Through 30 minutes of play, FSU’s defense looked to largely be a mess.
The second half, mostly, flipped that on its head as the ‘Noles only allowed seven points after halftime. Part of that was LSU being a bit sloppy in their execution, but part of that was the Seminoles ratcheting up the pressure.
Let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong for the Seminoles vs. the Tigers.
What went right
The Florida State defensive line played very well on the night. Time after time, defensive tackles got penetration up the middle to disrupt the plays. No less than three times, tackles pulled down powerful LSU ball carriers with just one arm. While it took him a while, Jared Verse got in on the action, forcing an incompletion that might have gone down as a sack with a different review crew.
Even if he garnered no statistics, the transfer from Albany was certainly the concern of the LSU offense, and you just can’t do that against FSU. Verse routinely took on chips and double blocks, allowing players like Joshua Farmer, Braden Fisk, Fabien Lovett, and Dennis Briggs Jr to dominate one-on-one matchups. You could pretty much name a DT that saw time, and they had a very good play at least once.
That pressure in the trenches helped play a major part in FSU’s success on key downs — for the night, LSU was just 3 of 13 on third and fourth down, leaving plenty of points on the field due to FSU’s disruption.
What went wrong
The Florida State secondary, on the other hand, was a mixed bag. Was it an issue of learning on the job or not quite gelling correctly? That is a question for a future game, but through one game, you can’t be super happy after their work there. There is certainly talent in the secondary, as they showed plenty of times, but there didn’t seem to be a great understanding of where they should be both in the phase of a receiver and in relationship to the rest of the defense.
Fentrell Cypress wasn’t terrible, but many fans will be left wanting more from him after one complete game. LSU has a very good receiving corps, so maybe he was just a victim of that, but he consistently felt one step slow on a lot of routes. He certainly has the brain you want from that position, as he was instrumental in getting players lined up in FSU’s three fourth-down stops.
It felt like the FSU secondary wanted to limit big plays but didn’t tackle well. That makes a certain amount of sense with the defensive line FSU is deploying, but you’d like to see a more challenging approach to force interceptions. FSU’s offense should be good enough to weather a few long touchdown passes, but that only works if you are aggressive and fail, not if you just fail to tackle or are out of position.
None of this is to suggest the FSU defense is bad. Fans wanted to see defensive coordinator Adam Fuller act more like his days at Memphis, and he did. Florida State showed blitzes, overloads, late line movement, and all sorts of games to confuse the LSU offensive line, and it worked! The question going forward is, did the FSU secondary figure out their roles in the second half, or did LSU just not execute?