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

No. 13 Florida State escapes Orlando with a narrow victory

Peyton Baker/Tomahawk Nation

Florida State football is back... in postseason play. The Seminoles just concluded their first bowl game since 2016. They were tasked with playing against the Oklahoma Sooners (6-6) in the Cheez-It Bowl. They had the slight “home field” advantage with the matchup taking place in Orlando, Florida, so the stands at Camping World Stadium were filled with garnet and gold.

The Seminoles were favorited in the matchup, fielding the most of their starters with an urgency to gain their 10th win of the season. After a hard fought match, Florida State got that win, earning their first bowl game win and 10-win season since 2016. Star defensive tackle Fabien Lovett did not play in the game for the Noles, but FSU found a way to secure the victory.

First half

Oklahoma won the toss and elected to differ, giving Florida State possession of the ball on the first drive. The Seminoles had a successful run down the field, but miscues in the red zone forced them into a field goal attempt. FSU’s defense headed into white lines up 3-0 with 11:26 left in the first quarter.

Florida State held the Sooners to a couple short plays at the start of the drive, but Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel found an open man on third down to open the field for the Sooners. OU spent most of their snaps running the ball through the middle, finally attempting to throw it downfield when Renardo Green made a tremendous pass breakup.

Once the Sooners made Florida State focus on their run game, they were able to find holes in the pass defense and pushed their way into FSU territory. OU was getting physical with the Noles, bulldozing their way into a short field with a 9-yard run for a first down.

Defensive end Patrick Payton and safety Jammie Robinson secured the first sack for the Seminoles just before Gabriel connected with a receiver in the end zone to put the Sooners up 7-3.

Oklahoma started their offensive drive on the Seminoles own 43-yard line after Florida State chose to go for it on fourth and one and was unsuccessful. Despite the phenomenal field advantage, the Sooners were unable to push the ball any further and punted the ball back to FSU on fourth and 19.

OU’s defense put them back in FSU’s territory on their first offensive drive. Gabriel ran down the sideline for 14 yards and a couple plays later it was first and goal for the Sooners. Their attempts at downfield passes helped the offensive line open necessary gaps to run down the middle on the majority of possessions. That attention toward the running back led Gabriel to run in for a touchdown inside the 10-yard line.

With 14:31 left in the second quarter, the Sooners had a 14-3 lead. Another short field for Oklahoma had them at the 43-yard line to start their next drive. FSU’s pressure had the Sooners at third and ten, but Gabriel launched it to wide receiver Marvin Mims and OU found themselves deep in FSU territory yet again. A massive stop from defensive end Jared Verse forced Oklahoma to try a 45-yard field goal and missed the opportunity to add points to the board.

The Seminoles were back in the match after their offense scored the first touchdown of the night with a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 14-11. FSU’s defense continued to struggle on the other side of the ball, having trouble all night stuffing the run. OU converted on third and six, knocking on the Noles door at the 48-yard line.

Robinson was in the backfield to stop Gabriel on second down, leading to a third and 21 attempt by Oklahoma. They were able to cut most of that yardage and went to the sideline to talk over the idea of going for it on fourth and four. That option didn’t come to fruition, but OU had another chance with less than two minutes remaining.

A face mask call against Florida State put Oklahoma in a good position to have options on the offensive end, and one of those opportunities was a 25-yard by running back Gavin Sawchuk. OU was running anything they wanted against the Seminoles, but the time remaining in the half forced them to a field goal try. The Sooners were up 17-11 with 15 seconds remaining.

Oklahoma headed into the half with a 17-11 lead. Florida State had given up 115 yards on the ground and 15 first downs to a team missing many of their starters. The Seminoles biggest bright spot was four sacks and seven tackles for loss in the first half.

Second half

The Sooners had the ball to start the half and replicated the same game plan as the first two quarters... run the ball. On a third and 11 attempt Oklahoma ran down the sideline for 10 yards and secured the first down on fourth and one. OU was regularly running the ball down right through the Noles and FSU’s communication was just not there.

Florida State was saved with a pass attempt from the Sooners that was nearly picked, requiring a punt from OU. The Seminoles had a strenuous drive on the offensive end to put them up 18-17 with 5:33 remaining in the third, holding the ball for 15 total plays on the drive.

Robinson had a great tackle within the line markers on second down, but Oklahoma found a tight end down the middle for a 31-yard gain. On that play Robinson went down with an apparent injury that sidelined him with minimal help off the field. Robinson showed his presence right when he got back on field, deflecting a pass with perfect execution, thanks to help of defensive back Kevin Knowles.

On the very first play of the Sooners next offensive drive, Gabriel put it in Mims’ hands for a 31-yard reception that had OU back within scoring distance. It was the same story for the Sooners all night, get a big play downfield to open up the offense and run the ball the rest of the way. This game plan helped OU snag a 25-18 lead with 13:22 left in the game.

The Noles tied the game at 25 with 11:05 remaining. Oklahoma didn’t worry since they were able to run all over the Seminoles on every possession. They picked up first down on a jet sweep and ran down the middle for what looked like another one, right before Robinson got a fumble recovery to give FSU’s offense a chance at grabbing the lead.

Florida State was playing a safe game on the defensive end, but left a wide hole for Gabriel to run through for a 23-yard gain. They had another one of those monster openings on the Sooners touchdown play, helping Oklahoma walk into a 12-yard touchdown without being touched. With 3:37 left in the game, it was all tied at 32.

FSU was able to squeeze in a field goal late in the game to earn the lead, but they still gave the Sooners a chance to win the game with less than a minute remaining. Oklahoma had a 10-second runoff and just one play later they pushed themselves back with a flag. A combined sack by defensive ends Dennis Briggs and Verse sealed the game for the Noles.

Standout players from FSU vs. OU

Defensive back Jammie Robinson

Throughout the entire season, Robinson’s name has been on this list. He’s been the Seminoles most consistent defensive player in 2022, finishing as the leading tackler this season. He ended the year with 99 tackles, and finished the win against Oklahoma with one sack, one tackle for loss, and 13 tackles.

Linebacker Tatum Bethune

Bethune didn’t particularly standout throughout the game, but he was their to save the Noles from giving up plays on multiple possessions. While Kalen DeLoach spent some time spying Dillon Gabriel, Bethune stayed inside the box and moved very well from sideline to sideline. He concluded the game with half a sack, one tackle for loss, and eight tackles.

Defensive end Jared Verse

Jared Verse did typical Jared Verse things. He wrecked havoc on the line, finishing the game with one and a half sacks, two and a half tackles for loss, and five total tackles.