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Noles Dominate the Dukes 47-7

Football was back in Doak Campbell stadium on Saturday despite a weather delay that pushed the action back an hour and half. However, the fireworks for FSU were early and often as the Noles scored on their first 6 drives on the way to a 47-7 dominating win in front an impressive crowd considering the opponent.

This was the kind of game we have been waiting to see from FSU. No, it wasn’t perfect. Yes, they were expected to blow this team out, but when is the last time FSU won a game like they should have. They accomplished just that in a contest where FSU could have easily named their score but needed to get the backups some burn. Not to mention this is the first season opening win for FSU since 2016 and honestly it just feels good to be 1-0 no matter who it was against.

There are a few things you expect to see in the first game of the season that will need to be cleaned up. However, overall FSU played a pretty clean game with only 5 penalties and had a dominating performance. The Noles racked up 638 yards on offense while only allowing 164 on defense, most of which came in garbage time.

This game was important to allow FSU to get in rhythm with all the new faces they have and to shake the rust off before the big game against LSU next week. I’m sure there was some degree of look ahead to that one, but FSU handled their business in week 0 and that’s exactly what we wanted to see.

offense

On offense, the Noles found a ton of success on the ground rushing for over 400 yards and 6 touchdowns. In fact, FSU had three backs (Ward, Toafili & Benson) rush for over 100 yards which is the first time that has happened in school history.

They all looked electric and had some spectacular carries which really makes you optimistic about the running game this season. Trey Benson was impossible to take down at times, he racked up 16 missed tackled on only 11 carries, and 83 of his 105 yards came after contact! The Seminoles backfield had an impressive 34 missed tackles forced on 51 caries. Even freshman Rodney Hill has a nice showing going for 55 yards and touchdown with 5 missed tackles of his own.

Florida State didn’t do a whole lot of passing but was efficient when they did. Jordan Travis finished the night early in the third quarter going 11/15 for 207 yards. He may not have thrown for any touchdowns, but he had one get dropped at the goal line and one that came up just short when Poitier got taken down a few yards short of the goal line. Jordan’s advanced stats were nice too as you can see in the graphic below.

Jordan Travis Stats vs Duquesne

The backup quarterback was perhaps the only real disappointment of the night. Tate Rodemaker went 2 of 6 for 15 yards and 1 very awful pick that almost became a pick 6. He looked lost and out of sync, and as if there had been no improvement since his freshman campaign that was not very good either. I don’t mean to pile on the kid, but he has not been able to show anything in a game environment and appears to be a practice player.

In my opinion, FSU might as well stomach the growing pains with freshman AJ Duffy who is more likely to be the future at the position. The production can’t be much worse. Duffy only had one attempt on the night but completed it for 10 yards. If Travis must miss any significant time this offense could be in trouble or at least become very one dimensional.

My concern is there aren’t many more games, if any, where FSU should have a comfortable lead and allow for them to get more game experience. Jordan’s availability will likely determine the outcome of this season.

Despite being down Ontaria Wilson, and Johnny Wilson exiting early after getting banged up; the receiver group looks to have a much higher ceiling than last year. Kentron Poitier led the team in receiving yards after an impressive performance. Poitier was a guy that certainly had potential, but you weren’t sure what you would get from him this season. If he can stack performances like the one he had last night on a consistent basis, with his size that could be huge for this offense.

Johnny Wilson is massive, runs well and could be a problem for opposing secondary’s. If he can continue to improve in this offense and be consistent that is a type of weapon FSU hasn’t had in a while. He did drop one contested catch on the goal line that would have been a touchdown which you’d like to see cleaned up as drops were his biggest off season question. Pittman had a solid night in mostly screen work but looks to be able to work the entire field well.

Deuce Spann hauled in all 3 of his targets and looks natural doing it. His speedy development gives FSU yet another weapon at receiver they may not have been expected this early. Keep in mind FSU was running a very vanilla game plan last night too. There is no point in showing LSU much on film in a game like this when you don’t have too. Once they open up the playbook things could be exciting. I know this was only Duquesne and the LSU secondary will be a much bigger challenge, but the difference in the ceiling and ability of this group is night and day from last year. And that’s not even considering if we ever see Winston Wright join the group.

Up front the Noles had a good night despite having to use a lot of pieces from the depth chart. Any time you rush for over 400 yards the big boys up front are doing some work. They allowed 5 pressures in total which isn’t bad and to be fair most of Duquesne’s best player were on the defensive line. Next week will pose a much larger challenge and I worry about the injuries that are piling up, but it was a solid first outing.

If Darius Washington and Maurice Smith can return that would be a huge boost. We saw multiple players being rotated in at center after Washington exited the game due to injury. Surprisingly, even though some of the snaps were off target, none were wild which is nice to see. With the line and backs performing at the level they did last night; you have to feel positive about the running game this season. I think we saw some of the influence of Atkins at OC last night with a heavy dose of ground game. Of course, there is room for some things to get cleaned up but again that is what a week 0 game is for.

Defense

The defense performed well holding the Dukes to just 164 total yards. They couldn’t move the ball at all and only found some success in garbage time. Up front the FSU line got some mixed reviews on social media. They didn’t dominate like I hoped either but one thing I want to point out. Duquesne gets credit for a decent game plan. They ran a lot of quick developing plays to help mitigate a defensive line they knew they couldn’t block. The defense also ran very basic fronts so it will help when they open up the playbook just as with the offense.

I was encouraged by the play at linebacker and Tatum Bethune looks to be as advertised. DJ Lundy also looks much improved, and they will need him as the depth took another hit with Amari Gainer being spotted in a boot at the end of the game. No details have been released yet. The secondary had a decent night but there are a few things to be cleaned up.

However, starting corner Duke Cooper was out and should help them see improved play with his return as it was his replacement that had most of the struggles. That included a senseless personal foul penalty that could cost them in a game like LSU. Jamie Robinson did Jammie Robinson things and finished as the highest rated defensive back.

LSU has a talented receiver group, and the FSU secondary will need to bring its A-game next week. Overall, the defense had a good showing in week 0 and it should help them get some momentum going in to a game they will be tested.

Special Teams

The special teams play was improved over what we’ve seen in the past. The one segment that stood out to me was the kick coverage unit. They were stifling and made some big hits which gave FSU a field position advantage on defense.

The return game was better but still not great and didn’t do much on the night, however, Duquesne only averaged 34 yards per punt so there wasn’t much time to set up a return. FSU only punted one time and it was a nice one. Mastromanno had a 52-yard punt that downed around the 5-yard line which was nice to see.

Ryan Fitzgerald was 2/2 on his field goals and made all his PAT’s. None were very long but it gives him some early confidence in a game situation. Overall, the special teams units looked better than what we saw last season but will have to back it up against better athletes next week.

Final Thoughts

To wrap up my thoughts on the night, I remain cautiously optimistic. There wasn’t a ton to learn about in a game against this level of competition. I was obviously impressed with the running back and the potential of the passing game. The main questions I walked away with were backup quarterback and offensive line depth as the injures are racking up. I’m not buying or selling anything based on last night, but I will say I think they needed this game to work some things out and get in rhythm before LSU.

Norvell looked very focused and intense last night which was nice to see. They say teams see the most improvement between weeks 1 & 2 so we’re going to learn a lot about this team next week. Be sure to check out the instant reaction podcast from the game and be on the lookout for the LSU previews coming soon. We already have one out which will be getting some updates soon. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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