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What we learned on special teams in FSU football’s loss to Alabama

The Crimson Tide capitalized on Florida State’s errors

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Kickoff-Alabama vs Florida State Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State fell to Alabama 24-7 to open the 2017 season. The first half was a hard-fought contest, with the Seminoles only trailing 10-7 heading into halftime.

However, the second half was when the flood gates opened. Alabama scored 21 unanswered points, benefiting largely from great field position due to errors from FSU’s special teams unit.

To say special teams was a disaster might be putting it lightly. Here’s what transpired on Saturday night:

  • Alabama blocked a field goal to end the first half. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, perhaps the Crimson Tide’s best defensive player, came off the line unblocked and disrupted the kick.
  • The Crimson Tide blocked a punt to set its offense at the FSU 6-yard line. Damien Harris, who started the game for the ’Tide at running back, burst through the middle untouched and had one of the easiest blocked punts in football.
  • Keith Gavin fumbled a kickoff return to set up Alabama on the FSU 11-yard line. In his post-game press conference, Jimbo Fisher praised Gavin for his play overall, but said his choice to return the kickoff after fumbling the initial catch was a “poor decision.”
  • Florida State had 12 men on the field on punt return in the second half, leading to Jimbo Fisher burning a timeout. It seemed as if defensive back Kyle Meyers was not sure whether he was supposed to be on the field.
  • Matthew Thomas tackled Alabama’s Trevon Diggs after a fair catch signal on a punt return, leading to a 15-yard penalty that set the Crimson Tide up in FSU territory.
  • Logan Tyler averaged 31.5 yards per punt on the night. His long in the game was 40-yards.

Luckily, Florida State’s defense put up a heroic effort. Derwin James and the defense bailed this team out on multiple occasions and kept it from becoming a blowout, but special teams gaffes kept holding it back.

In the end, starting field position was all the difference.

FSU vs. Alabama starting field position

Drive Florida State Alabama
Drive Florida State Alabama
1 FSU 25 Bama 25
2 FSU 10 Bama 38
3 FSU 25 Bama 15
4 FSU 25 Bama 33
5 Bama 31 Bama 14
6 FSU 30 Bama 24
7 FSU 25 Bama 19
8 FSU 7 FSU 6
9 FSU 25 FSU 11
10 FSU 24 FSU 42
11 FSU 6 FSU 31
12 FSU 25 FSU 31
13 FSU 7 Bama 40

It is an uphill battle when you turn the ball over three times.

It’s an impossible battle when your opponent starts five consecutive drives in your own territory.

In the end, Alabama had more than a 20-yard advantage in starting field position.

Even more embarrassing about FSU’s special teams errors is the fact that, per Fisher, the Seminoles practice them extensively.

With Deondre Francois’ status up in the air, special teams may be even more important if Florida State is to turn to a true freshman at quarterback moving forward.