Monday, September 25, 2006

What the Hell Was That?

On Saturday afternoon Rice and some team wearing Florida State jerseys played a ballgame in Doak Campbell stadium. I’m not sure who the team in Garnet & Gold was, but they looked pretty darn good! The blocking was strong, the offense was balanced, and for the most part they played smart, focused football. We should invite those guys back some time, because they were fun to watch. In all seriousness, that game was just what the doctor ordered for FSU and their fans. It had been a while since the team has looked that dominant, and even though the opponent was lowly Rice, the terrific performance by Florida State has fanned the tiny flames of hope that flicker deep inside every true fan. Here’s what I saw on Saturday…

The Good
- The thing that immediately stood out was the emergence of the running game for the first time this season. Both Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith surpassed 100 yards on the ground and of the ‘Noles 500 yards of offense nearly 300 came on the ground. The blocking was excellent and the runners hit the hole with authority. Apparently Jeff is starting to realize that running the football is kind of important…

- Greg Carr is still alive! I thought maybe he’d joined a monastery or had been abducted by Leonard Hamilton, but there was on Saturday afternoon catching everything thrown his way and blocking out the sun with his impressive 6’6” frame. It’s a crime FSU hasn’t gotten him more involved in the offense since he’s obviously more than just a jump-ball receiver. On one play in the first half he showed excellent quickness and agility, catching a ball on an underneath route and proceeding to juke out two smaller defenders on his way to a first down. He’s a weapon that must be used more often down the road.

- Xavier Lee looked good in his first action of the season. He still looks raw for a guy with his talent and three years in the system, but he’s seen precious little game action. Hopefully he’ll see the field more often as the season progresses, because as Georgia showed it’s always nice to have a decent back-up ready just in case. Normally I would be concerned about a QB controversy, but Drew Weatherford’s attitude is good enough – and his play has been shaky enough – that I think X needs to get more reps.

- Youth was served on Saturday, and it’s becoming clear that FSU signed a very special group of youngsters in this last recruiting class. True freshman LB Marcus Ball looked like the most dynamic defender on FSU’s defense until his injury, and Myron Rolle was impressive in his first start. Dekoda Watson made his way into Rice’s backfield repeatedly, and Bud Thacker was spotted playing noseguard in a 3-4 defense late in the game. Plus, Preston Parker and Chop Shop favorite Damon McDaniel both saw action. None of that includes Patrick Robinson’s blocked field goal against Clemson or the impressive contributions of TEs Caz Piurowski and Brandon “Scorin’” Warren. From a sheer talent perspective this is the best class FSU has seen in nearly a decade.

- Jeff Bowden called a great game. The same Jeff Bowden that has been pilloried on this page all week – and deservedly so – earned praise for mixing up the play calls, balancing the offense, and attacking weaknesses on the defense. Sure, it was Rice so there was a target-rich environment, but it was light-years better than what we saw against Troy, or any game from the past year for that matter. One question: whywhyWHY didn’t he figure it out a week ago???

The Bad
- This team has fumbled more in the last three weeks than any FSU team in recent memory. I’d like to attribute the butter-fingers epidemic to youth, but fifth-year senior Chris Davis has been one of the main culprits. You can overcome turnovers against Sun Belt schools, but there are still some big games to be played this year (cough, cough, FLORIDA, cough) and the ‘Noles have to do a better job of protecting the ball if they want to win out.

- FSU’s secondary has been the weak point of the defense all year and that trend continued on Saturday. Despite being the obvious focus of the offense Jarrett Dillard found enough space to catch 7 balls for 113 yards and 1 TD. Roger Williams improved his play, but Dee McClure is going to have to step up as the primary back-up at both safety positions. With Tony Carter’s injury the young corners are going to be pressed into service ahead of schedule. Hopefully the secondary can tighten up ahead of the big games looming at the end of the year.

The Ugly
- Really the only thing to be upset about after the ‘Noles great performance was the injury to Marcus Ball. He had looked fantastic all season, and his interception return in the second quarter was an incredibly instinctive play for such young player. The injury looked bad on TV and we don’t expect to see him until next year. Good luck and Godspeed Marcus…can’t wait to see you next season!

- Since that was the only ugly part of FSU’s game, how about Michigan State and Drew Stanton playing the 4th quarter of their game aginst Notre Dame with both hands around their necks, allowing the Irish to complete a 17-point comeback that saved their season? The baffling part is that all Michigan State had to do was HANG ONTO THE BALL and they would have won the game! Unfortunately, now the rest of us will be subjected to two more months of insufferable Notre Dame hype until their inevitable season-ending demolition at the hands of Southern Cal. Damn you Michigan State, damn you Drew Stanton, and damn you John L. Smith. At some point doesn’t it get old choking away your season every year?

Bring on NC State!


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