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What we learned on offense from FSU’s blowout of Charleston Southern

The Florida State attack helped end this one early.

NCAA Football: Charleston Southern at Florida State
Dalvin Cook
Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

The ‘Noles took care of business on Saturday, smoking the suspension-depleted Charleston Southern Buccaneers by a 52-8 score in the Seminoles’ 2016 home opener. One a day in which Clemson and Georgia struggled with Troy and Nicholls State, respectively, it’s tough to complain too much, considering that the ‘Noles had the game in the bag by the end of the first quarter and didn’t suffer any major injuries. But what we learned, big picture, is that a nearly flawless result does not necessarily reflect perfect execution.

As many predicted would happen against an FCS opponent sandwiched between two big games, FSU struggled with focus early on, committing three penalties on its first possession, which nevertheless ended in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to Travis Rudolph. It was a nice ball on a post route, as Francois let Rudolph use his size and work across the field; consider it a better version of the early deep attempt to Kermit Whitfield against Ole Miss. Francois’ best pass of the afternoon, a post-corner, thrown while on the move, was dropped by Ryan Izzo.

Francois’ decision-making needs to improve, though. He could have been intercepted a few different times in the first half, and finally did toss his first career pick shortly before halftime. He was sacked in the second half when he was again late finding an open man, and, with ample time, displayed too much confidence in his legs and was wrapped up when he should have unloaded the ball.

But overall, Francois handled the situation well — by going 10 for 10 in the third quarter — as well as after the game, when he had a chance to use his inexperience as an excuse, but refused to equivocate: “That’s just me making a bad throw.” That’s also a redshirt freshman handling a mistake exactly how you’d hope he would. Francois finished 25-32 for 262 yards, with three scores, the lone pick, and a passer rating of 171.6. Still, Francois’ protection could have been much better, and will definitely need to improve if he’s going to finish the Louisville game next week.

Speaking of the OL, it started its second different lineup combination in as many games, as freshman Landon Dickerson got the nod ahead of the injured Wilson Bell at right guard. Fisher characterized his performance as “pretty solid.” In addition to too many hits on Francois, the unit wasn’t exactly opening gaping holes for Dalvin Cook, but as they did against the Rebels, they improved as the game progressed.

And so did Cook. Prior to his final tote, he picked up 46 yards on 10 carries, not really demonstrating the breakout he showed at the second level in 2015. But on that final carry, in the third quarter, Cook picked his way deftly through the Buc defense to score from 37 yards out, which helped him to finish with 83 yards on 11 carries and two scores for an average of 7.5 YPC, much closer to his 2015 average of 7.4 than last week’s effort (3.9 YPC).

It is worth noting that, a play before his first score, Cook reached the ball out in an attempt to cross it over the goal line, but it appeared that he dropped it prior to reaching pay dirt or stepping out of bounds. That probably should have been CSU’s ball on the 20. Nevertheless, Fisher said he was pleased to see the “old Dalvin” back. ‘Nole fans are certainly hoping that last look at Cook is a sign of the past resurrecting itself in the future.

But Cook wasn’t the only Seminole RB to impress on the day. Jacques Patrick, who has established himself as the clear No. 2 back behind Cook, once again ran hard, low, and behind his pads. His 26 yards on five carries for a 5.2 YPC and a score are nothing terribly sexy, but that’s precisely the kind of workmanlike effort you want from your big back. He shouldn’t be running to make people miss; he should be running to plow them over if they get in his way. Thus far in 2016, he’s done just that.

And I think our first look at frosh RB Amir Rasul earns a mention here as well, even if it did come in garbage time. We already knew that Rasul was blazing fast, but he sure does run with some fight as well. Yeah, he got his six carries for 46 yards late against an undermanned and tired Charleston Southern defense, but if Patrick is finally acquiring the proper mindset with which to rush, Rasul appears to have it in spades at the onset of his ‘Nole career.

Out wide, Rudolph was certainly the star of the day with his seven catches for 105 yards and two scores, but a couple of sophomores achieved some important milestones. Diminutive WR Nyqwan “Noonie” Murray and the imposing Auden Tate don’t have a lot in common, but each used his strengths to show well on Saturday. Murray got his first start (Whitfield sat out the first quarter), and he showed the shake we knew he had, making defenders miss in posting 31 yards on three catches. Tate didn’t get in until later in the contest, but he did snag his first career touchdown reception, and he did so by using his formidable frame in the red zone, catching a fade from Francois, who happens to be his roommate.