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Florida State vs. Syracuse: Offensive breakdown, analysis

FSU finally puts up 30 points for the first time since ND, and secures their first win of the season.

FSU football

TALLAHASSEE: The Florida State Seminoles will try to avoid a historical 0-5 start to the 2021 season as they host the 3-1 (0-0 ACC) Syracuse Orange. After scoring 38 points in the season opener against Notre Dame, Florida State’s offense has since failed to score more than 23 points. Can they find a way to put up 30 points today?


  • FSU gets ball after early stop by the defense. Jordan Travis gets the start. FSU opening early with tons of screens into the boundary. Why, you may ask? Easy pitch and catch. One of the few routes where receivers can get open (because the play design gets them open). Blocking on the edge is iffy. But then FSU can come back with counters to that in both run and pass game. Malik McClain has a really bad drop. ’Noles go for it twice on 4th down and convert both times. Very odd play on 4th and 2 where Syracuse rushed 3 and dropped everyone else in coverage, like they knew FSU was going to pass, which they did. Really weird. FSU gets into the red zone and stalls again like they have all season. Three-man rush from Syracuse gets home to Travis on 3rd and long. This OL is a disaster in pass protection — 3 man rush and then they green dog blitz a LB. Travis does what he can, but guys were open and Travis didn’t have a chance to get them the ball. Jashaun Corbin still running great. Travis with 8 completions for 25 yards (oof). FSU settles for 3, but still gets points on the board first!
  • FSU starts off a forced turnover on downs by the defense. FSU isn’t running Travis, but they do roll him out on third down. Nothing open, runs and doesn’t quite pick it up. But if they won’t run Travis on designed runs, it really limits the upside you were expecting to get with him as the starter.


  • FSU goes to the screen to the field but it’s called back for a hold on Cam McDonald. The call is awful, it was textbook block. Then ‘Cuse gets to Travis again rushing 5. That sets up 3rd and 20, and Travis bails on the play to rush for a couple and then a punt. This offensive line is really bad in pass protection and it’s a completely different offense if Travis can’t run. Robert Scott is really struggling. FSU averaging 2.5 yards per play.
  • Travis throws a terrible pass that McDonald grabs off the turf and then Travis misses Andrew Parchment on an open deep ball. Then FSU runs a QB draw with Travis who picks up about 20 yards. Where has that been all game? FSU runs screen again (faking split zone and throwing off that action) to McDonald, great job by Travis to change his arm angle to avoid a defender. McDonald finds the endzone but kicker Ryan Fitzgerald shanks the XP and FSU goes up 9-0.
  • FSU opens this drive with a diamond bunch to the field and then a QB draw that gains nothing. Syracuse has a LB spying Travis. Corbin finds nothing on 2nd down, and then they roll Travis out on 3rd and long to his weak side (left) but Syracuse floods the zone and Travis tries to make something happen on the ground but nothing is there. FSU punts.
  • 2:30 before halftime, FSU runs the same screen to McDonald. A floating interception by Travis is negated by defensive holding. Good design on throwback screen. Next play Travis bails on a pocket, but draws a late roughing the passer penalty. FSU running screens to Treshaun Ward, including one to him from that same diamond bunch formation as earlier. Then next play they run the counter to that play, Travis fakes the screen to Ward on the same formation and then throws his best ball of the day on a strike to Keyshawn Helton for a score. Fitz hits the XP this time and FSU goes up 16-13 with 36 seconds before halftime.

FSU 16, Syracuse 13

Half-time stats

  • Yards per play: FSU with 4.2, Syracuse with 6.3. FSU 1/7 on third down but is 2/2 on 4th down.
  • 3/3 on Redzone attempts.
  • 154 total yards of offense. Just 47 yards rushing and averaging 2.9 yards per rush.
  • Travis 17/21 for 107 yards and 2 TDs. Corbin has 6 rushes for 20 yards.


  • FSU starts 2nd half with the ball. Running trips to the boundary. Travis misses a tight throw on a third down slant and ’Noles go three and out. Mike Norvell constantly coaching Travis on the sidelines after drives.
  • Corbin is explosive. Counter play breaks him for 15 yards. They hand to Corbin again for another first down. Travis breaks the pocket on 3rd and 9 and it’s executed well to Helton on a comeback to set up 1st and goal. Toss read to boundary and Corbin can’t break a tackle. On 3rd and goal a busted screen turns into a fumble (thrown backward as a lateral) as Ontaria Wilson alligator arms it and Parchment picks it up and runs it into the end zone. Parchment blew his block for Pokie.
  • Pokie, instead of fair catching a punt, tries to run before he secures the ball and he muffs it. Syracuse gets the ball.
  • Thanks to a goal line stand by defense, FSU’s offense starts backed up inside the 5. Travis freezes and then takes off on 3rd down. FSU ran “Tosser” or double slants, and the outside slant is almost always open. Here it is too to Kentron Poitier but Travis won’t pull the trigger and FSU punts.


  • Travis just refuses to throw in rhythm, but takes off for 11 on 2nd and 15. Ward cuts it back on a power run and goes for 65 yards and sets up 1st and goal. Ward has a great burst but can’t quite generate that home run speed. Corbin blasts it in on the next play and FSU goes up 30-20.
  • As the telecast notes, FSU has 5 plays of 60+ yards, tied for first in FBS. This staff can coach up explosive plays, and Ward and Corbin are playing exceptionally well.
  • FSU runs the screen again and a Syracuse DB has had enough and he jumps it and picks it off. McDonald, who is responsible for blocking him, doesn’t even get a hand on him.
  • Tie game at 30-30: can FSU’s offense win the game? Turns out the answer is no, as they punt with about 3 minutes left in regulation. So it’ll be up to the defense to win.
  • Defense gets a stop! so FSU gets the ball back with 63 seconds left and all three timeouts. Again — can FSU’s offense win the game? FSU sets up the same screen they’ve run all day and run a screen to the other side as a counter to that play. Also utilizing tempo. But again Travis won’t throw and takes off; Travis tightropes, somehow, and runs for 20 yards into Syracuse territory. 3rd and 7 with 19 seconds left: Syracuse sends a blitz and Travis escapes (FSU gets extremely lucky with a no-holding call on Darius Washington) for a first down. 9 seconds left: FSU goes heavy and centers the ball for the field goal and calls their last timeout.
  • Fitzgerald nails the 34-yard field goal for the win!

Final Thoughts

This isn’t a good offense. It doesn’t have a lot of talent. And today, the talent it did have couldn’t always do what it wanted to do. Travis especially, whose running wasn’t the centerpiece of the offense like it has been in the past. But this was a gutsy win. And Syracuse remains winless in Tallahassee.

End-of-game stats.

  • Yards per Play: 5.5 for FSU, 6.2 for Syracuse. 378 yards of total offense.
  • Finished 6/15 on third down, but 6/6 in the red zone.
  • Just three penalties for 30 yards.
  • 247 yards on 37 carries. Travis was the leading rusher with 113 yards on 19 carries. Ward had 2 carries for 66 yards and Corbin had 65 yards on 14 carries.
  • Travis finished 22 of 32 for 131 yards, 2 TDs, one interception.
  • FSU is now 1-3 in one-score games this season.

Offensive MVP:

Has to be Travis, right? He was FSU’s offense today. Travis wasn’t impressive in the passing game, but he gained the yards on the ground when FSU needed them. Honorable mention goes to Ward, who sprung a couple explosive plays. And for as much as the offensive line struggles in pass protection, they did their job in the running game.