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What went right, what went wrong on defense for FSU vs. Wake Forest

Florida State gives up 10 crucial third down conversions

Florida State Seminoles football hosted the Wake Forest Demon Deacons for their third straight ACC matchup of the season. After starting 4-0 for the first time since 2015, the Noles played their first ranked opponent of the season. Wake has one of the best offenses that FSU will see this season, and showcased that throughout as Wake Forest defeated Florida State 31-21 with a quality offensive showing from their receivers and quarterback Sam Hartman.

There were clear holes on the Noles defensive line and miscommunication issues led to constant third-down conversions for the Deacons. Wake Forest’s offense with multiple weapons of a rushing attack and downfield threats was too much for the Seminoles to handle. They allowed 171 yards on the ground and 234 in the air, hitting FSU every time the Seminoles had a chance to come back.

First half

The Noles put seven points on the board early and the defense got their first taste at one of the most experienced offenses in the league. Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman was helping the offense move the sticks early, but it wasn’t enough to get into Seminoles territory. After a penalty with a fourth and one attempt, WF kicked it right back to FSU.

Wake Forest found early gaps in the middle of the field, both in the rush and passing attack. Florida State had a nice rotation with multiple weapons on the defensive line, but they weren’t doing a great job at rushing Hartman’s decision-making. The Deacons constantly pushed the ball down the field in the second drive; it seems like they were too worried about Hartman’s vision early in the game.

Yet, the distress they showed was fair given WF’s offensive weapons. With the help of Wake Forest wide receiver A.T. Perry and a running back duo of Justice Ellison and Christian, the game was tied at seven with 4:25 left in the first quarter. Wake Forest converted on the fourth and one, after the addition of another lineman and two tight ends to push their way into the end zone.

When the Noles made their way back to the gridiron Perry and Ellison kept their offensive flow. After a pass interference from DJ Lundy, the Deacons were knocking on the door to get past the 50-yard line. They concluded the first half and started taking shots downfield to get the ball within scoring distance. Wake Forest attempted a pass to Perry, which was overthrown, but Ellison picked up 35 yards on the soon after.

Just moments after the start of the second quarter, the Deacons took the lead with a touchdown from Perry. The upperclassman had five receptions and 52 yards. Wake Forest’s offense made its way back inside the white lines after FSU quarterback Jordan Travis fumbled the ball and WF recovered. Hartman tried to take a shot downfield twice, scoring on the second try when Hartman found his receiver bullying the Noles’ secondary.

Wake Forest led the Seminoles 21-7 with 11:15 remaining in the second quarter. The broad offense that the Deacons field caused immense issues for the Noles’ secondary. WF was continuously converting on third and long attempts, which destroys the confidence of the defense and even the fans. The Deacons got within the Noles 40 on a fourth and one with a mean run from Ellison. Florida State had no answer for Ellison up to this point.

The Noles looked to be in a good position late in the drive when they forced Hartman to a third and long attempt but defensive back Omarion Cooper was called for another pass interference call against FSU. WF was inside the 20 with a third down try and defensive end Jared Verse bull rushed his way into Hartman for a sack. The Deacons attempted a field goal and missed so the score stayed at 21-7.

Second half

The connection between Hartman and Perry was even better at the start of the second half. They got within the Noles 20-yard line with ease, putting another touchdown on the board just minutes into the second half. Florida State turned its attention toward the passing game and Ellison took full advantage. He scored his first touchdown of the game, after man-handling the defense for 114 earned yards on the day.

Wake Forest led 28-7 with 12:18 left in the third quarter. They were back in play after the Noles scored a touchdown, to cut the deficit to 28-13. The Deacons were deep in their own territory, held to a third and 16 attempt. Defensive tackle Joshua Farmer got the sack on Hartman to bring the Noles’ offense back in the game. They were unable to put points on the board, so the Seminoles punted the ball to try and force Wake Forest deep in their own territory.

Florida State was successful on the Deacons' next drive when they plugged in Verse. The transfer defensive end had his hand in every play he was in, but he was sidelined after three snaps. The Noles were inching back at the Deacons after they scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion, down 28-21 with 9:32 remaining. Hartman connected with his receiver for a nice gain when WF got back on the field, and the offense kept moving the sticks, despite a rushing attack from the Noles’ defensive line.

It wasn’t all that pretty from Wake Forest, just before they got a mossed catch on third down to give them back the momentum. The Noles looked like they caught a break on that drive, but the Deacons went for it on fourth and three and converted to keep moving the chains. WF pushed the ball on the ground like they had been doing for most of the game, and a first down inside the 10-yard line looks like it iced the game for the Noles. The Noles’ offense tried every trick in the book to get back in the game, but they couldn’t find an answer.

Florida State loses its first game of the season after an abysmal day from their special teams and clear issues within their defense. They move to 3-1, losing the first game of their toughest stretch of the season.

Standout players from FSU vs. WF

Linebacker Kalen DeLoach

With the Seminoles successful start to the season, it’s time for DeLoach to get his nationwide credit. DeLoach led the Noles defense yet again, notching one QB hit, one pass breakup, one sack and five tackles. Somehow DeLoach is showing another aspect of his every single week, but it wasn’t enough to help the Noles come back this time.

Safety Jammie Robinson

Robinson has been relatively quiet in the pass game this season, but he’s played a solid game at keeping the offense in front of him. He needs to start getting within passing territory to force turnovers, but he’s been tremendous at stopping big gains. Robinson finished the game with one QB hit and 13 tackles.

Defensive end Jared Verse

Verse didn’t have a high snap count, but every time he stepped on the field, you knew he was there. The tackles had a difficult time stopping his rush combination as Verse recorded one sack, two and a half tackles for loss and four total tackles. His impact is vital for the Noles to be able to rush the opposing offense and force the quarterback into making difficult choices.