clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Florida State vs. NC State: Offensive breakdown, analysis

The ’Noles miss Jordan Travis in a bad way.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

TALLAHASSEE: The Florida State Seminoles football team (3-5, 2-3 ACC) will face the No. 19 North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-2, 3-1 ACC) and their quarterback Devin Leary as FSU looks to bounce back from their close defeat to the Clemson Tigers last week.

The Seminoles are currently dealing with a bad flu bug that had rumors flying of 20-25 players being out (perhaps only at practice this week) but 49 of 54 players on the two-deep are available.

However, it has hit the offense at critical positions, including quarterback and left guard, where both Baveon Johnson and Dillon Gibbons are unable to start. Brady Scott will start. At quarterback, FSU will be starting McKenzie Milton in place of Jordan Travis, as Chubba Purdy just entered the portal.


  • FSU gets the ball first, not a great decision to run the kickoff out of the end zone. Milton has 548 yards passing, 2 TDs and 4 INTs on the season. FSU comes out with trips to the field, but it’s a possible RPO pass to the sideline that’s incomplete. FSU motions to splitback where Ja’Khi Douglas moves from the slot into the backfield, but the power run is stuffed, looked like they pulled the front side right guard. 3rd and 12 obvious pass situation and NC State runs a stunt that gets a free rusher at Milton, who dumps it down short and it’s an extremely quick 3 and out that will put their defense in bad field position.
  • Wolfpack punt into end zone, so FSU starts at 20. Bad snap and Milton bails on the play, throws it out of bounds. FSU really needs to get 4 yards on early downs to stay ahead of the sticks. Milton mishandles another bad snap but gathers the ball off the turf and dumps it off. Somehow in 3rd and 6. Milton throws in rhythm on a slant to Ontaria Wilson but officials keep the flags in their pockets despite an obvious DPI. ACC refs continue to be terrible. Ball was a bit high but it was a good play design, FSU had trips with Wilson outside and he cuts inside the middle receiver to create a pick. It was there.
  • PA deep shot play to Keyshawn Helton. Milton throws into double coverage, almost picked. Two issues — 1) don’t throw into double coverage and Helton was bracketed, and 2) Helton shouldn’t be the deep shot receiver because he’s small and not explosive. He struggled to get any separation deep against Jacksonville State. Poor personnel usage. On 3rd and 8 FSU gets close but doesn’t convert. FSU must get yards on 1st/early downs to stay ahead of the chains and they’ve failed in all three drives today so far.
  • FSU opens their 4th drive with inside zone (IZ), which they’ve failed to run well all year (even against UMass) and it gets zero yards. Then FSU runs a flea flicker with trips and Kentron Poitier became open but it’s incomplete as Milton went elsewhere, setting up a quick 3rd and 10. Next play Milton throws into coverage while under pressure and it’s picked. NC State is loading the box trying to force FSU to pass, but since Milton is not a running threat like Travis it changes the numbers. But there’s no hiding that this offense with Milton is gross. Through four drives FSU is averaging 1 yard per play. If you’re Mike Norvell, how long do you try this before taking a chance with Tate Rodemaker? Or even a Wildcat offense with Jashaun Corbin?
  • FSU starts on their own 4, gets stuffed on the IZ run. 2nd down and it’s an RPO slant to Andrew Parchment, who secures it for FSU’s first 1st down of the game. Then FSU runs tempo and hits a comeback on the sideline to Parchment, finally getting yards on first down to set up 2nd and 5. FSU finally runs counter with pullers on the next play for also nothing haha. NC State dominating FSU up front right now despite their 3-3-5 defense. On 3rd and 4 FSU has 2x2, motions RB out for wheel and it’s there for a first down but Milton scrambles instead and comes up short. Milton just isn’t the same player he was before his injury. This offense needs Jordan Travis, and it’s not the coaching staff’s fault he’s not available. Also really horrible timing for Purdy to enter the transfer portal.

NC State 7, FSU 0


  • FSU does indeed open this drive with Corbin in the wildcat, but the zone run gets nothing. Milton back in, FSU goes 5 wide. Hits Treshaun Ward in stride accurately but Ward drops it, sets up 3rd and 10. Milton’s pass is touched by NC State defender, Wilson misses it, and it’s bobbled and caught by Helton for 9. FSU is 0/6 on third downs. They go on 4th down at their own 35 and it’s super close but FSU gets the 1st. FSU snaps it quick and hits jumbo tight end Jordan Wilson down the seam for a big play. Wilson was lined up in the slot in trips to the field and ran a go route to the opposite hash. Next play Corbin gets tackled for big loss on the counter run. Another pass to Ward in double coverage is incomplete. FSU cannot block NC State’s 3 down linemen and their receivers can’t get separation. 3rd and 14 and Milton holds the ball and takes a coverage sack. FSU now 0/7 on 3rd down. Huge punt by Alex Mastromanno puts NC State in bad field position.
  • FSU starts on their own 7 as the Wolfpack were successful in flipping field position. Corbin finally gets some room and picks up 7 on first down. But the 2nd down run is stuffed. 3rd and 1 and another run gets blown up, this time Milton played it like a zone read, Milton keeps and fights hard but still ends up short and it’s another incredibly quick 3 and out.

NC State 14, FSU 0

Half-time thoughts

When your best player on offense, Travis, goes out and your next two available QBs are guys who aren’t P5 starting quality and you’re facing a good opponent, this is what your offense looks like. This is likely going to be a loss for FSU and it’s not the fault of the defense or the coaching staff, even though there’s enough issues with the playcalling today to criticize Mike Norvell/Kenny Dillingham for calling a poor game on offense. But there’s only so much you can scheme around, and if you can’t throw and your receivers can’t get separation and your offensive line can’t block up front, you’re gonna struggle.

Perhaps the right way to go is to lean all the way into it and try to spread NC State out, go 5 wide with some of the younger receivers and try to get a quick passing game going. The play designs are there to scheme receivers open. But you’re not getting anything on the ground and you’re not getting any explosive plays. Try to play ball control. Or commit to Corbin in the Wildcat and try to scheme up some ways to get some movement, maybe based on what you saw in the first half.

Half-time stats

  • Yards per play: 2.8, with 78 total yards of offense on 28 plays. Absolutely terrible.
  • FSU starting field position: own 23-yard line.
  • Milton: 7/15 for 79 yards and 1 INT.
  • Third downs: 0/8 on third downs. 1/1 on 4th downs. Just three total first downs. Also terrible.
  • Leading rusher: Corbin, with just 9 yards on 8 carries.


  • NC State to receive, but FSU runs a surprise onside kick and it catches the Wolfpack off guard. FSU with great field position at their 49-yard line. Milton quick-throws to Corbin out of the backfield and it’s a first down out of 3x1 formation with trips to field. FSU runs tempo, same formation, play action, and Helton hangs on to a huge gain despite Milton throwing a hospital ball. Review for targeting is determined as no foul. FSU finally in Wolfpack territory, more PA from same formation with a shot to the end zone to Parchment and the ball is just too far out of bounds. Parchment was open. Ward bounces the run after nothing up front, fights for 4. Milton quick throws again to Ward for first down. Ward just running a curl right near the sticks. 1st and goal — Corbin gets nothing. They roll Milton out and he tries to throw to Preston Daniel in the end zone but it’s incomplete. Offsetting penalties and it’s 2nd down again. FSU with trips bunch to the field with Helton in the middle, bad snaps again Milton doesn’t do a great job managing the pressure by scrambling away from his receiving options but he throws it to a streaking Helton who came all the way across the field and it’s a touchdown. Helton bailed him out. FSU finally on the board.
  • FSU comes out in same 3x1 formation they ran a lot to success last drive. Milton takes the one on one with Parchment, who is tackled by the DB. FSU gets 4 on next first down dumping off to Corbin. Next play same formation, but it’s a curl to Malik McClain who was alone to the boundary. Pressure next play but Milton floats it to McClain for another first. Milton just trying to ID the one on one matchup. Next play handoff to Corbin who picks up another first down, finally seeing some daylight. Same formation still but now it’s a run by Milton who picks up another first. Quick throw to Parchment at the goal line, not a great route but there’s extremely obvious contact by the DB before the ball gets there and yet again the ACC refs hold the flags in their pockets. Atrocious. Wish we’d see Norvell lose his temper on the refs after that. Milton runs zone read and picks up 9 setting up 3rd and 1 on the 3-yard line. Could have run out of bounds but he stayed in to pick up a couple extra. Run is stuffed, setting up 4th down. FSU going for it. Milton runs out from under center motioning into Wildcat and Corbin takes the ball in. Daniel came across the field like split zone to take the unblocked end and Corbin cuts it back off that and rolls in.
  • So far NC State hasn’t adjusted to FSU’s formation adjustment. FSU is running the same handful of plays from it but NC State is struggling to stop it. The vertical route on the backside is likely affecting the Wolfpack’s safety play, forcing them to keep 2 high, but also giving FSU more 1v1 opportunities.
  • Milton takes lots of chances or iffy throws into coverage. 2nd and 10, same 3x1 formation with McClain alone to the boundary. Hands off to Corbin, who fights for 4 and gets smashed. Same formation, guys appear to be open, but Milton hesitates and the stunt from the 4man rush gets to Milton. Edge rusher had looped all the way around to other side, which took time. Gotta throw the ball.
  • Same formation, run by Corbin gets 7. Do it again, Parchment is the solo receiver to the boundary, Parchment runs a comeback/curl and it’s a first down.

NC State 21, FSU 14


  • Good quick pass, sets up 2nd and 1. Milton throws it away due to quick pressure. Camren McDonald open for first down but Milton throws a really bad pass 3 yards behind him. Can’t have that.
  • NC State gets ridiculous luck on the punt, 59 yards and it’s the right call for FSU’s punt returner to let it go, but it bounces straight up and FSU starts on their own 1 yard line. Quick pressure forces Milton to throw it away. FSU goes 5 wide and Milton climbs the pocket and hits Parchment for 1st. Then quick hits Corbin out in space and it’s another 1st down. More 5 wide empty, Milton scrambles and hits Helton but defensive holding will give FSU another 1st. Helton limping. Milton’s reduced ability to scramble forces him to get really deep on a scramble, makes throws longer. More empty, Darion Williamson drops it. Empty again, Ward runs a kind of shake route against a LB but he’s not open and it’s 4th down. FSU goes for it on own 43-yard line, empty again, and NC State blitzes, but defender makes a bang-bang play. Wish FSU’s receivers were more physical, and Milton had a stronger arm. Should have been a completion. But these aren’t exactly things you didn’t already know, so maybe punting was the better call. Now FSU’s defense is put in horrible field position.
  • Down 2 TDs with 8 min left. 3rd and 10 another empty set. NC State send the house and Milton gets rid of it quickly off his back foot, incomplete. 3 and out.
  • FSU gets the ball again but down 2 TDs with 3:26 left, so it’s basically garbage time. They got to midfield but failed on another 4th down attempt.

NC State 28, FSU 14

Final Thoughts

FSU did indeed make the adjustments we speculated they should have, and they had some success in the second half. But they couldn’t be explosive and couldn’t find a way to make a winning play when it mattered most, and they still had chances to win. Plus a brutal 4th down call by Mike Norvell that will get criticized. I get being aggressive, and the play was there, but perhaps Norvell should have taken his talent into account. Hindsight is always 20/20 though.

I thought FSU’s defense played well. They only gave up three big plays, unfortunately all of which helped put points on the board for the Wolfpack. But the blame of this game has to go on the offense, which was anemic all day. Milton is a shell of what he was, and likely is no longer starting quality at a P5 program due to his injury. If FSU had Travis available for this game, who knows what happens? This staff made adjustments to try and make it work, but FSU’s lack of talent showed up in this game, especially at receiver due to Milton’s skill set which forced a more pass-based attack. That whole room needs to be flipped. But it was also disappointing to see how little success the offensive line had against NC State both in the run and pass game, especially juxtaposed with FSU’s defensive line which really did control NC State's offense up front for most of the game. FSU was 2/15 on third downs before garbage time, and that’s the story of the game. No one could come up with a winning play in critical or even just situational plays.

At the end of the day, despite some legitimate criticism of the playcalling and Norvell’s 4th down calls, FSU’s offense just isn’t talented enough to run the type of offense they were forced to run today. Against a good opponent like NC State, that’s an impossible hill to climb. Travis is the offense’s best and most important player.

End-of-game stats

(not including garbage time)

  • Yards per Play: 3.7ypp. Woof. 232 total yards of offense. 16 total first downs. Average starting field position, own 20 yard line.
  • Milton: 19/39 for 200 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. 5.12 yards per attempt
  • Corbin: 14 rushes for 33 yards and 1 TD.
  • Third downs: 2/15, just absolutely brutal. 2/3 on 4th downs, with the one brutal failed conversion in the 4th quarter. Averaged 0.9 yards per attempt on third downs.
  • Sack-adjusted rushing average: just 2.7 yards. Sack-adj passing average: just 4.2. Brutal.
  • Offensive success rate: 30%. Rushing success rate: 32%.

Offensive MVP:

Uhhhh....punter Alex Mastromanno? But I guess I’ll go with Helton who was great on scramble drills today. Helton was FSU’s leading receiver, caught 4 passes for 49 yards and 1 TD.