Monday morning quarterbacking: Florida State
NC State started strong and held on until halftime, but ultimately fell 34-17 at No. 16 Florida State on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla. Now it's time for some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
Florida State had taken a 20-17 lead after a 26-yard field goal by Roberto Aguayo with 9:29 left in the third quarter. NCSU appeared to have a drive starting on its next possession. Fifth-year senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett connected with redshirt junior tight end David J. Grinnage on a 12-yard pass for a first down at the NC State 32.
After a three-yard pass to sophomore fullback Jaylen Samuels, Brissett went back to the sure-handed Samuels, who was battling for a first down when he had the ball ripped out of his hands at the 42. FSU recovered at the 44.
Two plays later, Florida State redshirt junior quarterback Sean Maguire found junior wide receiver Kermit Whitfield open on a busted coverage for a 27-yard touchdown that put the Noles up 27-17 with 7:57 left in the third quarter.
Three things that worked:
1. The start
NC State had 92 yards in the first quarter compared to 42 for FSU, held the ball for 11:06, forced two turnovers and led 17-7 after the opening 15 minutes. They also laid the groundwork for knocking FSU fifth-year senior quarterback Everett Golson out of the game due to ineffectiveness.
2. Forcing turnovers
This was somewhat surprising because NCSU has struggled to get turnovers this year, while Florida State had been superb at protecting the football. The Noles had just four turnovers all year prior to Saturday, but NC State forced five in Tallahassee. All five were the result of good defensive plays, which is encouraging.
3. The fake punt
Kudos to the NCSU special teams staff for a well designed fake punt in the fourth quarter. Freshman A.J. Cole did a good job disguising a rugby punt before looking up to pass to an open sophomore tight end Cole Cook for the first down. Unfortunately for the Pack, NCSU could not get another first down to sustain the drive.
Three things that did not work:
1. Adjusting to Maguire
The game changed like the flip of a switch when Maguire substituted for Golson in the second quarter. Florida State would score 20 points, all unanswered, on Maguire's first four possessions in the game. His ability to get the pass out quickly with his strong arm negated NCSU's effective pass rush and allowed the Noles' receivers to make plays.
2. Establishing the run game
Florida State opponents have had decent success running the football against them this year, but without Shadrach Thornton and junior Matthew Dayes, the Pack was unable to capitalize on that. However, that was might have been partially rooted in the play calling. NCSU officially ran 31 times, but five of those were sacks and one was a kneel down at the end of the first half. Brissett's 12 non-sack rushes were five more than anyone else on the team.
3. Finishing the game
The gap has unquestionably closed for NC State over the past two years between where they were in 2013 to now. This is the third time in four games between Clemson and FSU, the two ACC powerhouses, that NCSU has started strong, but Saturday was the first time NC State did that on the road.
At some point, though, the Wolfpack is going to have to make it a four-quarter performance. NC State was outscored 27-0 after the first quarter on Saturday.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. Florida State's front seven
Statistically, Florida State looked like it dominated. NCSU averaged just 2.5 yards per rush, and the Noles got five sacks. However, one of those sacks came from a safety blitz, and others were the result of good coverage and Brissett holding onto the ball too long. FSU did win the battle, but it was not as decisive as the numbers might suggest.
NC State's front seven vs. Florida State's OL
FSU wore down NC State over the final three quarters to earn a slight win here, but the Pack did some positive things. On nine situations where FSU needed two yards or less for a first down, the Pack stopped them seven times. One of the two conversions was a fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter, when FSU sophomore running back sensation Dalvin Cook was met head on at the line, but managed to fall forward for the yard needed.
NC State's WR vs. Florida State's DB
The perimeter game on both sides of the ball was a struggle for NC State. The Pack wideouts caught 11 passes but for just 109 yards, an average of 9.9 yards per reception. Four of those receptions, covering 51 yards, came on the final drive when FSU played fairly soft coverage.
NC State's DB vs. Florida State's WR
Once Maguire came into the game, this matchup turned decisively in FSU's favor. The trio of junior Jesus Wilson, sophomore Travis Rudolph and Whitfield had a field day, catching a combined 19 passes for 249 yards and two scores.
Maguire was arguably the difference in this game. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 231 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and looked in complete control of the offense. Meanwhile, Brissett struggled to find his comfort zone, especially as the game progressed.
Cook is a pro, and probably a very good one. He ran 22 times for 138 yards, and some may argue that's actually a respectable job done by the Pack. Freshman Jacques Patrick was a load in his own right, running 12 times for 54 yards. They were both easily the best tailbacks on the field.
This is one area NCSU had better production. Grinnage caught seven passes for 63 yards, giving him a combined 14 receptions for 145 yards in games against FSU and Clemson.
A draw here. The Pack converted a fake punt, freshman wideout Nyheim Hines had a nice 27-yard kickoff return and freshman kicker Kyle Bambard converted a 31-yard field goal. FSU had two nice punt returns from Wilson, totaling 39 yards and giving the Noles great field position, and their kickers did out-perform NCSU's.