Doak Campbell stadium filled up pretty early, teeming with Florida State fans excited to see Willie Taggart’s improvements on what was a beyond disappointing 2017. Despite drizzly conditions, optimism abounded. And then the 24-3 loss to Virginia Tech began.
FSU looked overmatched early, as Tech picked on a weak Seminole linebacking corps and short cornerbacks, as we figured they would. A prompt 75-yard touchdown drive for VT, a Florida State fumble by Nyqwan Murray, and a Hokie field goal saw the stunned ’Noles quickly behind 10-0. FSU responded, but Keith Gavin dropped a deftly thrown pass from Deondre Francois in the end zone, and Ricky Aguayo missed a 32-yard field goal. What should have been a 10-7 game with momentum on Florida State’s side remained a shutout.
Red zone issues plagued the Seminoles all night— when they could get there. FSU moved the ball alright through most of the first half, but in four trips inside the VT 20, the Seminoles managed just a lone field goal, which came on their next possession to make the score 10-3. But three points cannot be the goal for this offense— especially when it has a first and goal from the one, as was the case on the field-goal drive. Far too many nothing-plays hampered Florida State all over the field, as 35 of 63 plays (55.5%) resulted in zero or negative yards.
After its rocky start, the FSU defense played inspired football, holding VT scoreless on nine straight possession between the first and fourth quarters. However, Tech’s superb punting game tilted field position in favor of the Hokies. Tech’s average starting field position was its own 44 yard line. FSU’s? Its own 19.
But Florida State was further victimized on special teams when VT blocked a second quarter punt and recovered in the end zone to make the score 17-3 at the half. The Seminoles’ Logan Tyler punted thrice from his own end zone.
Still there was hope heading into intermission, as FSU was moving the ball. But when the Seminoles could establish some momentum, a Virginia Tech defender wound up “hurt”— one frankly comical instance occurred when a Tech lineman, following a nice FSU play, looked back to the bench before collapsing to the ground.
Then came the third quarter. While the Florida State defense continued to grind (Tech converted on just 3 of 14 third downs), the offense floundered, going backward and notching -7 total yards in the third.
Still, for all the mistakes, a fourth-quarter 85-yard dash by Cam Akers re-energized the soggy Doak crowd, and FSU was a score away from making it a one-possession game. But once again Florida State was turned away pointless after fumbling. Tech iced the game against a spent Seminole defense on the following possession, but it’s tough to overstate how well the ’Nole D acquitted itself on the night.