After a positive and productive outing against NC State, James Blackman looked like a true freshman versus Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons were able to rattle Blackman, who was making his first career start on the road. Florida State’s offensive line had a very poor performance, which contributed to Blackman’s rough day, but FSU’s offensive attack struggled through the air during the game.
Against the Wolfpack, Blackman was able to consistently push the ball down the field. He was helped immensely by the presence of junior receiver Auden Tate, but struggled when Tate left that game with an injury.
In Saturday’s matchup with Wake Forest, Tate was unavailable for a large portion due to the shoulder injury he suffered against NC State. As such, Blackman and the passing game were not able to get into rhythm. As you will see in the chart below, a lot of Blackman’s completions were either at or behind the line of scrimmage on screen plays.
Without Tate, Florida State’s receiver corps failed to help the true freshman quarterback. In his weekly press conference, Jimbo Fisher said that the best way to get Nyqwan Murray more involved was to run good routes and get open. After a breakout performance against NC State, George Campbell had a few drops and fumbled the ball early in a drive.
Let’s take a look at Blackman’s passing chart and see what we can figure out.
As you can see from the graphic above, seven of Blackman’s 11 completions came from screen passes at or behind the line of scrimmage. With the downfield passing game nonexistent, FSU relied on screens to Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers to generate a passing game.
Outside of two passes to Tate and Gavin, Blackman failed to push the ball down the field. In fact, 68% of Blackman’s passing yards (83 of 121-yards) came on the 43-yard pass to Gavin and 40-yard touchdown to Tate.
As stated above, several factors contributed to this. For one, receivers failed to get open and run good routes. Blackman also was inaccurate on several passes. The deep ball to Saunders was just outside his reach in the end zone. Another throw to Gavin in the end zone was floated and nearly picked off.
The tight ends were once again held without a catch, their only target of the day being the aforementioned shot to Saunders in the end zone.
For as spotty as Blackman was though, he gets credit for throwing a dime when it mattered.
Last week, we talked about how Blackman was hesitant to throw to the middle of the field. This trend continued against Wake Forest. The true freshman only threw one pass between the hashes, an incompletion to Gavin.
Florida State tried to target the right side of the field multiple times, but could not get anything going. Several deep throws to Campbell and Murray were either dropped, thrown inaccurately, or broken up.
Fisher did a great job of scheming up screen passes; Patrick and Akers did not have a bunch of space to work with, but they provided a good option on third downs. Patrick continues to impress in the receiving game and did not register a drop.
With two games under his belt, we’ve seen the good (NC State) and bad (Wake Forest) that Blackman brings to the table. The true freshman will have a big test against Miami, as the Hurricanes present yet another great front-seven to handle. If the struggles in the run game continue, Blackman will be called on to push the ball downfield.
The Seminoles are already a home underdog to the ’Cane, and Blackman will have to make plays in the passing game if FSU is to emerge with a victory.