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Offensive observations from Florida State’s razor-thin win over ULM

It was a good offensive performance, but marred by killer mistakes.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 ULM at Florida State Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Stop me if you’re heard this before — after a spectacular start, the FSU offense stalled before shooting itself in the foot after intermission with self-inflicted errors.

Cam Akers was the hero of this game, making history and earning his ice bath while toting the ball a whopping (and quite frankly unfair) 36 times for 193 yards — a 5.4 yard per rush average — and two touchdowns. Akers also finished with five receptions for 55 yards and another score.

James Blackman was generally good, but had some mistakes, finishing 30 of 40 for 282 yards, good for 7.1 yards per attempt, with three touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions.

Unlike the Boise State game last week, the offense didn’t come out hunting for the big play. They looked to establish the run using RPO (run-pass option) action as the Seminoles leaned on Akers, while Blackman was hitting intermediate and short passes. Under RPOs the offensive line can run block, even if Blackman pulls it and throws. Run blocking helps hide how much they struggle in straight pass protection.

Despite an early injury to left tackle Jauan Williams, the sophomore signal-caller finished the first quarter completing 10 of his 11 attempts for 100 yards and one touchdown. After two possessions, FSU had two touchdowns from nine and thirteen play drives for 70 and 80 yards, respectively. They were methodical and executed well.

After a big punt return by D.J. Matthews to set up their third drive, Blackman later scored on a six-yard touchdown run on a zone-read keeper. Three drives and three touchdowns. Blackman was making good decisions, including his first designed run of the season. Akers and WR TreShaun Harrison had found the end zones. FSU was up 21-0 and in full control. They were averaging over 6 yards per play.

After that, they struggled to do much with the rest of the first half. Their next three drives went Punt, Punt, Field Goal. It was marred by bad field position and execution issues.

They were able to get the field goal off of another great return, this time on a kickoff by Keyshawn Helton, who returned it to midfield. A late flag for defensive pass interference on an incomplete third-down pass to Ontaria Wilson gave FSU new life. A touchdown to Tamorrion Terry was taken off the board, as RT Ryan Roberts was too far downfield on an RPO. Ricky Aguayo nailed the field goal, and FSU took a 24-7 lead into the locker room.

Here’s how their second half started — Punt, Punt, Pick-Six, Fumble.

Punter Logan Tyler was suspended for a violation of team rules, so Tommy Martin got the start. He responded, booting his first punt of the second half 58 yards, which Asante Samuel Jr. downed at the one-yard line. On the next drive (and with good field position), Blackman’s arm was hit as he was throwing on third down. The defense responded by forcing a ULM fumble, giving the offense another chance. Unfortunately, a pass rush helped force a miscommunication between Blackman and Terry that resulted in the aforementioned pick-six.

On the ensuing drive, Blackman hit Keith Gavin on a short pass in the flat, and Gavin fumbled while trying to gain extra yards. Yet another unforced error. ULM took advantage and scored again.

After starting 21-0, FSU was now up just 24-21. The ’Noles had to have been feeling that Boise State déjà vu. At this point, you’re concerned about their state of mind. But right when the offense had every reason to quit, they kept fighting.

Still, a couple drives later, Blackman threw his second interception on an athletic play by a Louisiana-Monroe linebacker, after which ULM completed the comeback by scoring to give them a 35-31 lead. However, that interception was sandwiched by two more touchdown drives. First, Blackman hit Matthews for a seven-yard strike. It came after an amazing play by receiver Wilson where he seemingly juked out half the ULM defense, but was unfortunately called back due to an offensive offsides penalty on Cam McDonald. An obviously gassed Akers quite literally singlehandedly willed FSU down to a goal to go situation to put FSU in position to score.

After the interception (and with just six minutes left in regulation), Blackman hit Akers on a well-timed screen pass to retake the lead. Blackman floated the ball over the Warhawk pass rush, and Akers somehow rumbled 44 yards for a touchdown to put FSU up 38-35. He even had enough energy left to lower the shoulder on the last defender, and it was refreshing to see that winning attitude from someone in Garnet and Gold.

Louisiana-Monroe was then able to tie the game on a field goal, and the Seminoles took over with 1:30 left to go in regulation. They couldn’t get it done. Then, they possessed the ball one last time with just 0:10 left, but Akers was ushered out of bounds 20 yards from field goal range, sending the game went to overtime.

The ’Noles lost the toss and were forced to go on offense first. Once again, the home team (wisely) leaned on Akers, feeding him three more times, and he obliged by scoring on 3rd and 1 from the ULM 4.

On their ensuing drive, ULM also found the end zone, but fittingly, the extra point attempt sailed wide right, gifting FSU a 45-44 victory. The ’Noles seemingly won by default.

But the offense still put up 45 points. They finished with a respectable 5.6 yards per play. The pass protection wasn’t always good (per usual), but OC Kendal Briles schemes guys open, and the running game was more than respectable (thank you, Mr. Akers). The Seminoles scored seven times (six touchdowns) on 15 possessions. They had 501 yards of total offense and 30 first downs and converted 10 of 19 on third down (a major improvement from last week). They can move the ball. They just have to stop making unforced errors.