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Defensive observations from FSU’s loss to Boston College

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The Eagles celebrated in the end zone far too many times.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Boston College Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, how the times have changed.

Last year, Florida State blew out Boston College at home 45-7. It wasn’t a close game and the Seminoles were able to coast through a majority of the second half.

This year? A similar story, except flip the teams.

The Eagles dominated FSU 35-3, leaving no doubt which team is on the rise and which program needs serious changes.

It starts on the defensive side of the ball for the ’Noles.

Boston College out-gained Florida State 329 yards to 213, with only 88 of the Eagles’ yards coming through the air. The other 241 yards came via the ground game, which the Seminoles could not stop in this game. Freshman running back A.J. Dillon had himself another monster performance, rushing for 149 yards and a score.

To be fair, Boston College only averaged 4.3 yards per play in this game. The Eagles’ offensive attack is a hurry-up approach (Boston College ran 76 plays compared to FSU’s 56), but without the explosive play element added into it.

This game was largely decided by the first half, when Boston College took a 21-3 halftime lead. The Eagles’ were able to go on three long scoring drives in the first half (drives of 79, 46, and 62 yards) and Florida State was not able to mount a response on defense.

Even more concerning was the fact that Boston College was not able to move the ball through the air in this game. Redshirt freshman Anthony Brown is a good runner, but only completed six passes on 20 attempts (30%) for 54 yards. This game was largely decided by the ground game and the ’Noles could not stop it.

Florida State’s defensive line, which has been great at times, could not create havoc and stop Dillon and Boston College’s run game. The front seven combined for only three tackles for loss in this game.

The secondary held its own against Boston College’s receivers and weak passing game, but everyone watching the game knew that the Eagles’ weren’t going to win based on the play of Brown at quarterback.

For the first time in forever, Florida State had its trio of senior linebackers available in Matthew Thomas, Ro’Derrick Hoskins, and Jacob Pugh. Normally, that would be a cause for celebration, but it seemed as if the contributions that the three of them made were few and far between. They combined for 27 total tackles, but not enough of those were at or behind the line of scrimmage to make a difference in this game.

The broadcast booth announced that several NFL scouts were in attendance to watch the game, likely to see Derwin James in action. The sophomore safety racked up 13 total tackles, but made no game-breaking plays that he is capable of creating.

In previous weeks, it seemed as if Florida State’s defense was prone to giving up long touchdown drives late in the game. Just look at the Miami game, when the Hurricanes went on back-to-back touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

This week, the script was flipped.

As previously mentioned, Boston College was able to mount three long touchdown drives in the first half. The 222 yards that the Eagles’ were able to rack up in the first half make up 67% of its total yards on the day. The drives that Boston College went on in the first half were of 25, 79, 33, 46, 62, and 16 yards.

If anything, the defense tightened up in the second half, when Boston College was only able to go on drives of 15, 11, 25, 24, 7, and 30 yards. Granted, some of those drives were short scoring drives because Florida State’s offense turned the ball over in its own half.

Perhaps even more concerning, not just as a defensive analysis but as a testament to the state of the overall program, is the fact that Boston College had a chance to make this game even more lopsided. In the fourth quarter, with the score already 35-3, Steve Addazio showed mercy and ran the clock down on every play instead of running up-tempo. Boston College had 12 total drives, but only two came in the fourth quarter when the Eagles ran the clock down.

This is the second time in two years where a program has shown FSU mercy like this. Last year, Louisville turned off the jets after going up 63-10 against the Seminoles.

Usually, it’s Florida State showing mercy to lesser teams.

This time, it was Boston College.