Facing off against the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday, Florida State stormed out to 22-0 lead in the first quarter and looked to finally be putting together a full performance for the first time this season.
While the Seminoles advanced to 5-0 on the season with a 22-point win over the Hokies, there were still some flashes of the issues that have plagued the team all season long from inconsistencies on offense to an inability to finish off drives on defense.
What takeaways are there to glean from the win? The Tomahawk Nation staff discusses below.
What is keeping this Florida State from being fully dominant?
NoleThruandThru: Having seen how FSU played today following a bye week, I’m starting to wonder whether this FSU team will ever be able to put together a dominant effort over four quarters of football. Some teams just aren’t built that way regardless of how talented they may be. Maybe that’s a trade off with so many transfers and so little practice time, I don’t know. I’m resetting my expectations for this year. Rather than expecting FSU to dominate, I’m adopting the “a win is a win” mantra (as much as that mantra bugs me).
Jon Loesche: In hindsight we all set our expectations of this team too high after the LSU win. LSU isn’t the national championship contender they were hyped up to be. If there is a most glaring weakness, I think it’s been Jordan Travis. Whether its injury or he’s just in his own head too much, he’s been having too many moments where he’s not stepping into throws confidently and hitting deep balls like he was last year.
Evenflow58: Players. You have elite talent at RB, WR, TE and DL. Good talent at QB and ok talent everywhere else by and large. I think Jordan Travis has regressed some this year as he is struggling with the long ball. It used to be the thing he was best at but too often balls are underthrown or not on target. The OL is good a pass blocking but this is really the first game they’ve show up in the run game. The secondary is a bit disappointing. They aren’t bad but they aren’t as good as I was hoping they’d be. I think they are trending towards improvement in a lot of those positions but they aren’t there yet team wide.
Perry Kostidakis: Jordan Travis said it best in his postgame presser — consistency. FSU is just as liable to reel off three touchdown quarters as it is to go scoreless over the course of 15 minutes. The Seminoles keep scratching the surface of what they’re supposed to look like but have yet to put together an entire dominant performance, and that can be pinpointed to 3-5 plays a game where FSU had a chance to fully put its stamp on a win but due to failures in execution, keep allowing teams back into games.
Juan Montalvo: Themselves, execution. This group is extremely talented but can’t seem to put a game together. That’s fine, you try to survive the season and hope things come together over time. A game like this is frustrating from an exerting dominance perspective moreso than a potential loss perspective.
Where did FSU take a step forward this game, on either side of the ball?
Jon Loesche: Responding to adversity. Game is going exactly as you expect in the 1st quarter only for ACC Refball and a major special teams gaffe to let Virginia Tech right back in the game. There were times over the last three years FSU just rolls over and dies. Instead they roll off 17 unanswered to win comfortably.
NoleThruandThru: Conrad Hussey killed a guy. Jared Verse had two excellent sacks. Trey Benson looked outstanding with his confidence and decisiveness and on that 85-yard TD, he looked like Dalvin Cook. I can see improvement in Kyle Morlock’s confidence and route running. Omar Graham looked better today, especially in a few coverage situations. Maurice Smith had one of his worst games as a Seminole but a few other OL had better games today. Johnny Wilson was having a strong game before his injury. But these are all individual observations and I don’t feel confident in saying the team is taking steps forward.
Evenflow58: I’m happy with what they did on the ground despite the defense they played against. I don’t know that it’s enough to be a step forward though. I have to see how it plays out. Was this a blip on the radar or did they figure something out there?
Juan: Maybe resilience, if anywhere? They seem to find a way to get back on track, even if that’s largely driven by having multiple dudes who can change the scoreboard. I think this team is largely who they are. They can probably play with anyone, but can’t seem to put a complete game together.
Perry: Getting the run game going was a bit of a gimme in this matchup, but man did they get it popping. Trey Benson was back to his highlight ways — logging two career-long touchdowns in one game is a pretty good way to get your groove back.
Is there a solution to the Seminoles’ third-down woes?
Jon Loesche: Unless the offensive line gels over back half of the season I don’t think there is any magic bullet.
Evenflow58: No, but I don’t think it’s as bad as people think it is. This is an offense that’s hunting for big plays. In all likelihood you’re going to run into some negative plays doing so. The bet is that you have a lot more big plays than negative plays. 39 points is the most Virginia Tech has given up on the year. FSU has scored either the most or second most number of points against every team they’ve played this year. I know fans are frustrated with the offense in the second quarter but they only really had two possessions and while those possessions weren’t great, they were only two out of ten (I’m not counting the end of half/game possessions for the sake of this discussion as they aren’t super relevant). On the other eight possessions they scored five touchdowns and a field goal.
NoleThruandThru: If FSU can find a receiver to step up in the slot or get more creative with the TEs or RBs in the passing game, it will open things up some more. It’s frustrating to see Jordan Travis constantly give up safe plays for shots at big plays, but I can’t totally blame him when no one seems able to step up in the slot. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jaheim Bell in the slot more often.
Juan: Reps in practice and then execution in the games. It’s that simple. I don’t subscribe to the 3rd and Fuller idea, this whole team clearly can’t get things over the finish line in key moments. Gotta rep it in practice and then do it in games.
Perry Kostidakis: In the same vein as Evan, I think the lack of possesions is exacerbating the issues. It looks like FSU is pressing for points on occasion because Norvell and staff are cognizant of the new game clock rules and how well teams have limited Florida State’s possesions. The solution, put way more simply than it’s actually going to take, is getting into a comfort zone as teams continue to force the issue. As for defense, there are a bunch of things to pinpoint but I think the easiest to adjust to is broken tackles and poor angles.
Through five games, what’s your take on FSU’s offense?
Jon Loesche: When its hot, its arguably the best unit in college football. Unfortunately due to the OL issues, Travis being injured, and Coleman being the only truly reliable playmaker it is prone to going cold.
Juan: One of the most talented skill groups and quarterbacks in the country. Intensely explosive. Can change the scoreboard on any down. Just need to piece it all together on a more consistent basis. Kind of the team theme as well, so far.
NoleThruandThru: The only thing stopping FSU’s offense is still FSU. Jordan Travis did a nice job on some scrambles but it’s clear that he’s concerned about taking too many hits because he’s quick to slide, sometimes giving up 3-5 yards. The OL still has stretches where they really struggle, and we still don’t have any answers at slot WR. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of Jaheim Bell.
Evenflow58: It’s good but not as good as I thought it would be. JT and the OL’s regression has hindered the output but at the end of the day it’s probably not as far off as people would have expected otherwise. It’s really good but not elite. I think the path to becoming elite is JT figuring out the long ball. If he can throw those balls more catchable I think fans will be a whole lot happier.
Perry: Full of explosive talent, searching for complete identity. Norvell’s offenses are built on establishing the run, but the skill players the Seminoles have able in the pass game almost force the hand to prioritize feeding them. There’s been no shortage of points, which makes the knowledge they’re capable of a higher level of success that more frustrating.
Did this win give you any new info on this team?
NoleThruandThru: Not really. I don’t really understand Jaheim Bell’s lack of involvement on earlier downs. I’m incredibly disappointed in Fentrell Cypress. The defensive substitution strategy is still puzzling at times. I will say that it was nice seeing Mike Norvell tear into the ACC referees today. I know it’s not his style, but it was long overdue. The refs were atrocious in the 2nd quarter and Azareyeh Thomas got robbed of an incredible interception. The poor officiating altered the course of the 2nd quarter and gave VT some life. Frustrating but not unexpected.
Evenflow58: I was happy to see them run the ball. Yes, VT is bad at run defense but they struggled against everybody so it was nice to see them have some success. I don’t know that that answers any questions but it’s a good data point.
Perry: Yes, in the way that it solidified my impression of them — they’re a good, borderline great team, that is talented enough to not let flaws become fatal. It can hang steady in moments of adversity but a good chunk of those moments are self-inflicted.
Jon Loesche: Not really. This was an ACC Refball Special against a really bad team. Just be happy with the win and move on to next week.