Florida State (4-3, 2-3 ACC) lost its third straight game of the year and seventh straight vs. Clemson, falling 34-28 in another disappointing performance.
While the Seminoles displayed the fight and response to adversity that’s become customary under head coach Mike Norvell, they also created that adversity as they watched the Tigers (7-0, 5-0 ACC) go on a 27-0 run and establish an insurmountable lead.
To try and break down the loss, the Tomahawk Nation staff tackles some major questions surrounding the Seminoles.
How did 4-0 become 4-3?
Perry: Florida State stopped executing on the little things, turning the tide of marginal outcomes against them. The Seminoles should have been blown out against Clemson but managed to turn it into a single-score game — and if they had converted on the 2-yard line, they could have possibly snuck out with a win. Instead, because it was unable to do much of anything for two quarters, just like against Wake (first half) and NC State (second half), it now has gone from a season that would have significantly exceeded expectations to one that is just, at best, on track.
Evan Johnson: FSU played more talented teams that have had more coaching consistency than FSU. This is very simple for me.
Ben: They lost to 3 quality opponents, the NC State game that was within grasp has to be the most frustrating. Those close games are the kind of games that great coaches and staffs win. While FSU is in a much better place for the present and future, this staff has not been good enough situationally.
NoleThruandThru: We all knew this was going to be a rough stretch of three games. 2-1 would’ve been amazing, 1-2 would have been encouraging, but 0-3 wouldn’t have been unexpected at the start of the year. Tonight we saw a team that wasn’t ready for the big moments, and that was also mentally affected by last week's loss that should have been a win. FSU doesn’t have the depth or big-game experience to shine in these moments yet.
What has been more disappointing — the Seminoles’ offense or defense?
Perry: The offense — the last three offenses that Florida State has faced were really good, and them having success was frustrating but not unexpected. The offense has sputtered for lengthy periods of times in these losses, creating unwinnable situations.
The lack of consistency and competence is frustrating. The fact that FSU players, no matter the play, can’t make the play that is there is frustrating. This is not a Clemson game issue. FSU should have been 6-0 going into this game but they haven’t been able to recruit/coach up their players to be consistently competent to prevent that.
Ben: The Seminoles' offense has moved the ball well at times but they have also failed to convert some of those drives. But the defense was undisciplined and sloppy, not making plays in important situations. The defense has just not supported the Seminoles' offense even though both have their own issues.
NoleThruandThru: Both have major flaws, but I’ll go defense tonight. The defensive backs looked lost, the safeties repeatedly got sucked in, and the linebackers disappeared at times. FSU still has a long way to go and needs to hit the portal hard on defense this off-season.
Where has the coaching staff fallen short the most?
Perry: Overthinking in the moment — which is a really easy thing to say from the sidelines, but there have been a few confusing moments where it looked like playcalling was done from a desire for a spark rather than a situationally sound one. Again, that stalled drive at the 2-yard line will haunt for many reasons, mainly because of the two consecutive incompletions to Johnny Wilson when the running game was starting to heat up.
Evan: They haven’t been able to flip the roster well enough from a mental standpoint. FSU has too many dumb/injured players to beat a ranked team. How often are blitzers going to overrun a QB? How often are QBs going to overthrow a receiver? How often are receivers going to drop the ball? No coach is going to call a perfect game. Players have to fill in the blanks.
Ben: Getting elite top-end talent. While they have been able to build a better roster with good depth through the transfer portal that is not sustainable to bring FSU back to where they want to be. It is a good short-term solution but not a long-term one. That needs to change.
NoleThruandThru: Slow in-game adjustments and head-scratching play calls at the most inopportune times. Some folks seem determined to only blame the players, and while they deserve plenty of blame, the coaches have a lot of self-reflection to do as well.
What is your silver lining for the rest of the season?
Perry: The schedule is set up in a way that the Seminoles could legit go 5-0 to end the year, which still would be a good step forward. Syracuse is likely the biggest challenge remaining as Florida and Miami have struggled and are much more winnable than thought before the season and while Georgia Tech has elevated a bit after firing head coach Geoff Collins, the Yellow Jackets likely still will come to Tallahassee as an underdog.
Evan: FSU should be favored, or close to it, in every game this season. Make a bowl, beat a rival and we’re good . I think FSU is recruiting well (see our recruiting threads for more on that) and Norvell will get this team where it should be. Hopefully he’s able to show some progress and improve his staff (WR, DB, RB, DC coaches could show improvement) and keep progressing. I think Norvell has done a good job but need support to keep improving.
Ben: The Seminoles have beaten the opponents they are supposed too and have lost to the opponents they are supposed to. It is unfortunate that they have last three straight games with last weeks loss vs NC State being the most frustrating. This team is headed in the right direction but these last three loses are demoralizing.
NoleThruandThru: I love the timing of the bye week. FSU can focus on getting healthy before hitting the reset button. With a healthier roster and getting some key players back (Lovett, Ward, and Winston Wright), FSU should be able to close the back half of the season with more wins than losses.