A tale of two weeks of elation and deflation with common characteristics.
Here is the win probability chart from the game at UNC.
The tale being told here is that the special teams and defensive units came up clutch early, with 10% probability added on the punt block and a Corey Durden sack adding 8%, preventing the Tar Heels from scoring and giving the Seminoles offense premium field position. This, in turn allowed the offense to capitalize on their good fortune with scores, building the lead, fueling the early rout.
However, there were certainly signs that the `Noles were playing a bit over their head, allowing the Tar Heels to creep back into the game during the second half.
Now, let’s take a look at the win probability plot from the noon game against Louisville:
Early, the offense scored on their first possession, but the defense immediately could not stop the Cardinals offense and did not make the big splash plays necessary to give the offense favorable opportunities to score.
This game by win probability was mostly over in the first half, but special teams defense did come through with some very nice plays: a field goal blocked to close the first half, as well as a punt team fumble recovery late in the 4th around the 10-yard line.
Now we will take a look at the passing performance from the past couple of weeks through the lens of Expected Points Added (EPA) and Win Probability Added (WPA). The short hand explanation of EPA is that it rewards players more for their gains in more adverse situations (in terms of down, distance, field position and time combinations) and less for gains in more favorable situations.
The Win Probability model uses the expected points as an input, as well as the score difference, number of timeouts remaining for each team in the half and the time remaining in the game.
I will go over the exact formula at a later date, but it is no secret.
Also of note: There is no split of credit given for quarterbacks and receivers, so as presented, this double counts the contributions of QB Passing and Receiving
So in both cases, we see that the quarterbacks from both opposing teams have performed positively, adding 7+ points above expectation, with Sam Howell racking up 389 yards, 3 TDs, a pick, and taking 4 sacks. Largely due to the majority of his yardage and positive play occurring during that come-back, he finished the game with a -13% WPA.
Malik Cunningham was definitely aided by his receivers, with 6 passes of 20+ yards completed, while also adding a 35 yard run, picking up two first downs with his legs.
Jordan Travis, to my eyes, played a decent game against UNC with only a handful of interception-worthy throws, while making more plays with his legs. However, against Louisville, there were several more plays that could have been turnovers, that were just off-target.
Moreover, it is a bit clearer that while his footwork and mechanics could use some work, his receivers really dropped the ball way more often than should be seen as acceptable.
Warren Thompson had a poor game, catching 1 of 4 for 33 yards, including two drive stoppers. Preston Daniel had a huge play to get Florida State off of their own goal line. I counted 5+ drops in this game.
Ontaria Wilson had a fairly nice game, catching the only passing touchdown and 5 of his 6 targets. Cam McDonald had some difficult throws tossed his way, but I thought he could have come down with at least one of them.
He had 3 pass breakups on his 4 incomplete passes, which is not completely on him, but I would have liked to see more fight for the ball. Keyshawn Helton had an unfortunate game, dropping several catchable balls and being the target on two 4th-down passes which he did not come down with.
Beau Corrales had a nice day, turning 4 catches into 141 yards and a touchdown. UNC had 5 receivers with 50-yard days and 6 receivers with multiple catches in the game.
Tutu Atwell can play. The secondary for Florida State could not contain him all day and when he touched the ball, it was a threat for 6. He had a reception for 66 yards, a 58-yard touchdown, as well as a rushing touchdown from the 2 for good measure.
Jordan Travis rushed for over a hundred yards, adding 4.2 EPA and 14% WPA (as compared to his -8% WPA passing mark). He picked up 4 first downs via the ground, in addition to his two touchdowns. La’Damian Webb also rushed for over 100 yards on just 12 carries, including a 54 yard run in the closing minutes of the first half for 2.6 EPA and also picked up 4 first downs.
Similarly in this game, Travis ran for 71 yards and a touchdown, adding 16% in win probability for 2.2 EPA. Lawrence Toafili had a reasonable game in 4.0 EPA, rushing for 61 yards on just 6 carries. In total, the ‘Noles managed 265 yards on the ground, and have had a top 12 rushing offense by EPA/Play and have only allowed three sacks in two weeks. If you’re looking for any silver lining, there it is.
Javonte Williams had a good game, picking up 6 first downs and two touchdowns (one via the air).
Javian Hawkins is probably going to the league off this performance.
In short, FSU has had some up-and-down performances over the past few games. This is to be expected, but Louisville hit their stride early and proved quite capable of taking advantage of an FSU team that has struggled to move the ball with consistency through the air.