While Tate Rodemaker starting at quarterback will dominate the headlines, Florida State Seminoles’ football’s defense still had a game they needed to show improvement in. The ’Noles also got edge rusher Joshua Kaindoh back from injury, but didn’t have Robert Cooper for the day.
We’ve got notes for the three levels of the defense below, but right away Jacksonville State didn’t hesitate to attack FSU’s boundary over and over. While they didn’t get a three-and-out, the defense did force a punt on the Gamecocks’ first drive. However, on JSU’s second drive the Gamecocks marched down the field and ran a well-designed jet counter run to, you guessed it, the boundary, which scored and put the ’Noles behind 14-0 early. A Rodemaker pick-six on FSU’s first drive shouldn’t penalize the defense, but the second drive should.
The rest of the first half was a mixed bag. As halftime approached, the defense was giving up an awful 6.4 yards per play to an FCS team, who also had 21 points. JSU’s quarterback Zerrick Cooper was 10/11 for 93 yards. Jacksonville State just kept attacking the boundary all game long and FSU still hasn’t found an answer for it.
In the second half Marvin Wilson returned from his targeting suspension. JSU reaffirmed their commitment to exploiting the boundary players and FSU’s lack of communication on the boundary to switch. ASJ rotated at corner there. Safety Renardo Green had good position on a fade corner in the end zone but held the receiver, resulting in a first and goal.
Nursing a ten-point lead, who else but Asante Samuel, Jr. picked off Cooper to get the offense the ball back with about seven minutes left in regulation. Samuel has shown tremendous recognition and ball skills in zone coverage this season. The defense did tighten up in the second half, and the offense might deserve some credit for that. They found a way to control and move the ball, which helped by keeping the defense off the field.
Overall, the defense struggled to contain an FCS offense, even if it’s one with more FBS talent than most. This game never hit garbage time until late in the fourth quarter. They gave up an awful 8 yards per pass, but did hold the Gamecocks to 60 yards rushing on 21 attempts. Cooper finished 20/24 for 191 yards passing. Perhaps the key to the game was limiting JSU to just three of nine third-down conversions.
Defensive notes and observations
- Against an inferior opponent FSU finally got more (relatively speaking) pressure and disruption in pass game, but JSU tried to counter with RPOs. Run defense was a mixed bag. Kaindoh back and played well. This front 7 got their first sack of season on JSU’s third drive (may have technically been a one-yard gain), which ended in a punt. Fabian Lovett had a good play on 3rd and 3 on another drive, kept arm free and made tackle to force punt. Made an impact, brought energy to DL. Much better play on the edge than what we’ve usually seen this season - Amari Gainer involved here with Kaindoh. But DL was unable to stop JSU from running it in at the goal-line before halftime. Griffin is slow off the snap, but shows effort. Janarius Robinson got a bad roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter. Mike Norvell spoke to Robinson afterwards. Derrick McClendon didn’t have a good game.
- Coverage struggles continued. ‘Backers struggled to stay in passing lanes in RPOs. Run fits appeared to be inconsistent, but will need closer re-watch. DJ Lundy saw his first action, had a couple good run fills. Gainer and Stephen Dix still appear to be the future of that unit, they just need more reps.
- Jarrian Jones started at boundary corner, but Asante Samuel, Jr. also saw time at boundary throughout the game. Poor leverage from corner on JSU first touchdown on jet counter. Jones with bad penalty on special teams. Cyrus Fagan badly played a ball in the air on a jump throw. Could not locate football against a shorter receiver gives up huge play to put JSU in scoring position in second quarter. Green had a good run fill in the 3rd quarter but committing DPI in end zone. Jarvis Brownlee got a good hit against Cooper. Blitz by Samuel off the boundary in 3rd quarter helped result in a sack; Samuel got a beautiful interception late in the contest. Akeem Dent didn’t play well. Between the linebackers and the secondary, giving up 8 yards per pass is awful.