off to a hot start, and score points at a rapid clip against worse defensive teams than BC this year, providing confirmation of progress in FSU’s pursuit of another 10-win season.