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FSU routs Southern Mississippi: Postgame analysis from the first home win of 2023

The Seminoles dominated Saturday night and improve to 2-0 on the season

Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

Expectations met and raised at the same time.

Florida State won by 53 points Saturday night, but fans and coaches still wonder if plays were left on the field. The Seminoles' offense had a blistering touchdown drive on their first possession and finished the first half with 31 points.

However, miscues still caused some fans to show worry: dropped balls, a slow start to the run game, and getting behind the chains on first and second down. During his media availability, Trey Benson mentioned that the FSU offense still “hasn’t played their best game.” Jordan Travis and company did a lot of things well, and the individual talent of this team was on full display.

Travis, Keon Coleman, and Lawrance Toafili took turns wearing the Superman cape during the first half, and the offense seemed to overpower Southern Mississippi.

Mike Norvell kicking an onside kick in the first half and going for it five times(!!!) on fourth down speaks for what he thinks of his defense. They can be truly special. At one point in the first half, USM had more penalty yards(80) than total yards (70). The secondary blew a couple of coverages in the first half, but when they were playing bump-and-run man coverage, they looked comfortable, and there were few places for Billy Wiles to go with the ball.

It also helps when the first seven are in the backfield in almost every play. The defense finished the first half with 5 QBH and a couple of sacks on only 13 pass attempts from Billy Wiles. They continue to rotate bodies along the defensive front and continue to get home. Jarrian Jones put an exclamation point on the performance with a pick-6 to start the second half as the defense smothered USM all night.


Let’s start with the good. Florida State puts talent on the field every Saturday that can compete with any team in the country. Most of their stars put on highlight reel displays last night. Jordan Travis looked like prime Lamar Jackson on two fourth-down plays, Keon Coleman became an Olympian in front of our eyes, and Trey Benson remains one of the biggest portal heists in recent memory. When the offense is sputtering, and the team needs a spark, being able to turn to a player and say, “Go make a play,” will keep FSU in games. Mike Norvell went deep into the playbook last night and put a lot of actions on film that he did not do last week. I counted they went to the slow-mesh twice last night and even went to LT in the wildcat. The Seminole community was looking forward to seeing the true Mike Norvell playbook. Now that he coaches this group of athletes, he provides something new weekly. He can only do this if he trusts the group up front and even down two starters; they did an admirable job in this one. Jordan Travis was only sacked once, which was more on the QB than the O-line. They continued to prove how athletic they were, constantly getting downfield on the extended run plays and keeping the play alive on those Jordan Travis wonder plays. Every practice, it gets brought up that they are 8-deep, and proved that on Saturday.

There should not be complaining when FSU wins by 53, but some themes are starting to become trends. The first half looked a lot like the first half against LSU. The offense, at times, became predictable against the Golden Eagles. Quick pass for little yardage on first down, run to make it third and manageable on second, and throw a contested down-the-field pass on third. The Seminole offense had an average of 6.8 yards to go on third down, proving they were getting behind the sticks and went 4-12. With the starters in the game, FSU produced only one drive over four minutes. They put up the number of points they did because of their talent, but they needed more clean, well-put-together drives last night like they did in the second half against LSU. While being masterful with his legs, Jordan Travis tried to push the ball downfield a little more than he should have last night. Florida State loves to run a receiver on a deep in and a tight end on a shallower in-cutting route underneath that. The Seminole signal caller threw it to the receiver multiple times, making for a contested catch rather than underneath, and it is not a surprise that Jahiem Bell finished with 0 catches yesterday. In the press box, it felt after the first touchdown, they were going for the knockout punch when they could throw plenty of jabs.


The Good: Each time the defense comes onto the field, they are impressive. They have size all over the field, and they fly. Rewatch some of the highlights and multiple times, Dennis Briggs, Braden Fiske, and other defense linemen are 10 yards past the line of scrimmage chasing down ball carriers. They seem to have found something with their dime coverage look on third down, and in the last two weeks, opponents have gone 6-23 on the “money down.” Jarrian Jones may have said it best during his interview, “ We got a squad.” It looks like they do. Not only is the defense fast, but they understand what the offense tries to do. USM tried to do quick screen passes early in the game; the defense recognized it, and the plays went for little yardage or fell incomplete. On the one play, the Golden Eagles went for it on 4th down; Tatum Bethune snuffed the jet sweep, and Jarrian Jones finished off the play to cause a turnover on downs. Rarely does the pass rush get out of their rush lanes, and I know Billy Wiles is not Usain Bolt, but it says something when he has only two rushing attempts the entire game. In the last four quarters with starters playing, they gave up a combined 3 points. Oh, and Jared Verse still has no sacks on the year. Watch out.

The Bad: 1-22 Florida State stacks up with any team in the country. After that, it could get tricky. There is only a little experience for the backups behind the starters on the defense. Omar Graham took the field often yesterday, which was a bit of a mixed bag. He played well on the passing downs as the lone linebacker on the field during the dime coverage but hit the wrong gap during a Frank Gore rush on USM’s solo scoring drive of the first half. On the backend, Conrad Hussey almost brought the house down on a should-have-been interception on his first play in the game, replacing Dent. But he also is a true freshman who just came to camp in the summer, and if Dent is out for an extended period, can two new starting safeties be trusted on the back end? Take it one game at a time, I get it, but the freshman all getting playing time matters way more than the 75% of people that left Doak at the end of the third quarter give credit for.

And the ray of sunshine on this potential area of concern? FSU’s depth got a generous amount of reps against a quality FBS opponent, ensuring continued development as Norvell strives to build sustainable success in Tallahassee.

Mike Norvell and the coordinators will meet with the press tomorrow for media interviews and then back to practice on Tuesday.