There are some games where there is no explanation for what has just happened. Florida State’s 63-20 loss to Louisville may be the truest example of this I have ever witnessed. The Seminoles were outclassed in every facet of the game for the entire four quarters and some undesirable school history was set as the Cardinals became the first opposing team in FSU history to put up 60 or more points.
For the second time in three weeks, Florida State fell behind early in a big matchup, allowing a six-play. 75-yard touchdown drive on Louisville’s opening possession and falling behind 14-0 just over 10 minutes into the game, losing discipline in the run game and allowing UL’s dual-threat QB Lamar Jackson to rack up two first-quarter rushing touchdowns.
Florida State showed signs of life to begin the second quarter, putting together an efficient drive capped off by a touchdown reception by Auden Tate, his second in as many weeks, to cut UL’s lead to 14-10. However, the Cardinals responded with a score of their own, took advantage of a costly Florida State turnover deep in its own territory, which turned out to be the turning point of the remainder of the game, and then ran the two-minute drill to near-perfect execution for another touchdown drive to stake themselves to a 35-10 halftime lead.
As it turns out, the 35 points surrendered by the Florida State defense in the half is the most in a first half since 1977, Bobby Bowden’s second year at FSU.
Louisville dominated in all facets of the first half, outgaining Florida State 375-142, converting on five of seven third downs, made five red-zone trips to Florida State’s one, and amassed five chunk plays of 30+ yards.
Unlike FSU’s opening weekend win against Ole Miss, which saw the Seminoles overcome a 22-point deficit for the largest comeback victory in school history, there would be no semblance of a comeback on Saturday against Louisville.
The Cardinals took advantage of some big plays, most notably a lengthy punt return touchdown, to supplement its lead in the second half, outscoring Florida State 28-0 in the second half before pulling the starters.
To say that the FSU defense missed sophomore safety Derwin James against UL is a understatement of the largest degree. Over the course of the entire game, the Seminoles proved incapable of shutting down Jackson’s legs which, in turn, set up his arm. Jackson finished with 362 yards of total offense (216 passing, 146 rushing) and five touchdowns, leaving the game with 10 minutes left on the clock and, at the time, possessing more than twice as many yards of total offense as the entire Florida State team had.
It was another lackluster game from Florida State’s star running back Dalvin Cook, at least by his lofty standards. He finished with 54 rushing yards on 16 carries (3.4 yards per carry) and is still struggling to find his 2015 form three weeks into the 2016 season.
Over the first two games, Cook’s inability to play at his highest level has been covered up due to impressive play from FSU’s redshirt freshman quarterback, Deondre Francois. On Saturday, though, in his first true road game, the moment and the stage seemed a bit too big for the Seminoles’ signal-caller. He wrapped up the blowout loss going 7-18 for 101 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception . All of the blame cannot be directed at Francois, however, as he was sacked five times and hurried five additional times due to an extremely poor performance from the FSU offensive line.
Normally in blowouts of this sort, as was the case against Oregon in 2014, turnovers pile up and let a game get out of hand. On Saturday, that was hardly the case. Florida State turned the ball over only twice and the Seminoles were merely outmatched in all aspects of the game by a Louisville team that seemed incredibly prepared for FSU and for its first College GameDay game in program history.
With the loss, Florida State falls to 2-1 (0-1) on the season, dropping its ACC opener for only the second time in Jimbo Fisher’s tenure as head coach. Next up for the Seminoles? Another noon road game next Saturday at USF.