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What went right, wrong on defense for FSU vs. Syracuse

The answer: a lot, and not much

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 Florida State Seminoles football (7-3, 5-3 ACC) put together one of its most complete games under head coach Mike Norvell on Saturday, executing a near-perfect performance in a 38-3 undressing of the Syracuse Orange (6-4, 3-3 ACC) on the road.

While the offense had its own success, FSU’s defense set the tone from kickoff to final whistle, keeping Syracuse out of the end zone even when the Orange were threatening to score in the game’s final seconds. It’s the second straight week Florida State hasn’t allowed a touchdown, the first time the program has done that since 2013.

Here’s a look at how Florida State performed on defense.

What went right

Pretty much everything, from start to finish. Syracuse got into Florida State territory just three times the entire game, with the final coming on a garbage time, game-closing drive.

Syracuse finished the game with 160 yards — but 86 of them were earned in the fourth quarter with the game well out of reach. Through the first three quarters, the Orange averaged 2.3 yards per play, unable to do anything against a lethal Florida State front.

The Seminoles caused 11 total negative plays — three sacks and eight tackles for loss — while Syracuse had just nine first downs. Additionally, the Orange were flagged for five holding penalties, further evidence of the havoc that Florida State was able to create and the inability of Syracuse to deal with it.

FSU was also able to limit explosive plays, with Syracuse earning just five 10-plus yard plays in the matchup (in comparison, the Seminoles had 13.)

What went wrong

Syracuse got three points? There’s not much to nitpick from FSU’s performance, outside of allowing 10.8 yards per completion — but even then, the Orange completed just six passes on the night. In a season filled with impressive performances by this unit, dominating Syracuse was by far the most consistent Florida State’s defense has been this year.

FSU vs. Syracuse stats


Total yards

Syracuse: 61

Passing yards

Syracuse: 34

Rushing yards

Syracuse: 27

Yards per play

Syracuse: 3.3

Notes via FSU

  • It was the first time since the Syracuse and Wake Forest games in 2013 that FSU held consecutive opponents to three or fewer points.
  • FSU’s defense is holding opponents to an average of 129.6 yards of total offense in the first half, with an average of 55.9 rushing yards and 73.7 passing yards in the first half of games this season; Florida State is outscoring its opponents 195-81 in the first half and have held seven opponents to three or fewer first-half points.
  • FSU has allowed three points and fewer than 100 total yards in the first half in three consecutive games.
  • Defensive end Jared Verse had four tackles, 1.0 for loss and 1.0 sack. He leads FSU with 13.0 TFL and 6.5 sacks on the season...Amari Gainer and Tatum Bethune tied with Verse for the team lead in tackles, while Gainer added a TFL, a sack and a forced fumble.
  • Defensive end Patrick Payton had a 10-yard sack in the opening quarter, giving him 4.0 on the season, second-most on the team...Joshua Farmer now has 5.0 tackles for loss, tied with Payton for FSU’s freshman lead.