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Offensive observations from Florida State’s loss to NC State

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A young signal-caller gets his first nod.

ehyman@newsobserver.com

No Tamorrion Terry. No Jordan Travis. No Devontay Love-Taylor.

True freshman quarterback Chubba Purdy made the first start of his young career tonight, and did so with only five scholarship receivers available (Helton, Williamson, Wilson, Thompson, Poitier). Purdy’s start also marked the first time since 1985 that FSU has started four quarterbacks in a single season.

Could a depleted Seminole squad do the unthinkable and knock off a conference foe on the road?

The answer is a resounding no, as this is simply not a competitive team right now.

Offensive unit notes and observations:

Quarterback: Only scholarship QBs available were Purdy and Tate Rodemaker. Purdy is clearly still very raw at the position. Just paying attention to how this staff is treating him with this gameplan, he is clearly way behind in learning the offense. They are not challenging him or asking him to do anything difficult. All quick throws with schemed open receivers, nothing deep, everything underneath. Also, liberal use of wildcat with RBs. Pretty disappointing but not surprising. This whole team needs another full off-season. Rodemaker was an early enrollee, so he likely has a much better grasp of the offense. Unfortunately, putting him in so you can open up the offense also opens you up to more risk because what you were running with Purdy was so safe. Legitimate questions about Rodemaker’s arm strength, much less his ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes. This offense simply can’t move the ball without Travis’ legs right now, and Travis can’t stay healthy.

Skill position: Only five scholarship players at WR, a position that has been a huge disappointment this year? Yikes. Jashaun Corbin got the start at RB, not La’Damian Webb or Lawrance Toafili, which is head-scratching. Though Corbin is a good zone runner. Warren Thompson continues to disappoint. He’s a good blocker but he simply can’t catch. Reports are that TE Cam McDonald was mostly in on special teams, though did see the field more in the second half. In the doghouse? The WR room needs to be rebuilt. Webb played more in the second half, his balance is really good.

Offensive line: FSU’s starting offensive line was Darius Washington, true freshman Thomas Shrader in his first start, Mo Smith, Baveon Johnson, and Robert Scott. Dontae Lucas was available but did not start. The quick-throw gameplan also has a bit to do with the offensive line, which has taken a noticeable step back with Love-Taylor’s unfortunate season-ending injury. Rolling the pocket helps out the pass protection. Johnson with another procedural penalty and just overall playing poorly. Lucas did play but had a horrible personal foul penalty that killed FSU’s first drive of the second half. Both Lucas and Baveon are huge liabilities with their penalties. The offensive line didn’t play poorly in this game, but they weren’t good either. Smith’s snaps have been poor, just way too many slow snaps tonight.

Drive notes and scheme observations:

FSU is usually very good and sharp on scripted drives. But that’s not the case this time, as another procedural false start penalty killed the drive. The playcalling did not test or challenge Purdy’s abilities, but maybe Mike Norvell will open it up as the game gets going. As we’ve seen most of the season, FSU made use of unbalanced formations.

Taking over on their own 10-yard line after a fourth-down stop by the defense, Norvell opts to run Purdy, which is interesting. Maybe to settle him down. Darius Washington hurt, which is devastating — FSU can’t afford to lose both their starting OTs. Brady Scott comes in. Norvell rolling Purdy out of the pocket, still using lots of unbalanced formations. Use Corbin in Wildcat ZR to hand off to Ja’Khi Douglas. Seminoles go for it on their own 31-yard line on 4th and 1 and Corbin in Wildcat doesn’t get there. Would have liked another RB with more power there.

FSU going with Wildcat a lot. What does that say about faith in Purdy? When Purdy is in it’s a ton of quick throws, everything underneath, a very watered down and simplified offense. Not asking Purdy to do anything advanced. You’d think Purdy would run the same offense Travis was, but they aren’t. Got to think that Purdy is still quite a ways behind in learning the offense. The offense eventually stalled, helped by a drop by Warren Thompson, and FSU kicks 3. Again, lots of Wildcat and quick throws, trying to scheme guys open for easy reads. At least there will be no shutout.

Running clear out digs for the WRs over and over this whole first half, gives Purdy quick throws. But they aren’t working and FSU goes 3&out.

One last drive with 90 seconds before halftime. Purdy gets replaced by Rodemaker. Rodemaker with similar quick short passes, but takes off for a first down. Washington down again but again walks off under his own power. Shrader gets whipped for a sack, and then on 2nd and 17 Rodemaker gets intercepted as a defender reads his eyes and jumps the pass.

At halftime FSU’s offense has 98 total yards at an abysmal 3.5 yards per play and 2/7 on third downs. Purdy is 5/8 for 29 yards and Rodemaker is 3/5 for 19 yards.

HALFTIME

Purdy starts the second half. Takes a shot downfield on the sideline but just out of bounds, but the attempt itself is noteworthy. Lucas gets flagged with a personal foul that kills the drive on a play that Purdy otherwise would have had a first down on a scramble. Three 3&outs in six possessions. FSU simply can’t move the ball without Travis’ legs and Travis can’t stay healthy. Still, this drive ended because of Lucas.

Webb starts this series. FSU is 2/9 on third down but FSU goes for it again on fourth down at their own 42-yard line. They convert on a roll-out pass. Unfortunately on the next series FSU hits 4th and 5. FSU again goes for it at the 50-yard line and again converts. Purdy looks more comfortable this drive, and they’re asking just a bit more from him, but still overall safe stuff. They hit another 4th and 1, and come out in an unbalanced formation in the wildcat with Corbin and Corbin hits the inside zone for a 29 yard run for a touchdown. FSU goes for two with jet motion flood concept with Rodemaker at QB on a rolling pocket, but turns into a throwback to the backside that ends up incomplete and nearly intercepted. Then FSU takes a timeout on the kickoff?

Got a look at Purdy’s ability to scramble, but he holds the ball really low when he runs and he fumbles into a 4th an 1. Corbin converts again on a 4th and 1. FSU is 2/12 on third down but 5/6 on 4th down. At start of fourth quarter Webb fumbles. FSU tries a deep shot play with Purdy, but NC State get a coverage sack. On third and long Purdy scrambles and is far short. On 4th down Purdy just arms it off-balance on his back foot despite a clean pocket and FSU turns it over on downs.

Down 35-9 Purdy finally connects on a long 69-yard pass to Ontaria Wilson. With trips to the boundary FSU runs a switch verticals by the No. 1 and 2 receiver to that side with an overall 4 verticals play and Wilson ends up wide open as the Wolfpack bust the coverage. Purdy sees Wilson and hits him for the big score. Unfortunately, it’s far too little to late to make a difference in this one, but it is just the seventh second-half touchdown this season, so that’s worth something. It is also FSU’s seventh touchdown pass this season.

Purdy much faster to just tuck it and run with the game clock winding down, and picking up huge chunks of yards on the ground. With a defensive penalty FSU gets into the red zone and score on a fade to Thompson. A two-point conversion fails.

Final stats:

FSU finishes with 350 yards of offense with 150 of those rushing with a 4.3 yard average. Purdy and Rodemaker were a combined 18/28 for 11.1 yards per completion. Overall, the offense had 5.6 yards per play, which isn’t great but is adequate in conference play. However, they were 3/14 on third down and and 5/7 on fourth down. Not surprising when you’re facing an average 3rd down distance of over 9 yards.