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Defensive observations from FSU’s win over Duke

Safeties shine as ‘Noles turn Duke over four times.

Don Juan Moore/Character Lines

Florida State football got back in the win column with a 56-35 win over the Duke Blue Devils. The Seminoles’ defense gave up yardage, but they wreaked havoc all night long. The turnovers and tackles for loss were enough to change the game. FSU turned Duke over four times. Here are our defensive observations from the Seminoles’ win:

  • FSU’s defense got off to just the start it needed. After a penalty on a kick return pushed Duke deep into its own territory, the Seminoles got a quick three-and-out. Emmett Rice, who was Florida State’s captain, made a big tackle for loss on the first play. Stephen Dix Jr. broke up a third-and-medium pass to get the Seminoles off the field, resulting in good field position for the offense.
  • Hamsah Nasirildeen scratched and clawed his way back from injury to play this season. He saw his first action against N.C. State, but got his first real reward today. After playing limited snaps in Raleigh, Nasirildeen was unleashed against the Blue Devils after three weeks off. The senior was in the right spot on a high throw and tipped ball, as the football fell in his hands for his first interception this season. The defense put the offense in great spots to produce early on, something they’ve been battling most of the season. Nasirildeen also led the team with nine total tackles.
  • Brendan Gant has had a tough season between injuries and his play on the field. Gant made his best play of the season early on in the second quarter. The defensive back made an acrobatic interception, after getting pushed off by a Duke TE, he caught a juggling ball while falling down to the ground. The interception got FSU’s momentum back, as Duke was just starting to fight back into the game.

Gant got the Seminoles off on the right foot in the second half, as well. The safety ran a long way on third and short to lay a big hit on Chase Brice, jarring the ball loose, allowing Amari Gainer to recover. It was a game-changing play and set the tone for the rest of the game.

  • Travis Jay added to the highlight reel plays with arguably the best catch of Florida State’s season. The safety made a one-handed, leaping snag on an errant Duke throw. The interception showed off the athletic ability of the former 5-star. Jay finished the night with three tackles. The safeties set the tone throughout the night for Florida State.
  • Joshua Kaindoh was a playmaker off the edge in the run game. Often, Kaindoh disrupted run plays, forcing them in the opposite direction. He showed off his length throughout the night, while cutting off Duke’s outside runs. He led the Seminoles with 1.5 TFL.
  • Big plays (specifically broken run plays), have bit Florida State all year. In the first half alone, the Blue Devils had four big plays on the ground. The second went for a 64-yard TD, as Mataeo Durant went virtually untouched. Durant also broke off a 39-yard run later in the second quarter. We’ve heard multiple times that it only takes one missed assignment for a play to break, and the MAs continued for Florida State against Duke. FSU’s defense simply isn’t good enough to have MAs or selfish plays.
  • The offense put the defense in bad spots in the second quarter, but they also didn’t help themselves out much. Missed assignments and penalties were a large reason for a big Blue Devil quarter. When they got the good field position, they executed. Duke posted 174 yards of offense in the second quarter alone. Almost all that work was done on the ground, as they averaged 8.3 yards per carry for 165 yards.