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Why you shouldn’t — yet should — be upset with FSU’s garbage-time play vs. Syracuse

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(These are not the reasons you’re looking for.)

North Carolina State v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Y’all are mad. And you probably should be after a 5-7 Florida State season in 2018 and a current 4-4 record in 2019. But getting upset about what happens when a victory is already in hand? Responding negatively after a dominant win over a conference opponent that smoked you last year? Why?

The answer for (too) many of you is simple: you weren’t happy with how the Seminoles wrapped up their homecoming romp over the Syracuse Orange. Let’s recap: FSU dominated the game and scored late in the third quarter to enter the fourth up 35-3. That’s garbage time— which should be welcomed words to a fanbase that has had to suffer through way too many close encounters, especially against lesser competition.

But they’re there over and again: gripes about a 14-0 Orange finish in the last quarter that resulted in a 35-17 final score— which still meant that the ’Noles covered handily, by the way. The FSU win was never in jeopardy, but some think that garbage time should be “finishing time.”

That sounds great. But it’s a flawed premise.

The reason you’re in garbage time is because the contest is already finished. In this case, “finishing time,” for FSU, was the game’s first three quarters. Garbage time means that there’s no reasonable way for the losing team to come back. But when a losing team starts scoring like it hasn’t through most of the game, many fans’ follow-up is simple and fair: why not just keep doing what you were doing?

And that leads us to the first of two primary garbage-time goals: don’t lose the game; don’t facilitate a miracle.

You’ve got the win in the bag— so keep it right there. What makes for a miracle comeback? Explosive plays that put points on the board quickly. And those are usually accomplished via downfield passing. So why did three of Syracuse’s six chunk rushes come in the fourth quarter? Primarily because FSU was in full-on pass-rush mode, protecting against the big downfield throw, as it should have been (and was all game, successfully).

Optics matter for every college football team, but they matter a lot more for some than others. And Florida State isn’t a College Football Playoff contender that needs to worry about game control (remember those infuriating, glorious days?). The Seminoles need wins, plain and simple. They’re in no place to concern themselves with style.

So if giving up some garbage-time points means preserving a comfortable victory, then yeah, don’t turn your nose up at that. Permit a rise of your opponents’ floor in exchange for limiting its ceiling.

Let them run— while also running the clock.

Secure easy Ws whenever — and however — you can. Because the easy ones are few and far between. FSU isn’t usually afforded the luxury of garbage time these days.

For this reason, you shouldn’t be upset with Florida State opening up rushing lanes in favor of going after the passer late, and you shouldn’t lose any sleep about those late ’Cuse TDs, because they never put the game in jeopardy.

Which brings us to the second garbage-time goal: don’t lose future games.

This is where we get into why you should be upset about how the Seminoles handled garbage time. But probably not for the reasons you think.

Injuries don’t watch the clock, and they don’t keep score. Why the ’Noles were still playing so many starters so late into the foregone conclusion against the Orange is beyond me. Josh Kaindoh, Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, Keyshawn Helton, Ontaria Wilson: all FSU starters lost for the season due to freak injuries that could happen on any play, to any player. Has fate not been tempted enough?

Beyond that, there’s everybody’s favorite rule: targeting. Getting ejected for targeting in the second half of a game, regardless of the score or situation, means a player will miss the first half of the next game. And targeting calls have become so unpredictable that one certainly need not apply any malice or ill-intent to be tossed. Simply playing football can result in a disqualification for the first half of a player’s next contest.

So. Get. Them. Off. The. Field.

Players carry over from one game to the next. Points do not.

Or merely ask yourself this question: while you badly wanted your Seminoles to pile it on ’Cuse, like the good old days, and put up a huge number that SportsCenter wasn’t gonna show anyway, would you really want that if it meant a season-ending injury to Cam Akers or Marvin Wilson? Or another carryover suspension for Hamsah Nasirildeen?

With Miami up next?

Of course, not losing future games could be phrased more positively: win future games. And this works hand-in-hand with getting proven players off the field.

Play your young guys. With the win basically in hand, get the future of your program out there. If things go sideways, you can always return the starters, but as long as the clock is ticking and the victory isn’t in doubt, get the new blood some run.

Take the win, and leave yourself best suited to gain another next week.