Five games into the season, it is time to look honestly at what this Florida State team is.
The Seminoles never trailed against Virginia Tech, and, besides a couple of lapses of concentration, thoroughly deserved the victory. The outcome never felt in doubt, even when the score was within five yesterday. However, the game, like all the games the Seminoles played to start the year, emphasized the shortcomings within this group. While saying this, the Seminoles are still in the thick of it for a college football playoff spot, but there are obvious holes in the team that may not be filled this year.
The most significant issue this team will face is consistency, and Jordan Travis knew it from the moment he sat down at the podium postgame.
“We came out fast. We just got to stay consistent. I feel like that’s our main problem right now: not consistent with everything,”
Mike Norvell, who almost always focuses on the positives before the negatives, mentioned his team's shortcomings in his second sentence.
“Second quarter, you had some adversity that you struck in a couple different ways. You know, had some drives extended due to penalties, had a few drives stall out there offensively.”
While the second quarter became a blip in the radar, this coach knows this team has a ceiling. It is time for the fan base to understand that as well.
The inconsistency that they continue to play with will one day burn them. It maddens everyone inside the football program that this team will lose focus at the drop of a hat. There was no reason all the starters should not have been taken out by halftime and in street clothes by the 4th quarter. Instead, as Mike Norvell mentioned, the team shifted from drive to neutral, and Virginia Tech raced back into the game.
Florida State has not played above its competition since the Southern Mississippi game, which may be a feature, not a bug, of this group.
The amount of explosive plays that the defense continues to let up for offenses goes hand in hand with the inconsistency. Virginia Tech, just like the opponents before them, exploded seven run plays on the Seminole defense, which kept them in the game when they did not belong. The stats on these explosive runs versus every other run play are beyond belief. Virginia Tech, on their seven explosive run plays, rushed for 145 yards on seven attempts. On their other 28 rushing attempts, they gained 64, an average of 2.3 yards per rush. The trend continues as Clemson and Boston College each ran for over 90 yards on big run plays and were stymied for most of the game. When the Florida State defense attacks downhill and plays within the scheme, any team in the country will struggle with them.
However, for reasons I think they do not know themselves, they will take plays off at a time that will result in massive gains that do not need to happen. Their rush defense has been phenomenal this year, especially against running backs. There is no need to turn guys loose on the ground game multiple times per game. Without a fix to this issue, the offense will continue to sit on the sidelines while the defense gets worn out throughout the season.
Patrick Payton said it best yesterday, “The first mindset with every team we play, no matter who we play, is first thing we do is stop the run. Don’t let a team come in our house and just run the ball.”
It is time to start living up to this expectation.
First Thought: Jordan Travis continues to ball
The stats could have looked prettier, and the Heisman campaign may be a bust, but #13 seemed as fresh as he had all year yesterday. He threw with great precision and zip in practice, which carried over to Saturday’s game. Some of the throws he made were not easy. The 30-yard pass to Destyn Hill looped perfectly into the receiver’s arms, but he threw that on the run rolling out of the pocket. He finished the day with a completion percentage of 75% and a rating of 162. Not bad.
The most notable stat on the day for the Seminole signal caller was his work in the running game. After parts of the Clemson game where he looked uninterested in using his legs, Travis tucked and ran ten times yesterday; the most carries in a game he has had this year. Mike Norvell let Travis scamper so often on Saturday because he knew his starter was back to full strength.
“Yeah, I feel amazing,” Jordan Travis said, smiling yesterday, “Got hit today and didn’t feel too good, but I feel good right now.”
The Seminoles will need Jordan Travis to put on the cape multiple times as the season wears on, but getting him back 100% out of the bye seems like an excellent place to start.
Second Thought: Welcome to the Party Defensive Ends
The worst-kept secret throughout this Seminole roster was the downplaying of concern on their pass rush. The talent at the position has not matched the production to start the season, and some fans were beginning to get anxious. Well, everyone can relax now, as it seems Patrick Payton and Jared Verse are finding their stride. They each made massive impacts on the game yesterday, combining for nine total tackles yesterday and 3.5 tackles for loss. They were disruptive, fast, and flew off the ball. The Virginia Tech offensive tackles did not have an answer for their ability to bend around the edge and how they both can go from speed to power and vice-versa.
They both met with the media postgame yesterday and continued to harp on the fact that they continue to improve each week and are not finished products. However, when these two are playing their best, watch out.
Third Thought: Mike Norvell vs. ACC Refs
In a more lighthearted moment of yesterday's press conference, Mike Norvell just smiled at a question about Byron Turner’s roughing the passer call. His face told 1,000 words. For what it is worth, I believe he did rough the passer in 2023, but it does not take away from the fact that the head coach feels his team is owed some calls. Florida State was flagged 12 times yesterday and continued another one of its negative trends to start the year. The coach, clearly frustrated, let the officials have it during points of the game yesterday, which led to some introspection after the game.
“Some of the things that showed up, I mean, I want an explanation, and so I voiced an opinion. I got to do a better job of making sure, even in voicing that opinion, that as a leader of this football team, I have to make sure our guys are staying focused on things they can control.”
The Seminoles' lack of discipline almost hurt them at multiple points during yesterday's game. Everyone needs to learn from the penalty markers as they were called for numerous false starts, roughing the passer, and received a sideline interference warning in the 4th quarter. Mike Norvell loves his teaching moments, and his team will have plenty to work on in the yellow flag department.