Florida State lost its season opener to Boise State, in part due to a poor defensive effort and a terrible second half on offense.
But in his first start of the season, James Blackman — for the most part — looked sharp and poised.
The redshirt sophomore completed 23 of 33 passes (69%) for 327 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in the game. All three scores came in the first half of the game, two of them being plays of over 20 yards.
It was a tale of two halves for Blackman.
In the first half, Blackman completed 14 of 17 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. In the second half, he completed 9 of 16 passes for 49 yards and no scores.
For comparison, Blackman’s 16.3 yards per attempt in the first half would have ranked first in the nation last year, ahead of Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa. But his second half yards per attempt (3.0) would have ranked last in the country.
Blackman’s passing chart from the game shows the impact that Kendal Briles has on the offense.
FSU is looking to get the ball to its playmakers at or behind the line of scrimmage quickly. Briles is also not shy about taking shots downfield. Six different receivers were targeted on passes of 20+ yards down the field.
Two of Blackman’s touchdowns came on short completions. The first was a quick pass to Gabe Nabers in the flat and the second came on a screen pass to Tamorrion Terry.
Blackman was mostly efficient in the short to medium range, but was inefficient passing down the field. Keyshawn Helton, Keith Gavin, Ontaria Wilson, D.J. Matthews and Tamorrion Terry were all targeted on incomplete passes 20+ yards down the field. The two completions were to Helton (a touchdown) and Warren Thompson.
As a testament to Briles’ offense, Blackman threw very few passes into traffic. Briles’ offense focuses on getting receivers open down the field, and FSU was able to take advantage of this, for the most part. Blackman only had three incompletions on passes shorter than 20 yards.
Blackman was 8-9 on throws behind the line of scrimmage — the only incompletion coming on a rushed screen play early in the game. Making these easy throws, regardless of their outcome, is intended to keep the defense on its heels and the offense in rhythm.
These screen plays are low-risk, high-reward plays. Just look at Terry’s touchdown catch-and-run for an example.
While Blackman was inefficient on downfield throws, expect Florida State to keep trying these plays on a consistent basis. It only takes one misstep from the defense for a guy like Thompson or Terry to break free for a long gain or a touchdown.
Plus, FSU will often have better athletes at receiver than the defense has at cornerback. If the offensive line is not going to give Blackman much time to scan the field for his second or third reads, taking these downfield shots is a chance you have to be willing to take.
All in all, there’s not much to complain about with Blackman’s performance versus Boise State. Although FSU lost, the sophomore showed poise and accuracy in his first start of the season. If he can keep up this level of play, Florida State’s offense will benefit immensely.