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Contextualizing FSU football’s cleaner performance in its 2019 spring game

Sorting the laundry.

NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Boston College vs Maryland Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

By now you’ve heard plenty about Florida State’s recent Garnet and Gold Spring Game. We’ve discussed the performance of some new Seminoles, as well as how Kendal Briles’ offense looked.

Part of the latter was certainly the smoother manner in which the Seminoles’ offense operated. Bud and Ingram discussed it on the most recent Nolecast: the ’Noles made far fewer mental errors than they did last year, as they were flagged for a total of 6 penalties during the scrimmage.

And yes, it was only a scrimmage. And just a lone scrimmage, at that. As far as sample sizes go, they don’t get much smaller and insignificant. So while it’s all we have to work with, let’s not go nuts here. But when we say FSU operated more efficiently, what exactly does that mean, and how does it compare to last year?

During the 2018 season, FSU was whistled for 9.2 penalties per game— the most among the 130 FBS teams. Where would a six PPG average have placed the Seminoles? Right around the middle of the pack, tied for 64th.

That may not sound great, but remember that this is a category in which teams don’t necessarily want to be No. 1. Because not all penalties are created equal. Certain offenses, like holding or pass interference, happen all the time, and a team getting away with a few here and there can gain a big competitive advantage. So they can be worth the risk. Alabama averaged 5.8 PPG in 2018, tied for 55th.

Florida State’s big problem in 2018 wasn’t just the quantity of penalties— it was the nature of those penalties. Procedural offenses like false starts, illegal shifts and motions, etc. don’t stand to achieve any on-field advantage. They just put the offense behind the chains and extinguish any momentum that may have existed.

And that may be the best news about the flags FSU did draw on Saturday: only one was a procedural mistake, and that flag was thrown on true freshman offensive lineman Dontae Lucas, who looks quite promising.

This team has a number of areas in which it needs to improve, and perfection isn’t the goal in any of them. Fallibility is ubiquitous, but the Seminoles will be in better shape if they can not only err less, but at least relegate more of their mistakes to those that have a prospective upside.