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FSU defense struggles to stop Boise State rushing attack, freshman quarterback

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Florida State’s defense couldn’t keep up with the Broncos’ offensive attack

NCAA Football: Florida State at Boise State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State’s defense set out to be dominant this season, but failed to live up to that goal in its first 2019 showing.

Though the Seminoles managed to get three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception) off the Broncos, they still allowed 5.8 yards per play over the course of the game, as well as 13.6 yards per completion.

Specifically, FSU showed issues with dealing with Boise State’s offensive line, only forcing two negative rushing plays over the entirety of the game. Though the Broncos finished with a meager 3.8 yards per rush, they were over six yards in the first half, a sign of what was to come over the course of the rest of the contest.

Another concerning aspect was inability to secure a game-changing fumble — twice. Turnovers, of course, are mostly luck, and not getting every single possible one is to be expected, not just understandable. Two seniors fighting for a fumble that had nobody else around it, leading to a Boise State recovery and score? That’s inexcusable.

As a result of Florida State’s offense looking worse in the second half of the game, its defense of course struggled to keep up with Boise State’s significant advantage in time of possession and play count. But even accounting for the offensive stagnation, FSU put up 31 points, enough to have won eight games on FSU’s schedule last season. The argument can’t even be made that those 31 points were scored as a result of keeping up with Boise State, because they were all scored in the first half.

The Broncos punted just once in the second half, and put up 38 first downs over the entirety of the game. (In comparison, after punting just once in the first half, Florida State punted six times in the second.)

Boise State had 621 yards, three 10-plus play drives, and six drives over three minutes. In 40 minutes of possession and 108 plays, they had just one three-and-out.

That said, with all the concerns, there were some bright spots. 29 different Florida State players registered a tackle, a result of nearly the entire two-deep on the depth chart seeing the field.

Florida State’s pass rush was good early on and a few times in the second half, applying pressure to freshman Hank Bachmeier throughout the game and registering six sacks. Defensive linemen Marvin Wilson and Robert Cooper struggled with shedding blocks but made their presence known when they could, with Corey Durden also getting in on the action occasionally. Bachmeier was strip-sacked several times, with the Seminoles coming up with two of those balls, though there were a few close calls on forward passes that could have swung the other way.

In the secondary, Hamsah Nasirildeen dealt with a large workload and leading the team in tackles with 12. Redshirt junior Carlos Becker III also got significant playing time, forcing a fumble, though he allowed a touchdown on a fantastic catch from Khalil Shakir.

The obvious observation is here: moving forward, Florida State is going to need a lot more from its defense. As a result of FSU’s fast-paced offense, for the rest of the season, time of possession will be uneven and play counts will be high — this is going to be the norm, not the outlier. Bend, don’t break, is and always was going to be the Seminoles’ mantra on the defensive side of the ball in 2019, but the results of failing to execute that theory were played out in Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday. If FSU can’t erase the small mistakes and cut down on broken tackles, games for the rest of the year will look like something right out of the Big 12.