Well, that was too close for comfort.
Entering into the game as 26.5-point favorites, No. 3 Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC) squeaked by Boston College (1-2, 0-1 ACC) 31-29 in a sloppy game on the road in Chestnut Hill.
FSU at one point lead 31-10 but saw a 21-point lead evaporate as Eagles staged a comeback attempt that lasted until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Florida State nearly punted back to the Eagles with about one minute on the clock, but a Boston College school-record 18th penalty gave the Seminoles a first down and essentially iced the game.
Time to panic, or was this a necessary bringing back to Earth for Florida State ahead of what is arguably the most important game on the Seminoles’ schedule?
The Tomahawk Nation staff breaks down FSU’s win with five answers to five big questions.
Before we get into the bad — what did you like from Florida State today?
LSK: DJ Lundy, best game as a Seminole despite him missing some important gaps in run defense. Made two game-changing plays that were the difference between losing and winning.
Juan Montalvo: Fiske. Interior disrupters change the game, and this dude will continue doing that all year.
Tim: It was nice to see Johnny Wilson come back with a strong performance. No drops, converted catches, good overall game.
Perry Kostidakis: Not completely cratering has to count for something, even with how sloppy the overall day. FSU bounced back from that 7-3 deficit to go up 31-10, and while that lead disappeared, the Seminoles did manage to get a win in which everything (outside penalties) was going against them. How much of that adversity was self-inflicted though....we’ll get into soon.
Josh Pick: FSU needs to get Jaheim Bell more involved in the offense and did so today; he’s a major weapon. Now, you hope he’s not seriously injured. It was also nice to see a big bounce-back game from Wilson, as Tim mentioned.
Brian Pellerin: I’m with Tim and Josh. Johnny and Jaheim played well. I liked seeing Jaheim see the increased usage especially the targets around the red zone. He’s just a unique matchup for defenses that I love seeing him used in that area especially.
Matt Minnick: I liked that we started to utilize Bell in the redzone more. He’s such a mismatch against most defenses he should be getting 2-3 designed plays for him in the Redzone per game
What part of the defense concerned you most vs. Boston College?
LSK: This defense has to tackle better but I’d be remiss if I didn’t take Adam Fuller to task today for today’s defense effort. Just not good at all.
Juan: Mental mistakes. This team has shown far better in the previous 8 quarters. This was not their game. Fuller did not do them any favors by not adjusting to the quarterback run game early, either.
Perry: We’ve seen third down issues pop up throughout Adam Fuller’s tenure as defensive coordinator, but today was just bad. Cribbing from my quick hitter here, but on third down, the Eagles averaged 9.8 yards to go but still managed to convert 42.1% of their attempts, racking up 101 yards through the air (20.2 yards per completion) and 126 yards on the ground (12.6 yards per rush.) Getting the offense on the field was essential in a matchup where Boston College was doing everything it could to limit FSU’s possesions and allowing double-digit yards per play through either offense method on third down is a recipe for disaster.
Tim: Slow to adjust. Whether it is coaching or the linebacker reads, the defense is just slow at times. Insert a quarterback that can use his legs and this defense gets completely out of sync.
Josh: Not being able to get off the field in 3rd & long (brought back bad memories from prior seasons). Guys were trying to do too much, instead of playing sound football. And this team misses Akeem Dent on the back-end, even though he isn’t a star.
Matt: Bethune was downright bad today.
Brian: I really couldn’t believe the struggles on third and long. I felt like FSU was winning the early downs and then would give up a huge play on third and a dozen or more. You held the to 19 third downs and 5 fourth down attempts. But they converted 8 of the 19 (42%) and 4 of the 5 (80%). That allowed them to stack drives, keep your offense off the field and really start beating you up.
What were Florida State’s main issues on offense?
LSK: This offense is too talented to not just take what the defense is giving you. Greed is what’s stopping this offense more than anything else. The run blocking can improve too.
Juan: Execution. I’m in favor of their execution. That’s how you do it brian Kelly.
Tim: The Seminole offense found success when they attacked the field vertically. When they shifted to trying the edges or between the tackles, they found less success. But that did not stop them from trying again and again.
Josh: Jordan Travis trying to do too much, instead of taking the easy plays, which’ll set you up for bigger plays.
Matt: My biggest concern on offense, aside from the obvious about Travis’ health, is his decision making. He seems to be trying to force home run balls far too much at the expense of just taking easy 10-15 yard gains underneath and letting this team’s freakish athletes make plays in space.
Perry: With LSK here, because that’s been an issue we’ve seen throughout the year. Florida State, both personnel and staff, is so confident in the talent the team has that they’re trying to put up NCAA Football-type plays at way too frequent a pace. These athletes are talented enough that you can score a 60-yarder off a simple slant, you don’t need to get it all on one play — even if on paper, it’s possible.
Brian: The Noles were down two offensive linemen so struggles there can be expected to some degree, but they weren’t explosive in the run game at all. The longest rush came from Rodney Hill for only 18 yards. Benson and Toafili each had longs of 7 yards, averaging a little more than 3 per touch.
Who are you still waiting to see more from, on either side of the ball?
LSK: I need more from Jared Verse is one-on-one situations; his run defense has been excellent but he’s rushing the passer as if every QB runs a 4.3 Sometimes it’s time to just hunt.
Juan: I agree with LSK - Jared Verse was notably quiet today.
Tim: DeLoach and Bethune today. Boston College took advantage of their mistakes often. Whether factual or not, they appeared to be guessing too much in the game.
Matt: I need to see more from Verse — I understand he’s drawing a lot of attention which is freeing up guys like Fiske. But to me he’s playing like a top 35 pick, not a top 15 pick
Josh: It’d be nice to see FSU lean on a quality opponent with its OL and run game.
Brian: I agree with a lot of the above, but I’ll add Fentrell Cypress. Not sure if it was a stamina situation, but down the stretch it felt like there was a lot of Cypress making tackles. I think we hoped he’d be the All-ACC shutdown corner. Not sure if he’s still adjusting or if he’s been used in a different role.
Perry: I’m in agreement on Cypress too — he’s been serviceable but has yet to be a lockdown, shutdown guy that teams fear so far. The secondary overall has left a bit to be desired, but the pressure is on the guy specifically brought in to be the guy.
How much has your confidence level changed for next week’s game against Clemson?
LSK: None, this is football and even the best team in modern college football history struggled in Chestnut Hill in September ten years ago.
Brian: Very little. I’m a little concerned about the ability to run on Clemson next week if they can’t run the ball against BC. The biggest hope I draw from the game though is that Klubnik isn’t as dynamic of a playmaker in the way Dabo and the crew use him.
Juan: Very little, if at all. This is an excellent team who survived a road conference challenge on the BC Red Bandana game. Boston College isn’t good, but this team decimated LSU. Great teams in college football will stumble at times, and this was no exception.
Josh: It hasn’t. Honestly, this is a good teaching moment for the staff (even though they should shoulder much of the blame for today’s performance). I expect the Noles to be focused for 60 minutes next week.
Perry: Slightly? The three-week pattern of slow starts and not playing a complete game is a bit concerning, but not to the degree I’m flipping around my expectations for the season or on a game-to-game basis yet. Clemson will for sure come out to play (think about how DJ Uiagalelei balled out for no reason last season) but FSU still has the more complete team. They just have to play like it.
And on one, final special note
Juan: The most important thing to take away from this game is to remember and celebrate Welles Crowther. Boston College does an excellent job memorializing his legacy. Boston College coach Jeff Hafley handed Mike Norvell a red bandana at the handshake after this game - an incredible way to remember Crowther’s actions on 9/11, as he was truly an American hero.
Please read more about it here, and feel free to donate in his honor: https://www.crowthertrust.org/welles-story/