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Defensive observations from Florida State’s loss to Miami

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The Seminoles’ defense put up a valiant effort, but fell short in the games’ final seconds.

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State’s defense did everything you could ask of it on Saturday, outside of make a final, game-clinching play.

After a strong start and pitching a shutout at halftime the Seminoles’ looked like they were set up perfectly to contain Malik Rosier and Miami, but Mark Richt’s squad eventually began to grind down Florida State’s defense and scheme their offense in a way that allowed them to find success.

Two things stuck out throughout the game: Florida State’s inability to get off the field on third-and-long and its weakness in stopping quarterback runs. The Hurricanes actually didn’t put up all that much on the ground (83 yards total), but Rosier tied for the lead in rushing on the day, totalling 29 yards after factoring in sacks.

Miami’s first big third-down conversion came on its first drive of the second half. With Florida State clinging to a 3-0 lead, the Hurricanes faced a third-and-20 after a Braxton Berrios pass interference. The very next play, Rosier hit a wide-open Ahmad Richards on the sideline for a 32-yard pass.

The Hurricanes converted the other following third-and-longs:

9:35 in the third: Rosier throws to Richards for a 15-yard pass on third-and-10

1:07 in the fourth: Rosier hits Braxton Berrios for a 17-yard pass on third-and-10

0:11 in the fourth: Rosier finds Berrios for an 11-yard catch on third-and-10

Three of those third-and-long conversions led Miami to points with the only exception being the 15-yard pass to Richards, as Rosier was intercepted on that drive.

Florida State also allowed a few big yardage plays, with four Miami receivers (Berrios, Richards, Christopher Herndon IV and Darrell Langham) all having receptions of 20+ yards.

It was notable that Miami seemed to attack Tarvarus McFadden throughout the game, and usually found success doing so. McFadden was usually either caught blitzing or caught faking it, and the result was empty space for Miami receivers to find room.

It’s easy to put blame onto the defense for the loss, especially since the literal only way to lose is to let the other team score more points, but that would be dismissing the effort it put up throughout the final night. Nine of Miami’s 14 drives ended in punts, with five of those drives being three-and-outs. Before halftime, the Hurricanes hadn’t crossed midfield. Mark Walton, who has 428 yards on the season, only had 21 yards. In the first half, Miami was averaging 2.2 yards per play, and by the end of the game, that was only up to 4.6.

That sort of defensive success usually isn’t sustainable, and so as Rosier got more comfortable and Miami adjusted to what it was presented, the tides began to change. Miami’s first touchdown can be chalked up more to field position than defensive struggles, but allowing two touchdowns in the span of five minutes is more than fatigue or other external factors. The Hurricanes knew exactly what they wanted to do on those final drives, allowing Berrios to make plays and Rosier to beat them with his arm.

In the end, this game fit what has become a typical Florida State blueprint. Herculean effort throughout most of the matchup, followed up with small mistakes that have huge impacts.

The above stat only includes five drives, so it’s obviously a small sample, but it’s also a very disturbing trend.