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Offensive observations from Florida State’s season opening loss to Georgia Tech

‘Noles fall flat after hot start.

Keyshawn Helton celebrates after opening drive TD
FSU Sports information

After Florida State’s scripted first drive, little to nothing worked for FSU offensively. On Florida State’s final nine drives, it put up just 194 yards on 62 plays (3.12 yards per play). The Seminoles had a chance to put it away early, but dropped passes cost them, and they never regained their footing.

Florida State’s offense capitalized on an early interception from Asante Samuel Jr. with a clean and efficient opening drive. The Seminoles marched down the field on a seven play, 52-yard touchdown drive in 2:07. FSU came out with multiple two-back sets with La’Damian Webb and Jashaun Corbin.

Webb saw a lot of action lined up on the outside and in the slot, and was effective as FSU worked side to side to try and expose Georgia Tech’s weakness at linebacker. Webb went for 15 yards on three attempts on the drive. Corbin had just one carry on the drive, but it was the most important of the drive, as he picked up a second-effort first down on 3rd and three.

Camren McDonald made the big play on the drive, with a 27-yard, diving catch to put the ‘Noles inside the ten. It was also a perfect pass from James Blackman, as he threw to the open side of the field and gave McDonald room to make a play. It was McDonald’s second catch of the drive, as we saw the importance of the tight end in Mike Norvell’s offense right off the bat:

Blackman finished off the drive, rolling out and throwing into the flat for a three-yard TD pass to Keyshawn Helton. On three drop backs, Blackman felt no pressure as the offensive line stood solid:

There were many reasons FSU couldn’t get it going on offense after the first quarter. The number one reason was inconsistency with not just the play, but FSU’s available players on the offensive line. Throughout the game, four of FSU’s five starters on the OL went down with injury. The injuries were just bad luck, but Florida State’s reserves have to be at least consistent when called upon. Those injuries hurt FSU’s ability to go tempo as well as find any rhythm as a group.

Another disappointing group for the Seminoles tonight was the WR group. After the first couple drives, we barely heard from the wide receivers. The WR’s combined for just 90 yards on 10 catches. They also had multiple drops on the night.

Rest of the game

Blackman took what the defense gave him, dumping the ball off to his RB and scrambling for gains multiple times. Blackman ran for 23 yards and threw for 42 on the drive.

Freshman running back Lawrence Toafili saw the first action of his career, taking a screen for 12 yards on the first play of the drive. Corbin also showed his elusiveness out of the backfield, making a man miss on a 17-yard third down reception:

A 10-play, 61-yard drive resulted in a 37-yard field goal from Parker Grothaus.

FSU’s offense lost all its momentum on the next two drives. In their third drive, the offense quickly left the field after a three-and-out. After Samuel Jr.’s second INT of the game, the mental side fell apart for FSU.

The ‘Noles had their first shuffle in the OL, moving Baveon Johnson back to center and putting Brady Scott at RG. That switch quickly resulted in two false starts and a long third down. Despite great pass protection, Blackman made a poor decision, trying to get Webb down the sideline, but threw right to a Tech LB for an INT. It was his first mental mistake of the game, as he should’ve just thrown the ball away.

After another three and out, FSU found some rhythm in their final drive of the first half, but missed opportunities led to a scoreless drive. A perfect throw from Blackman was dropped by Tamorrion Terry on the first play of the drive, and likely would’ve been a walk to the end zone for the speedy Terry.

The ‘Noles made their way into FG territory on a Blackman 24-yard connection with Warren Thompson, and a 10-yard scramble from the QB. However, the Seminoles stayed stuck on 10 points, as Grothaus missed a 46-yard FG as time expired.

Terry started to find his rhythm after halftime, making consecutive catches, putting FSU in GT territory. FSU also converted its first fourth down conversion of the year, as Corbin played QB in the WildCat with Blackman split out wide. But the drive eventually stalled after a holding call, and a sack on third and long.

After a GT touchdown, Florida State needed a response from its offense. Once again, FSU drove into GT’s territory, but stalled due to penalties and dropped passes (sensing a them here?). Jordan Travis saw his first action of the season, as Norvell looked for a change of pace. After a first down and a few negative plays, Blackman came back in.

Blackman made one of the biggest plays of the night on 3rd and 15, as he flipped the ball to Corbin on the run for an 18-yard gain, halting the Yellow Jackets’ momentum for the time being. Once again, Norvell put Corbin into the WildCat for a fourth-down conversion, before the drive stalled with an illegal shift penalty and multiple errant throws from Blackman. The ‘Noles were able to add three points, though, as Grothaus nailed a 53-yarder.

FSU drove into GT territory on the next drive, but the offensive line injuries continued, and the sacks commenced. Devontay Love-Taylor went out with injury after a first down sack, forcing Chaz Neal in the game. Neal was immediately smoked for a strip sack, which GT scooped up and ran to the FSU 11-yard line, leading to the eventual game-winning field goal.

FSU had to have its biggest response of the night on the ensuing drive, but, once again, the ’Noles came up empty-handed. FSU drove into GT territory with a combination of Travis runs and Blackman short throws, but when faced with 4th and 3, the OL faltered. RT Brady Scott had a false start coming out of a TO, before the pocket collapsed on fourth down, forcing another Blackman scramble which wasn’t close.

After the defense got a stop to keep Florida State’s hopes alive, the Seminole offense had one last chance to break through with just under two minutes to go. Needing a field goal to tie and a TD to win, FSU started the drive on its own 17-yard line, but the ’Noles were only able to muster eight yards before turning the ball over on downs.