*Disclaimer: This article was written before FSU’s 45-7 win over Boston College.
What if I told you that Deondre Francois, a redshirt freshman in his first season of big time college football, has thrown for almost 2,500 yards and 12 touchdowns, while surrendering just four interceptions?
What if I said that Dalvin Cook, arguably the best running back in the nation, has run for 1,134 yards and is on the verge of setting the Florida State career rushing record? Or that young receivers Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate are each enjoying breakout seasons?
Sounds like a humming offense, doesn’t it?
Yet somehow, some way, that’s not the case.
Florida State sits at 6-3 after a 24-20 victory over NC State in Raleigh, a game in which Deondre Francois completed 56% of his passes yet struggled to throw accurately throughout the night. He actually should’ve been picked off in the end zone on Florida State’s go-ahead drive had NC State not dropped a sure interception. Dalvin Cook ran for just 65 yards as the ‘Noles OL underperformed yet again in run blocking. It was a showing that captured everything that’s gone wrong for the Florida State offense in 2016 and Head Coach Jimbo Fisher looks unlikely to make changes.
Slow starts continue to plague FSU
Nobody knows why the ‘Noles consistently underperform in the first quarter of football games. Florida State has not scored a touchdown in the first quarter against a Power-5 opponent since November 14th, 2015: almost an entire year to the day. (UPDATE: FSU broke the streak by scoring on its opening possession vs. Boston College on November 11th.)
The first quarter hasn’t been the only problem, either.
Since 2014’s contest against Clemson, the Seminoles have trailed at the half 14 times, including six instances this season. While these uninspired starts can be attributed to a multitude of factors, the underlying theme behind Florida State’s first-half struggles is poor coaching. The blame doesn’t fall solely on Jimbo Fisher, either: OL coach Rick Trickett and receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey deserve an equal amount of blame for the extreme lack of preparation displayed week after week.
Jimbo Fisher refuses to adapt
College football is constantly changing with more and more schools adopting a more spread-style approach. Traditional pro-style offenses are becoming few and far between as more teams are opting to spread the field and air it out. Want proof? Alabama (Running Back U) ran QB Jalen Hurts 20 times against LSU. Nick Saban, a traditionally pro-style coach, now runs their own version of a spread offense.
Jimbo Fisher refuses to change his offensive philosophy to take advantage of college football’s rules. Now, he hasn’t stated this publicly, but his tone in recent interviews show just how opposed he is to spread offenses. When asked why so many offenses are having success in 2016, Fisher’s response was, “Because the rules are bent for them. It’s illegal. What you do on offense right now is illegal. It should never be part of football and I am an offensive guy.”
Perhaps implementing more run-pass option plays would help out FSU’s underachieving offensive line? Maybe, just maybe, using more designed rollouts would result in less hits on Deondre Francois?
Who knows, maybe Jimbo is right and RPO plays should be outlawed. However, if it benefits your team, why not take advantage of the rules?
Poor coaching results in uninspired play
Look, Jimbo Fisher is an excellent coach. He’s well on his way to becoming one of Florida State’s greatest. But the constant first half struggles in 2016 fall directly on the head coach. Fisher implied after the Seminoles’ win over Wake Forest — a contest in which FSU led 10-3 at halftime — that he didn’t see a problem with Florida State’s first half offense. “We haven’t had a three-and-out until today. Today is the first three-and-out,” Fisher said, “North Carolina, we actually went down and had three field goals. You say you didn’t score, but you kick three field goals and score nine points in the first quarter, it’s still a good deal.”
Florida State’s first half struggles have become the norm in Tallahassee. We can only hope that Jimbo will eventually right the ship, but he doesn’t appear to see a problem.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe there’s not a problem. Dalvin Cook is about to set the FSU rushing record. Travis Rudolph is one yard shy of 600 receiving yards this season. The ‘Noles are ranked 34th in the country in total offense.
Yeah, there’s no problem.