Yes, it was Boston College last week. And yeah, Syracuse’s defense is even worse. Still, for an offensive unit that couldn’t get out of its own way earlier in the season, the ‘Noles once again checked more than enough boxes to wax the Orange handily, putting up 45 for the second straight game en route to a 45-14 stomping up north.
Let’s start where the plays do: up front. The Florida State offensive line had a great day, despite welcoming first-time starter Cole Minshew to the mix. Minshew got the start at left guard in place of Kareem Are, who nevertheless played some series late in the first half, which was rather odd (I’m wondering if the decision wasn’t a punitive measure).
Regardless, the Seminole front, which looked to have tightened up its splits some from weeks past, had its way with the undersized Orange front seven routinely. The big story coming in was Dalvin Cook’s pursuit of Warrick Dunn’s all-time FSU rushing record, and the OL made sure that achievement was well in hand before the first quarter was through. At the half, Cook already had 105 yards and a score on 13 carries. Then he added three more touchdown runs in the third quarter, displaying very nice patience in allowing his blocks to develop.
And did they ever. There were actually plays on which pulling guards were galloping downfield looking, in vain, for defenders to block. But Cook doesn’t wind up with 225 yards and four touchdowns if it isn’t also for great blocking performances from fullback Freddie Stevenson and tight ends Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders. Accolades aside, Cook put the ball on the ground twice, and FSU lost each one.
The FSU OL also gave quarterback Deondre Francois consistently clean pockets with plenty of time to throw. For the second straight game, he was efficient in taking what the defense gave him, passing underneath Syracuse’s two-deep coverage to move the ‘Noles down the field and cash in with touchdown throws to Nyqwan Murray and Travis Rudolph to get the Seminoles out to a quick 14-0 lead. But Francois continues to miss too many open throws, and badly. At other times, the ball is delivered late, giving the intended receiver a much worse shot of doing anything with the reception, if it’s made at all.
Francois finished 18-28 for 315 yards, with that pair of scores and a pick, and while QBs would always prefer to forget their interceptions, his warrants mentioning because it was so ill-conceived. After rolling out to his left, Francois turned back to the field and into pressure, at which point he tried to throw the ball away to the wide side of the field. The ball hung in the air, didn’t make it out of bounds, and was easily picked along the sideline. It may just have been the worst decision that Francois has made in his time as FSU’s QB.
Still, it was one play, and if your young signal-caller is going to experience learning moments like that, you’d rather them happen in blowouts than in crunch time. And Francois does deserve credit for leading a ‘Nole offense that put up 654 total yards (334 on the ground and 320 through the air) and averaged 8.61 yards per play.
Francois also deserves credit for spreading the ball around nicely. All six Seminoles who caught a pass finished with 37 or more receiving yards, and we finally saw the reemergence of the tight ends as a downfield threat. Izzo and Saunders accounted for the biggest chunk plays in the passing game, hauling in a combined three balls for 83 yards.
Earlier in the week, I wrote about how bad Syracuse’s defense is, across the board. The Orange certainly did nothing to prove me wrong, but give FSU credit for doing what more talented teams are supposed to do. The ‘Noles simplified the game plan and relied on their superior talent and size, and that was plenty. I would say that they didn’t overcook it, but given the fact that Cook was still in the game when Florida State was up four touchdowns in the final quarter, I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate.