In lieu of the traditional film review format, we’ve picked out five key plays from Florida State’s game against Syracuse and broken them down in-depth with visual graphics.
This content is best viewed on desktop, not mobile or tablet.
The play: (13:15 - 1st) Cam Akers run for 16 yds to the FSU 45 for a 1st down
Keith Gavin comes in motion from the boundary side, giving the impression that Deondre Francois has three options: hand the ball off to Cam Akers, flip it to Gavin on the jet sweep, or keep it himself.
Francois is reading the unblocked right defensive end on this play (left from the defense’s point of view) and correctly makes the decision to hand the ball off when the defensive end stays home to play the QB run.
Because he left the defensive end unblocked, right tackle Derrick Kelly is able to get to the second level and get a block on the linebacker. The rest of the line does a fairly decent job of blocking at the point of attack, although a Syracuse linemen knifes his way into the backfield. A crafty move from Akers allows him to bypass the defender and hit the hole.
Akers is able to follow the hole created by left guard Cole Minshew and center Alec Eberle. Minshew removes the boundary cornerback while Eberle gets a block on the safety coming down.
From there, Akers bursts forward for a 16-yard gain.
So why is this play important?
Because this is how the read option in Willie Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense is supposed to work. If read correctly, the unblocked defender is wrong every time. This allows for better blocking in the run game, or the chance for the quarterback to keep the ball for a big gain.
Unfortunately, poor offensive line play has made these types of plays few and far between. In a perfect situation, FSU would be running all over defenses with these types of plays.
The play: (5:36 - 2nd) Deondre Francois pass intercepted by Christopher Fredrick, returned for a loss of 2 yards to the FSU 33
Backed up in their own territory, Florida State is desperately looking for a spark on offense.
Akers flexes out to the boundary side, leaving an empty formation for Francois. Syracuse has man coverage on the boundary side, with the two defenders communicating before the snap to get responsibilities in order.
Tamorrion Terry is running a go route and gets a decent release off the line with the defender playing press coverage. Seeing this, Francois tries to fit the ball into a tight window between the safety and cornerback. This is the money shot. If Francois makes this throw, Terry might go the distance and score.
But unfortunately, Francois’ throw is a tad too low, and the defender is able to turn his head and grab the ball out of the air.
It’s small mistakes like these that doomed Florida State in this game. The difference of a few inches on a pass are the difference between a possible touchdown and an interception.
The play: (6:55 - 3rd) Tommy DeVito 3 Yd. TD Run (Andre Szmyt Kick)
With backup quarterback Tommy DeVito in the game, Syracuse drives down the field and faces a third and goal from the 3-yard line.
’Cuse lines up with three backs in the backfield, but two are blocking fullbacks. On the snap, DeVito fakes the handoff to the running back and keeps it for a QB dive. This brief movement, although not a true read option, causes Janarius Robinson to hesitate, essentially removing him from the play.
DeVito follows the hole created by the pulling right guard and his fullbacks. This is a well designed play, with Syracuse out-leveraging Florida State at the point of attack to create an opening for DeVito. One of the fullbacks engages Dontavious Jackson, but the linebacker is able to get a hand on DeVito.
DeVito actually muscles through his own blocker and fights through two more FSU defenders before finding the end zone. The ball pops loose, but DeVito had already crossed the line.
This ended up being the winning score for Syracuse, as Florida State’s offense was only able to mount a single scoring drive in the game.
The play: (6:42 - 3rd) Deondre Francois pass complete to Nyqwan Murray for a loss of 5 yards to the FSU 20
At first, Florida State looks confused to start this play. Jacques Patrick starts out wide, but then comes back into the backfield. Tre’ McKitty starts in the backfield, but then flexes out wide and has his back turned when the ball is snapped.
This is a designed screen to Nyqwan Murray the whole way. The problem is that Syracuse diagnoses this well while FSU seems disorganized.
After initially looking to run a route, Terry motions back into the backfield almost as if he’s expecting to receive the screen pass. As such, two Syracuse defenders rush into the backfield unblocked and make the tackle for loss.
Meanwhile, we can see downfield that McKitty has the right responsibility and is already looking to block the defender that trailed him downfield.
Plays like this are disastrous on first down. Florida State already has trouble moving the ball downfield, both through the air and on the ground, and setting yourself up behind the chains is a recipe for disaster.
Unsurprisingly, this drive ended with a punt.
The play: (1:09 - 3rd) Tommy DeVito pass complete to Nykeim Johnson for 23 yds to the FSU 44 for a 1st down
This is a well designed play by Syracuse to counter Florida State’s man coverage.
Two pairs of Syracuse receivers line up on either side of the field and, on the snap, display identical screen formations. DeVito reads the correct side of the field and flips the ball to the field side, where the matchup is 2 vs. 2 on the outside.
The idea here is simple: the outside receiver blocks his defender, leaving the slot receiver one-on-one with the safety. Stanford Samuels crashes down and whiffs on the tackle, allowing the receiver to break into the open field.
Jaiden Woodbey makes the touchdown-saving tackle downfield, but not before the receiver picks up a gain of 23 yards.
Sometimes, the game of football comes down to one-on-one matchups. In this case, the slot receiver got the better of Samuels.