Florida State has basically had two home-openers in 2019. The impromptu one against Boise State, forced by Hurricane Dorian, and today’s scheduled game against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. Unfortunately for Seminole supporters excited for a fresh start this season, they’ve been exposed to two very similar home-field collapses. This one just had a little better ending.
This looked a lot like the opening of the Boise State game, as the ’Noles again came out with spears blazing on offense. But whereas last week featured quick-hitting big plays, the attack against ULM was more methodical, more deliberate, as FSU scored touchdowns on its first three possessions for the second consecutive game. Drives of nine, 13, and seven plays, respectively, saw Florida State grab a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
But the defensive issues were more masked than solved early against the Warhawks, who hurt themselves early on, dropping several balls and not completing their first pass until their third possession. The Seminole LBs are still not triggering quickly enough and taking on blocks, and they struggle with their depth in coverage.
Still, FSU’s defense forced four straight punts and held on a fourth-and-goal to open the game. ULM got a TD on its final first-half drive, but after Florida State added a field goal to make it 24-7, its real enemy showed up: halftime adjustments.
Yet again, the Seminoles looked utterly outthought — on both the sidelines and on the field — after the break. FSU started like this in the second half: punt, punt, pick-six, fumble (your weekly, inauspicious Keith Gavin appearance).
FSU then scored its first second-half points of the season, bookending another James Blackman INT with a pair of touchdowns, as Cam Akers largely put the team on his back. Florida State fans have plenty to be angry about: but Akers was great — and record-breaking — in this one, more than redeeming himself after a critical fumble last Saturday. An absolute workhorse, Akers rushed 36 times for 193 yards and two TDs, while also catching five balls for 55 yards and another score.
But there was only so much he can do— especially when he can’t get the ball because the FSU defense can’t get off the field. Outdoing the Seminoles’ start, Louisiana-Monroe authored four consecutive touchdown drives in the second half, while converting 57% of their third-down conversions after the half.
And the blame doesn’t just fall on the linebackers. The secondary, filled with highly touted recruits, played worse as the game wore on, and the defense didn’t cause much havoc in the UL-Monroe backfield, registering just two tackles for loss, a lone sack, and one QB hurry.
ULM came up just short on a fifth-straight second-half TD, but it did get the field goal it needed to tie the game at 38 and force overtime after outscoring the ’Noles 31-14 in the second half.
The Akers show continued in extra time, as he scored on third and goal to give the ’Noles a 45-38 advantage. But ULM QB Caleb Evans walked in untouched after just two snaps, as the FSU defense remained unable to make a big play. Ultimately, Florida State just got lucky: the ULM extra point sailed wide right. FSU 45, Louisiana-Monroe 44. Final.
The Seminoles scored more than 30 points just thrice all of last season, and they’ve surpassed that mark in each 2019 game, so far. But it’s worth asking: if the D continues to disappoint, can the offense continue to overcome the defensive shortcomings?