What UVA Football fans need to know about Florida State
Florida State, then 1-3, jumped out to a 31-7 halftime lead over North Carolina, ranked #5 in the country at the time, and held on for a 31-28 win, and you had to be thinking then, OK, this will do it, this will get things turned around in the right direction.
The ‘Noles have lost three straight since – 48-16 at Louisville, 41-17 at home to Pitt, 38-22 at NC State, the final in that last one made to look better by two garbage-time FSU TDs.
Things aren’t going well, to say the least, in Mike Norvell’s first season in Tallahassee, on the heels of the disastrous two-year tenure of Willie Taggart, who went 5-7 and 6-7.
Jimbo Fisher must have seen it coming, taking a 10-year, $75 million parachute from Texas A&M after his last Florida State team, in 2017, stumbled to a 7-6 finish.
The five years leading into this current run of mediocrity were what you’d come to expect from FSU football – a 59-9 record, one national title, another CFP appearance, even the two 10-win seasons felt like comedowns, because you don’t play football at Florida State to just win 10 games.
Which puts the 2-6 record in 2020 in perspective.
Where to start, as to how things have gotten here.
The low-hanging fruit would be to point out that Norvell has had to use four different guys at QB. He might get a break this weekend, with the expected return of Jordan Travis (Pro Football Focus season grade: 66.4), who has thrown for 864 yards and four TDs, and also leads the team in rushing, with 472 yards and six TDs on the ground.
Travis missed the NC State game after going down to injury in the loss to Pitt.
Norvell hasn’t committed to Travis being the starter on Saturday night, but the media reports from Tallahassee this week seem to suggest that he should be a go.
It’s not like the offense becomes a juggernaut assuming he’s back. FSU is 13th in the ACC in total offense (370.9 yards per game), and in general it’s because there just aren’t playmakers, which is shocking, considering the brand name on the uniforms.
Maybe more shocking is how bad the defense is – ranking 11th in the ACC in total defense (452.4 yards per game) and 14th in scoring defense (36.7 points per game).
Cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. (PFF grade: 81.8) would fit in with the FSU heyday defenses (32 tackles, 19 completions allowed on 32 targets in 278 pass-coverage snaps, for a 46.2 opponent passer rating).
Glaring is the lack of a pass rush – 13 sacks and 115 pressures in eight games, ranking 116th among the 127 teams in the FBS, per Pro Football Focus.
The Florida State teams of old beat you with speed at the skill positions, corners like Samuels playing press coverage, and a front seven that controlled the line of scrimmage.
And depth. The subs were just as good as the starters, and the next guys up could give the two-deep a run mid-week as the scout team.
That’s not Florida State football in 2020.
Norvell was the hot Group of 5 coach after going 38-15 at Memphis, including a 12-1 finish in 2019, and he deserves some time to clean up the messes of Taggart and the end of the Fisher era that he inherited.
It’s going to take some trips to the grocery store to stock up the cupboard and the fridge before you can expect fine dining.
Story by Chris Graham