Jimbo Fisher knew his offense would have to score points against the Louisville Cardinals. He said it all week in interviews. It failed to do so on Saturday, scoring just 21, as the Seminoles fell at home, 31-28. The defense scored a touchdown, and was put in rough spots as the offense turned the ball over three times. Conservative game management in a game in which it was obvious many points would be needed to win didn’t help. Here’s how it happened.
The game started out with both offenses easily driving down the field as the opposing defenses repeatedly busted assignments. Florida State twice had both edge defenders playing the give, and nobody playing the quarterback, allowing big runs to Lamar Jackson. Then, the Seminoles failed to line up correctly, giving Louisville more blockers to the short side than FSU had defenders, and Lamar Jackson easily scampered for a 23-yard score.
The Seminoles came right back with seven touches by its running backs, and two busted coverages by Louisville, as freshman QB James Blackman hit Nyquan Murray for 37, and Ryan Izzo for a seven-yard touchdown. Both throws were wide open. The offensive line played quite well on the drive.
However, Florida State did get stops on Louisville’s next three drives, (3-3, 8-57, and 5-17), but could do nothing with it. But Florida State’s offense also sputtered, (6-38, 6-20, 3-6). Both defenses were able to momentarily confuse the opposing QB, and get some pressure.
But on Louisville’s fifth drive, freshman Josh Kaindioh beautifully played his assignment on the zone read, forcing Lamar Jackson to keep the ball, and then tackled Jackson, causing a fumble. Linebacker Matt Thomas scooped up that fumble and returned it for a TD.
But Louisville responded with an excellent drive of eight plays and 75 yards for a touchdown.
Jimbo Fisher oddly managed the final FSU drive of the half. From its own 25, with 1:04 left, FSU ran a screen to Jacques Patrick, who was tackled in bounds. FSU did not call timeout, seemingly content to go to the locker room. FSU ran the ball on 2nd down, but for whatever reason, elected to let James Blackman throw a pass with less than 20 seconds left from his own end. The ball was picked off and FSU got lucky that Louisville missed the resulting 45-yard field goal.
Fisher then flubbed another game management situation to start the second half. After a strong drive to the Louisville 27, Fisher had the option on 3rd and 3 to pound the ball twice for a first down, knowing that Louisville was likely to score a lot of points. Instead, Fisher called a screen, which was incomplete after a missed block by a receiver, and elected to kick. It was a poor call, compounded by the fact that kicker Ricky Aguayo missed.
Then, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jackson drove Louisville six plays and 73 yards for a 21-14 lead.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, FSU tried throwing a deep ball to a walk-on receiver, instead of a more physically talented player. The throw wasn’t great, but it was wrestled away from the walk-on.
Louisville went five plays and 45 yards for the touchdown to go up 28-14.
Florida State drove the field and scored on a 14-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that took almost seven minutes. Florida State was bailed out by a roughing the passer penalty on a fourth and 10 after Fisher had mismanaged the third down call, dialing up a lot of deep routes, and not giving his QB an easy underneath throw to set up a manageable fourth down. This was after FSU wasted its second timeout of the game for not being able to get the play called, lined up and snap the ball before the play clock ran out. FSU scored on the next play, when Jacques Patrick’s fumble was recovered in the end zone by Nyqwuan Murray.
Florida State’s lifeless defense sprang back to life, forcing a quick three-and-out, and the offense came back, marching 74 yards in six plays for the James Blackman to Noonie Murray score.
Louisville came right back down the field, but on fourth and 1 from the Florida State 27, the Cards elected for a hand off instead of putting the ball in the hands of the Heisman Trophy Winner. FSU stoned the blocks and stopped the Cards.
On the ensuing possession, FSU moved the ball well to start, but on the Louisville 24, James Blackman fumbled an exchange with the running back. It was a costly freshman mistake as FSU was going in for the go-ahead score.
Louisville then drove the field and scored a field goal to go up 31-28.