The Seminoles rushing attack has struggled to this point. FSU just hasn’t gotten the production that was expected heading into the year, especially with such a loaded backfield. As a team, FSU totaled just 76 yards on the ground against Louisville. With 31 attempts, that’s a measly 2.5 yards a carry.
On the contrary, Florida State’s passing game exploded in the second half, leading some to believe that the ‘Noles should be more pass happy moving forward. Offensive coordinator Walt Bell maintains that the numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story, and the reason for explosive passes was partially due to their commitment to the run game. Although, Bell admitted better execution is needed from the offense as a whole to make the ground game more effective.
“I think a lot of the reason that we’ve had some explosive passes is because people know that we are committed to running the ball,” Bell said. “Is it as productive as we want it to be right now? No. Is it getting there? It’s better. Is there still plenty of things we have to fix and get better in certain places? Absolutely. Running the football is a collective effort. It’s not just an O-line, it’s not just a running back, it’s everybody collectively executing at a really high level. Are we there yet no? Is it on us as a coaching staff to get it where it needs to be? Absolutely. We don’t hide from that, we don’t run from that, we have to improve. Again, I think part of the reason that we have been successful throwing the football is because people know that we are committed to running the football. Hopefully we can improve on that and really make this offense as good as it can be.”
Bell says that the run first formula is what will see this offense succeed, and that giving up on it now would be a detriment to the team, not only this season, but years down the road.
“We have to be able to run the football,” Bell said. “Running the football is what we do and we’re never going to give up on it. I know some people like to throw seventy times a game, but that’s not who we are and not who we’re going to be. If that’s what you allow yourself to become, it’s never going to get fixed and it’s never going to get better. Two years from now it won’t be where we want it to be if you hit the eject button as soon as it doesn’t go right. Plenty of people do that in life and things typically don’t work out for them very well. We just have to get better. We have to do what’s best for our personnel and our football team week to week, but we’re never going to hit the eject button. We just have to get better.”
It isn’t that the ‘Noles offense didn’t want to push the ball downfield early, either. Bell said the plan was to be aggressive early, but different factors, mainly penalties and defensive pressure, limited the effectiveness of that plan early.
“I’ll put it this way, we had plenty of throws called,” Bell said. “It’s whether we didn’t do what we were supposed to do or a false start, in terms of trying to press the ball down the field. Obviously it is hard to press the ball down the field when there’s pressure, which they brought an exorbitant amount of pressure in that game. Probably more than we expected, especially in early downs. But yeah, that’s what we do. We’re always going to try to be aggressive. Sometimes to our own fault. We’d love to push the ball downfield two or three times a quarter if it allows us to. Again, you have to take what’s given to you and do what’s best for our football team.”
When FSU has been able to pass, Bell attributes not only the commitment to the run for opening it up, but also the efforts of the running backs in pass protection, especially against Louisville, as a sound blocking effort allowed Deondre Francois to stay sack free on the day.
“(Pass protection) was really good,” Bell said. “From all of our running backs. Coach Pimp does an incredible job with those guys. This may be the best collective group of pass protectors I’ve ever been around. That’s attributed to Coach Pimp and those guys being committed to protecting the passer.”