Before the game, we at Tomahawk Nation were planning out our coverage. I knew I’d be taking either the offensive or defensive analysis piece, and I didn't really care which one. Finally, I told Dak Moyer that I’d grab the defense, if he wanted to take the offense. I had no real reason for doing so, but in hindsight, man am I smart.
Although I wasn’t exactly thinking that when FSU’s 24-3 loss to Virginia Tech began. The Hokies’ best drive of the night was their first, in which they drove 75 yards in 10 plays rather easily against the Seminoles. Weak linebackers and small corners: Tech exploited each in marching down the field to claim a 7-0 lead that would be all they needed. We thought that redshirt-freshman DeCalon Brooks was in line for the start at the SAM linebacker spot, but when he didn’t dress out, the role went to redshirt-junior Adonis Thomas, who was an issue, guessing at locations instead of playing assignment-sound football.
Through the air, VT used their taller WRs to pick on the Seminoles’ smaller corners early and often, as Tech QB Josh Jackson ultimately found the 6’2 Damon Hazelton in the end zone after the latter physically bested FSU’s Levonta Taylor (5’10) for the opening score. After not surrendering a touchdown all of last year, Taylor was victimized on the game’s opening drive.
The Florida State defense then became the Seminoles’ strong point, being called upon time and again as the offense gave VT the ball with great field position. Virginia Tech’s second possession began on the FSU 35 after a Nyqwan Murray fumble. Again, Jackson found Hazelton on a jump ball in the end zone, this time against Kyle Meyers (6’0). But he was just barely out of bounds, and the Seminoles did well to force a field goal.
After that, the blacked-out ’Noles turned the lights out on the Tech offense. They forced seven straight punts from the first to the fourth quarter, and then authored a valiant goal-line stand that kept FSU in the game, followed by another forced punt.
How? Filling in for Stanford Samuels III, who played sparingly and is still not quite right coming off an injury, Hamsah Nasirildeen came downhill aggressively to lead the team in tackles, with 11. Second on the squad was true freshman Jaiden Woodbey, with 9 tackles, 1.5 for loss. Woodbey’s shoulder came out of joint late in the contest, but Willie Taggart said that it was popped back in and that Woodbey will be okay. Defensive end Brian Burns played like a man possessed in the second half, as it was becoming entirely apparent that the FSU offense would need all the help it could get. Burns showed great hustle, finishing with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
And some defensive reserves really flashed. End Janarius Robinson created havoc in the Tech backfield several times— he could be in line to jump Walvenski Aime at the end spot opposite Burns. Sophomore DE Joshua Kaindoh also showed out well. And sophomore tackle Marvin Wilson, recovering from injury, should be taking over for redshirt-senior Fredrick Jones next to Demarcus Christmas in the trenches sooner rather than later. If not him, then perhaps redshirt-freshman tackle Cory Durden deserves a look; he picked up a sack as well, as part of his 1.5 TFL.
I’m not even going to get into the final VT touchdown. After the FSU offense (again) failed to convert in the red zone, the stadium was deflated, the defense demoralized. You can only ask so much of a unit that held the Hokies’ offense to fewer yards per play (4.8) than the figure turned in by the pathetic Seminole offense (5.2) while allowing just 3-14 third-down conversions.
Is there room for improvement? Always. Three sacks is too low for a defense predicated upon applying pressure in the opponent’s backfield. And you can’t just excuse away the first drive— a touchdown in the first quarter counts for just as many points as one in the fourth. Still, on a day that saw dark clouds hang above Tallahassee throughout, the defense was a lone silver lining.
Of course, this is a team game, and everyone in garnet and gold wears this loss. But let’s be honest— after conceding just 17 points (remember, 7 VT points came on a blocked punt), this is hardly on the FSU defense. In fact, a unit that was perceived as a possible concern acquitted itself beyond admirably. Florida State fans should be pleased with the effort and performance of the defense and looking forward to its future.