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What went right, what went wrong on defense for FSU in ugly win over Boston College

The Seminoles escape Chesnut Hill with a victory after plenty of lapses

NCAA Football: Florida State at Boston College Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone breathe.

After some bonehead plays and questionable decision-making by both sides, the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles survived a scare in Chestnut Hill, beating Boston College 31-29 in a thriller (for all the wrong reasons).

The defense, at best, could be described as a mixed bag. After giving up an opening drive touchdown, Adam Fuller’s group settled in, and BC finished the first half with 10 points. However, after going up by 21, the whole team seemed to unravel, and the defense looked out of sorts.

FSU miraculously came away with a victory and left a whole lot to unpack.

What went right

Although it sounds like the sky fell in Tallahassee, Florida State ultimately produced some positive results.

DJ Lundy made the play of the day on defense with a crucial interception, and Kalen DeLoach covered plenty of grass, especially in the first half, with multiple tackles for loss in the run game. Although it felt that BC ran all over the Seminoles, they only averaged 3.7 yards per rush (4.5 when adjusting for sacks), and Robichaux, on 21 carriers, only finished with 64 yards. The BC starting running back’s longest run on the day was 8 yards.

It is hard to take positives when Castellanos ran all over them, but the linebackers did their part in getting off blocks, tackling in space, and making their presence felt.

Believe it or not, the defense was disruptive on occasion today and forced negative plays. Boston College attempted 19 third-down plays today, proving the Seminoles were getting ahead on first down. Florida State was in the backfield most of the day, corroborated by their ten tackles for loss. Florida State ran run blitzes constantly, resulting in a 15% havoc rate. When Florida State did not create a big play, it felt like they were punished, and Boston College made an explosive one, but it is important to note they did not get rolled the whole day.

Jared Verse, to start the year, has not yet put up the numbers every pundit expected. His impact continues to be felt throughout the game. He forced a holding call, finished with 1.5 tackles for loss, and his effort was on full display, constantly running sideline to sideline. Every coach plans around No. 5, so he continually faces double teams and chips. His attitude and effort continue to jump off the screen, and the numbers will soon follow.

What went wrong

Where to begin? The defense looked like the group we saw in the first two weeks after the Lundy interception but melted down in the second half. Three themes plagued the ‘Noles and allowed Boston College to almost spoil a magical season in week 3.

Florida State every Wednesday does situational football with a focus on third down and red zone but the Seminoles may need to add an extra day of work. Boston College finished 12-24 on what FSU deems cash downs (3rd and 4th downs) and continually gave up 3rd and longs, including conversions of 20, 10, 10, and 17 in the final 7 minutes of the fourth quarter. Multiple times, it looked like Florida State started to close the door, only for Castellanos to scramble and bust it wide open. The inability to get off the field resulted in exhausted defensive linemen who were poor in their pass rush to end the game and an offense that became all out of sorts. Florida State scored on all of their possessions in the first half. Sounds good. Except they only had three possessions, and BC possessed the ball for 18 30 minutes. To see an aspect of the game that the Seminoles thought was a strength and turned completely upside down is a massive concern.

Earlier, I mentioned that the Seminoles produced plenty of negative plays and disrupted what Boston College wanted to do. The flip side is that Boston College finished with a 17% explosive play rate (run plays over 10 yards, pass plays over 15) suitable for the 99th percentile. Boston College receivers averaged 15 yards a completion with a quarterback FSU recruited as a wide receiver. Most of the Eagle offense came from these back-breaking explosions and kept them in the game. The strangest part is that Adam Fuller designed his defense not to give up the big play. The Seminoles were in zone and placed two safeties back for most of the game, and it was still bombs away. This trend did not show up in Florida State’s first two games, so the coaching staff must discover the reason for the regression.

The media asked players and coaches if they felt comfortable playing against a dual-threat quarterback after facing Jayden Daniels all week. They all had the same answer: they were two different players, which was a new challenge.

Florida State looked like they did not know quarterbacks could run.

Castellanos finished the day with 95 yards on the ground (118 yards after removing sacks), and that still feels like a low number. His scrambling kept drives alive, and the play-action bootlegs on the opening drive were why the Eagles sprinted down the field for 7. FSU doubled down on their inability to get off the field by turning Castellanos loose as his four longest runs of the game came on third down.

Florida State over-pursued and did not have good gap discipline all afternoon, and Boston College took advantage. From top to bottom, there were major concerns with how the Seminoles performed. It needs to be clarified why FSU regressed on Saturday within the meeting rooms and quickly addressed.