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FSU vs. Miami stat breakdown: Jimbo Fisher still punting away points

In the high-scoring environment of college football, repeatedly punting in opposing territory is killer.

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State
“Three points” is how many FSU scored against Miami.
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State lost its third game of the season Saturday, against Miami.

Using Bill Connelly’s advanced stats from Football Study Hall, we can measure where the breakdown of the game (Click to enlarge).

Florida State should have won the game.

A 76% win probability and a loss is indicative of being the better team on a down-to-down basis, but losing because of poor coaching and playing situations poorly.

This is the second time this year that Florida State has lost a game in which it had the higher win expectancy (FSU’s WE against N.C. State was 69%).

Finding ways to lose despite having superior talent is poor coaching.

Jimbo Fisher’s decision to punt twice from inside Miami’s 40 is perhaps the biggest single coaching mistake that cost FSU the game.

Fisher has repeatedly defended these mistakes by citing nebulous concepts like “momentum,” but in college football, these are egregiously bad mistakes of game management. The value of keeping the football offsets any potential loss in field position from not getting the first down. The hubris required to believe your gut is better than proven analytics is incredible.

Fisher’s decisions show that he is miscalculating the risk-reward of the punt decision, but not int he way one would think an offensive coach would. His decisions are that of an overly-conservative defensive coach. Or of a coach scared of losing his job. But Fisher is neither. He has $40M in guaranteed money left on his contract — no coach in college football has more job security.

Additionally, because Fisher has repeatedly made these mistakes (five punts in opponent territory this season already), opposing teams know that he is going to make them again. And when teams know that, they can elect not to defend certain concepts and areas on the field on third down, knowing FSU won’t go for it on fourth down. Defending third and 7 from the 37 is different when an opposing coach has shown a willingness to go for it on fourth down.

This is to say nothing of the gut punch to the confidence of the offense this move sends.

The chance to win this game was in the first quarter. FSU outgained Miami 124-24 in the first quarter and came away with three points because of poor game management by the head coach.

Miami won the game by 4 points, with 9.1 points of turnover luck

Yes, turnovers have a large luck element.

FSU’s defense was actually strong on 2/3rd-long ...

There are some obviously anecdotal examples of Miami converting third and long, but in passing downs (2nd and 7+, 3rd and 5+), FSU stopped Miami 71 percent of the time.

But FSU’s defense collapsed in the fourth quarter

6 plays, 75 yards, touchdown. 9 plays, 75 yards, touchdown. It’s happened too often, and if you are a player on this defense, how in the world can you trust this coaching staff in a crucial situation?

The mistakes being made are the same as in previous weeks and seasons, and are reflective of poor coaching.

James Blackman is pretty good when he knows where to throw it

FSU had a success rate of 47 percent throwing the football. Blackman misread Miami’s defense several times in the first half, otherwise the Seminoles probably would have had some more points. The offensive line protected Blackman well all day against a talented Miami front.

FSU’s run success rate (38%) was slightly lower than Miami’s (42%), but FSU’s was almost twice as explosive (1.11-0.61)

It seems like getting the ball to Cam Akers a lot, and feeding the running backs continually is a good idea.

This is a good team, but with so much talent, good isn’t good enough.

Florida State has played the toughest schedule in the country, by far, through four games. And it has done so without its starting QB. But even if FSU had Deondre Francois, and sat at 2-2 or 3-1, as it likely would be, the coaching issues would still be there. They would just be tougher to discuss, because winning has a tendency to mask problems.