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FSU football film review: Offense vs. Syracuse

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Cam Akers continues to improve every week.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to our weekly film review sessions of Florida State’s 2017 season. Every play broken down, with video and analysis.

As always, this content is best viewed on a computer or tablet, not on a phone.

Coming into the game, we knew that Cam Akers would need to be a focal point of the offense. After all, receiver depth was questionable and Jacques Patrick was sidelined with his knee injury.

Well, there’s no question Akers provided a spark after finishing with 199 yards and two touchdowns while averaging nine yards per carry. Akers actually eclipsed 200 yards in this game, but a late tackle for loss brought him back down to just shy of that mark.

Akers had touchdown runs of 54 and 63-yards, both plays that showcased the explosiveness and speed of the five-star freshman. He also showed great patience in this game, allowing blocks to be set up before hitting the hole hard. If there’s one key takeaway from the Syracuse game, it’s that Akers continues to improve every week.

In all, Florida State hit three explosive plays on the day: Akers’ two touchdown runs and a 51-yard touchdown pass to Nyqwan Murray. We knew that the ’Noles would need this kind of explosiveness, as the offense has not been great at long, sustained drives this season.

If there’s one concern about the offensive performance in this game, it’s that the offensive gained 168 of its 343 yards (48%) on those three plays. In fact, the only three touchdowns the offense scored on the day were from those three explosive plays. The offense was able to go on long scoring drives later in the game which ended in field goals, but none finished in the end zone.

Overall, Florida State racked up 6.1 yards per play. But subtract those three explosive plays and the offense finished with 175 yards on 53 plays, good for 3.3 yards per play.

James Blackman was fairly pedestrian in this game, completing 12/19 passes for 136 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. But as you’ll see in the film review, he also missed opportunities for big plays schemed up by the coaching staff.

The passing game was held in check, mostly because the receiving group is still dealing with injuries. It was nice to see Keith Gavin back out there, but Auden Tate is still limited with his injury. When Ermon Lane is taking major snaps at wide receiver, something is very wrong. Three weeks ago, Lane was practicing at safety.

Next week, Florida State travels to Clemson, who boasts one of the best defenses in the nation. The Seminoles have always played the Tigers close under Jimbo Fisher, so it will be interesting to see the offensive game plan when FSU rolls into Death Valley.

FSU Offense vs Syracuse

Play Down Distance Spot Personnel Analysis
Play Down Distance Spot Personnel Analysis
FIRST QUARTER
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 12:35. 1 10 FS47
Blackman, J at QB for Florida State. 1 10 FS47
Blackman, J rush right for 7 yards to the SU46 (Valdez, A.), clock 12:09. 1 10 FS47 12 Gun QB sweep with Akers as a lead blocker. Designed run so you have Murray and Lane blocking at WR. Good to see Jimbo running the QB early.
Akers, C rush over left end for 4 yards to the SU42, 1ST DOWN FS (Slayton, C.), clock 11:37. 2 3 SU46 12 Pistol Little bit of pistol zone action. Ruble removes his man from the play and the OL opens a nice hole, but the backside DE does a good job of moving down the line to make the tackle.
Blackman, J screen pass complete to Akers, C for no gain to the SU42 (Franklin, Z.), PENALTY FS holding (Jackson, J) 11 yards to the FS47, NO PLAY, clock 10:54. 1 10 SU42 21 Pony Flare out to Akers. Jimbo said Akers needed to put his head down and get a few more yards, but a holding call on Jackson negates this.
Rasul, A rush over right guard for 2 yards to the FS49 (Valdez, A.), clock 10:37. 1 21 FS47 12 Pistol Inside zone. It seems like Rasul commits to the inside, but there might be an opening to the outside where receivers have good blocks.
Blackman, J deep pass complete to Murray, N for 51 yards to the SU0, 1ST DOWN FS, TOUCHDOWN, clock 10:02. 2 19 FS49 12 Gun Deep post to Murray, just like Bud called pregame. Cuse has a linebacker dropping into deep coverage with a safety running to cover a receiver out wide. Murray splits the middle of the field in between the two zones.
Aguayo, R kick attempt good. 1 0 SU03
Syracuse 0, FSU 7
Drive Summary: 4 Plays, 53 yards, 2:33 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 06:34. 1 10 FS06
Akers, C rush right for 6 yards to the FS12, out-of-bounds (Bennett, P.), clock 06:29. 1 10 FS06 22 Ace Straight dive to give the offense some breathing room. Lot of large bodies moving within close proximity. Kelly is the pulling blocker, but he stumbles in traffic. Akers does a good job of bouncing this to the outside to make something out of nothing.
Akers, C rush left for 6 yards to the FS18, 1ST DOWN FS (Valdez, A.), clock 06:17. 2 4 FS12 22 Trips Oh my goodness, is Florida State running hurry-up? They snap this ball with 26 seconds left on the clock. Toss outside to Akers with Ball, Vickers and Izzo as lead blockers. Nice block by the TE and FB springs Akers for a first down.
Blackman, J sideline pass complete to Gavin, K for 5 yards to the FS23 (Bennett, P.), clock 05:40. 1 10 FS18 12 Gun Play action, and Gavin runs a five-yard curl route. Very nice blitz pickup by Akers. Also good to see Gavin back out there.
Blackman, J rush left for 3 yards to the FS26 (Williams, M.), clock 05:07. 2 5 FS23 12 Gun Same play. QB sweep to the field side to give Blackman room to work. They ran this play a lot with Francois as well. Kelly actually trips over a defender, which frees up a DL and allows him to make the tackle. Blackman might scamper for a few if this doesn't happen.
Blackman, J sacked for loss of 11 yards to the FS15 (Butler, D.M.), clock 04:20. 3 2 FS26 11 Gun This is the same screen Wake Forest ran against FSU, with Gavin running underneath and Izzo occupying space to free him up. Blackman double clutches when he sees a free blitzer and eats a sack. This one is on the QB and the WR, as Blackman needs to sight adjust here.
Tyler, L punt 39 yards to the SU46, Riley, S. return 16 yards to the FS38 (Jones, F). 4 13 FS15
Drive Summary: 5 Plays, 9 yards, 2:48 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 02:41. 1 10 FS30
Blackman, J rush quarterback scramble for 3 yards to the FS33 (Franklin, Z.), clock 02:22. 1 10 FS30 21 I Play action designed to take a shot downfield, hard to tell to whom from the television angle. Regardless, Blackman tucks it and runs for a short gain.
Akers, C rush toss sweep left for 15 yards to the FS48, 1ST DOWN FS (Williams, R.;Bennett, P.), clock 01:44. 2 7 FS33 21 I Pitch outside to Akers to the field side. Great blocking downfield from receivers springs Akers free for a good gain.
Blackman, J sacked for loss of 6 yards to the FS42 (Robinson, A.), clock 01:15. 1 10 FS48 21 I Play action, and Blackman rolls out right into the waiting arms of a defender. This might be a miscommunication as Vickers might have this blocking responsibility.
Blackman, J slant pass complete to Murray, N for 1 yard to the FS43 (Franklin, Z.), clock 00:40. 2 16 FS42 11 Gun Designed screen to Murray, as Tate and Minshew are the designated blockers. But the screen takes a little too long to develop and Murray is tackled for a short gain. Jimbo said that the guard needs to get out a little faster here.
Blackman, J sideline pass complete to Akers, C for loss of 1 yard to the FS42 (Bradshaw, S.). 3 15 FS43 11 Gun Blackman works through his progressions and finds Akers in the flat. Jimbo said this was the right decision in his coaching show.
SECOND QUARTER
Tyler, L punt 55 yards to the SU3, downed. 4 16 FS42
Drive Summary: 5 Plays, 12 yards, 2:54 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 13:49. 1 10 FS46
Akers, C rush left for 54 yards to the SU0, 1ST DOWN FS, TOUCHDOWN, clock 13:38. 1 10 FS46 12 Pistol Akers cuts this run backside almost immediately, seeing a good hole open up. The entire defense is flowing to the right due to the blocking of the offensive line as well, leaving no one in the open field. Syracuse #10 has him dead to rights, but Akers makes a Cook-esque move in tight spaces to juke him. From there, it's pure speed as Akers outruns the entire secondary to the end zone. Horsecollar at the end, maybe?
Aguayo, R kick attempt good. 1 0 SU03
SYRACUSE 0, FLORIDA STATE 14
Drive Summary: 1 Plays, 54 yards, 0:11 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 12:03. 1 10 FS20
Akers, C rush over left tackle for 1 yard to the FS21 (Williams, M.), clock 11:48. 1 10 FS20 21 I Inside zone with Minshew as the pulling blocker. Syracuse DL hits Eberle with a swim move and gets into the backfield to blow this run up.
Blackman, J screen pass complete to Akers, C for 1 yard to the FS22 (Berry, B.;Bennett, P.), clock 10:54. 2 9 FS21 21 Pony Flare out to Akers. Syracuse drops a DE into coverage here who makes the stop. Jimbo mentioned on his coaching show that Akers needs to get at least four yards here in order to make a reasonable third down attempt.
Blackman, J throw away pass incomplete to Gavin, K, QB hurry by Thomas, J.. 3 8 FS22 11 Gun Jimbo actually said that this was a miscommunication between Blackman and a receiver, so throwing the ball away was a good decision. Obviously hard to tell from the television angle, but he seemed to be looking at Gavin.
Tyler, L punt 54 yards to the SU24, fair catch by Riley, S.. 4 8 FS22
Drive Summary: 3 Plays, 2 yards, 1:41 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 07:47. 1 10 FS22
Blackman, J sideline pass incomplete to Lane, E, PENALTY SU roughing passer (Robinson, A.) 15 yards to the FS37, 1ST DOWN FS, NO PLAY, clock 07:41. 1 10 FS22 12 Pistol Rollout pass to Lane, but Blackman is well short. FSU is bailed out by a roughing the passer call. Jimbo said that this was Blackman's fault. On a naked bootleg, he needs to keep running instead of pulling up to a stop. Freshman mistakes, but the penalty negates it.
Akers, C rush left for 63 yards to the SU0, 1ST DOWN FS, TOUCHDOWN, clock 07:29. 1 10 FS37 12 Pistol Stretch run to the boundary. Beautifully blocked, per Jimbo. Ball takes the DE and turns him back inside. Izzo, Minshew and Kelly all get blocks on LBs. Akers hits the hole hard and keeps on running to the end zone. Safety also takes a horrible angle to this run.
Aguayo, R kick attempt good. 1 0 SU03
SYRACUSE 7, FLORIDA STATE 21
Drive Summary: 1 Plays, 78 yards, 0:18 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 06:25. 1 10 FS14
Rasul, A rush right for 7 yards to the FS21 (Williams, R.), clock 06:06. 1 10 FS14 12 Pistol Counter run with Kelly and Izzo as pulling blockers. Rasul does a great job of navigating through traffic for a solid gain.
Rasul, A rush right for 1 yard to the FS22 (Fredrick, C.), clock 05:40. 2 3 FS21 12 Pistol Syracuse DB comes on a blitz to blow this run up. Cuse sold out against the run on this play by bringing five rushers.
Blackman, J rush left for loss of 5 yards to the FS17 (Foster, E.), clock 04:31. 3 2 FS22 12 Gun Same QB sweep they've run a couple times, but Ball gets blown up in the backfield. Blackman is forced to improvise and gets taken down for a loss. Ball might have been expecting a double team with Saunders here.
Tyler, L punt 55 yards to the SU28, downed. 4 7 FS17
Drive Summary: 3 Plays, 3 yards, 2:05 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 03:16. 1 10 FS25
Blackman, J sacked for loss of 5 yards to the FS20 (Robinson, A.), clock 02:55. 1 10 FS25 12 Pistol Play action with Kelly as a pulling blocker to take out the backside rusher. Syracuse brings six rushers. Blackman steps up, but gets sacked. He might need to get rid of this ball earlier, or at least throw it away with pressure in his face.
Akers, C rush over left tackle for 10 yards to the FS30 (Bennett, P.;Franklin, Z.). 2 15 FS20 11 Pistol Stretch run against a three man front means FSU has a bunch of OL in open space as blockers. Akers cuts this back to the inside and gets a good gain. This might have gone for longer had Akers been able to follow blocks to the outside.
Timeout Syracuse, clock 02:23. 3 5 FS30
Blackman, J slant pass incomplete to Murray, N, dropped pass, clock 02:20. 3 5 FS30 11 Gun Quick slant to Murray in the open space between zones, but Murray can't catch this. This is a good adjustment by Blackman against the blitz, as he gets absolutely clobbered after the throw.
QB hurry by Slayton, C.. 4 5 FS30
Tyler, L punt 46 yards to the SU24, Riley, S. return 21 yards to the SU45 (Izzo, R). 4 5 FS30
Drive Summary: 3 Plays, 5 yards, 1:10 used.
THIRD QUARTER
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 15:00. 1 10 FS25
Blackman, J at QB for Florida State. 1 10 FS25
Akers, C rush right for 5 yards to the FS30 (Williams, M.), clock 14:42. 1 10 FS25 11 Pistol Stretch run to the field side. Leonard is pushed back so Akers is forced to take a longer path. Good double team from Izzo and Murray.
Akers, C rush up middle for 2 yards to the FS32 (Bennett, P.;Coleman, K.), clock 14:07. 2 5 FS30 12 Pistol Inside zone. Saunder is beat, so Akers is forced to stutter step and find a different path. This brief hesitation allows the DL time to penetrate and stop him for a short gain.
Blackman, J slant pass incomplete to Murray, N, clock 13:35. 3 3 FS32 10 Gun Incomplete slant to Murray. Jimbo said Matthews stopped running on his route, but if he kept running he would drag a defender with him and allow Murray to get open.
Tyler, L punt 38 yards to the SU30, fair catch by Riley, S.. 4 3 FS32
Drive Summary: 3 Plays, 7 yards, 1:32 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 09:30. 1 10 FS17
Blackman, J middle left pass complete to Murray, N for 8 yards to the FS25, clock 09:10. 1 10 FS17 12 Pistol Curl route to Murray. Ball might need to be a bit higher, but Murray makes a good adjustment and makes the catch.
Akers, C rush right for 1 yard to the FS26 (Valdez, A.;Williams, R.), clock 08:39. 2 2 FS25 12 Bunch Counter concept with Izzo as a pulling blocker. Good penetration from Syracuse up front disrupts this run, unfortunately.
Akers, C rush left for 15 yards to the FS41, 1ST DOWN FS, out-of-bounds, clock 08:26. 3 1 FS26 12 Bunch FSU running hurry up again. This time it's a toss outside to Akers to the field side. Syracuse is out of position here. Great blocks by Lane and Izzo spring this free. It's almost like running hurry-up and catching the defense out of position against superior athletes is a good strategy to use. Huh.
Blackman, J middle left pass complete to Gavin, K for 5 yards to the FS46 (Williams, R.;Fredrick, C.), clock 07:48. 1 10 FS41 12 Bunch Play action off the same formation. Looks like Blackman is looking deep originally, but checks it down to Gavin with pressure in his face. Good decision. Izzo might have been his primary read here.
Blackman, J middle left pass complete to Gavin, K for 14 yards to the SU40, 1ST DOWN FS (Fredrick, C.), clock 07:26. 2 5 FS46 12 Pistol Same curl route from Gavin. Good throw from Blackman, he gets this ball out before Gavin makes his turn. Good timing between the QB and WR.
Blackman, J rush quarterback scramble for 5 yards to the SU35, clock 06:53. 1 10 SU40 12 Pistol Blackman pumps and is forced to scramble with pressure incoming. Jimbo said in his coaching show that Blackman worked the wrong side of the field here, which is why he was forced to scramble. From the television angle, it looks like Gavin is open on the curl route (on the side Jimbo wanted him to work on) because the CB comes on a blitz.
Akers, C rush up middle for 3 yards to the SU32 (Franklin, Z.;Coleman, K.), clock 06:06. 2 5 SU35 12 Pistol Inside run. Blitzing LB takes the attention of Leonard and Izzo, which frees up a man to make the tackle on Akers.
Akers, C rush right for loss of 1 yard to the SU33 (Bradshaw, S.), clock 05:50. 3 2 SU32 12 Bunch Toss to the field side to Akers. Murray misses a block here and Akers is tackled for a loss. Jimbo said he should have blocked down.
Blackman, J sideline pass complete to Izzo, R for 5 yards to the SU28, 1ST DOWN FS (Thomas, J.), clock 05:10. 4 3 SU33 11 Gun Looks like Ball and Kelly get tangled with a defender and both go down, leading to a free rusher. But Blackman finds Izzo on the out route for a good fourth down conversion. Izzo does a good job of fighting off the defender and getting open.
Akers, C rush left for loss of 4 yards to the SU32 (Bennett, P.), clock 04:15. 1 10 SU28 11 Gun Stretch to the field side. Both Murray and Lane miss blocks here and it's an easy tackle for loss to Syracuse.
Akers, C rush left for loss of 1 yard to the SU33, fumble forced by Franklin, Z., fumble by Akers, C recovered by FS TEAM at SU33, out-of-bounds. 2 14 SU32 11 Gun Delayed give to Akers with Minshew as a pulling blocker. The freshman cuts this run to the outside with a lot of bodies around the line of scrimmage. He fumbles, but the ball rolls out of bounds so FSU retains possession. Lucky bounce.
Blackman, J crossing pass complete to Gavin, K for 1 yard to the SU32 (Franklin, Z.), clock 03:39. 3 15 SU33 11 Gun Mesh concept, with Murray and Gavin running mesh designed to get Gavin open. Murray is supposed to occupy the middle defender to free Gavin up, but it looks like the ball arrives a little early which allows the defender to make the tackle. Throw this pass a split second later, after Murray takes away the linebacker and Gavin is running free.
Aguayo, R field goal attempt from 49 GOOD, clock 03:10. 4 14 SU32
SYRACUSE 17, FLORIDA STATE 24
Drive Summary: 13 Plays, 51 yards, 6:20 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 02:15. 1 10 FS37
PENALTY FS false start (Lane, E) 5 yards to the FS32, clock 02:15. 1 10 FS37 C'mon, Ermon.
Blackman, J screen pass complete to Akers, C for 18 yards to the 50 yardline, 1ST DOWN FS (Fredrick, C.), clock 02:03. 1 15 FS32 21 Pistol Designed screen to Akers. Leonard gets a good block on an incoming defender to set up this play. Blackman also sells the screen well. From there, it's a few good blocks by the OL in space and Akers picks up a first down.
Akers, C rush toss sweep right for 6 yards to the SU44 (Williams, R.), clock 01:29. 1 10 FS50 21 I Toss sweep outside to Akers with Vickers faking the FB dive. Good block by Leonard in space. Jimbo mentioned that Akers needs to stay outside on this run.
Blackman, J middle left pass incomplete to Lane, E (Bradshaw, S.), clock 00:59. 2 4 SU44 12 Pistol Comeback route to Lane, but the ball is a bit low for Lane, who was playing safety not too long ago. Jimbo was adamant this was defensive pass interference. Good pickup in pass protection by Akers.
Blackman, J flag pass incomplete to Gavin, K, clock 00:54. 3 4 SU44 11 Trips Gavin is running open on the corner route, but Blackman just misses him. Jimbo mentioned that Blackman needs to make this throw. Can't miss these kind of opportunities. Hit Gavin here and it's either a massive gain or a touchdown.
QB hurry by Coleman, K.. 4 4 SU44
Tyler, L punt 33 yards to the SU11, fair catch by Riley, S.. 4 4 SU44
Drive Summary: 4 Plays, 19 yards, 1:28 used.
FOURTH QUARTER
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 13:27. 1 10 SU49
Blackman, J deep pass incomplete to Nabers, G, clock 13:21. 1 10 SU49 22 I This is the play Bud mentioned on the Nolecast. This play is designed to go to Izzo, who is wide open in the middle after everyone else clears out. Nabers, Murray and Saunders all run deep routes to clear out the middle of the field for Izzo. But instead, Blackman throws a deep shot to the backup fullback.
Akers, C rush over left end for no gain to the SU49 (Coleman, K.), clock 12:57. 2 10 SU49 22 I Counter concept with Izzo and Nabers as the lead blockers. Nabers doesn't get a good block on the outside defender, so Akers cuts this run inside for no gain.
Blackman, J deep out pass incomplete to Murray, N, QB hurry by Robinson, A., clock 12:29. 3 10 SU49 21 Pony Leonard can't hold his block long enough and the DE breaks free to put pressure on Blackman. Izzo and Murray are both somewhat open, but the pressure causes Blackman to sail this ball between the two receivers. Looks like he tried to get it to Murray, if anyone.
Tyler, L punt 42 yards to the SU7, Riley, S. return 3 yards to the SU10 (Jackson, J;Warner, L). 4 10 SU49
Drive Summary: 3 Plays, 0 yards, 1:06 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 09:33. 1 10 FS37
Akers, C rush left for 12 yards to the FS49, 1ST DOWN FS (Williams, R.), clock 09:18. 1 10 FS37 21 Bunch Very well blocked, per Fisher. Nabers chips on the DE and then gets to the second level. Lane takes out the CB. Akers sees the hole and cuts upfield before running over a dude for a first down.
Blackman, J middle left pass complete to Lane, E for 28 yards to the SU23, 1ST DOWN FS (Foster, E.), clock 08:47. 1 10 FS49 21 Bunch Lane finds the soft spot in the zone between two defenders and Blackman hits him for a short gain initially. But Lane, not three weeks removed from practicing at safety, makes a man miss and hits the open field for some good yards after the catch.
Akers, C rush right for 4 yards to the SU19, out-of-bounds, clock 08:24. 1 10 SU23 21 Bunch Sweep to the field side for Akers. Akers does a good job of reading the blocks and stretching this to the outside instead of cutting upfield.
Akers, C rush left for loss of 4 yards to the SU23 (Williams, M.), clock 07:56. 2 6 SU19 22 I Counter concept with Nabers and Izzo as lead blockers. Syracuse sells out against the run here. A missed block at the line of scrimmage allows a lineman to come free and make the tackle for loss on Akers.
Akers, C rush right for 2 yards to the SU21 (Bradshaw, S.;Coleman, K.), clock 07:14. 3 10 SU23 20 Pony Sweep to Akers. Syracuse does a good job of blowing up this run initially from the pressure of the DE, but Akers bounces around and does some things to get a short gain. Jimbo said that this play was run so they could stay inside field goal range.
Aguayo, R field goal attempt from 38 GOOD, clock 06:48. 4 8 SU21
SYRACUSE 17, FLORIDA STATE 27
Drive Summary: 6 Plays, 42 yards, 2:45 used.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 02:54. 1 10 FS47
Blackman, J rush right for 8 yards to the SU45 (Bennett, P.), clock 02:40. 1 10 FS47 22 I Naked bootleg, perhaps designed to be a dump off pass to Izzo. But with the TE covered, Blackman tucks this and runs for a good gain. Jimbo mentioned that Blackman needs to stay inbounds on this play.
Timeout Syracuse, clock 02:40. 2 2 SU45
Rasul, A rush left for 1 yard to the SU44 (Franklin, Z.). 2 2 SU45 22 I Inside zone, but Syracuse has good penetration to get pressure in the backfield immediately. Rasul is forced to bounce this to the outside and he does a good job of putting his head down and staying inbounds. Good situational awareness.
Blackman, J rush for no gain to the SU44, fumble by Blackman, J. 3 1 SU44 22 I Bad snap from Eberle and Blackman is forced to dive on the ball to retain possession. Horrible way to end the offensive series as you're trying to run out the clock.
FLORIDA STATE drive start at 01:57. 4 1 SU44
Timeout Florida State, clock 01:32. 4 1 SU44
Tyler, L punt 26 yards to the SU18, downed. 4 1 SU44
Drive Summary: 3 Plays, 9 yards, 0:34 used.