Monday, November 06, 2006

Mickey Andrews for President of the Universe!

There are certain facts of life that I may never understand. For example...
- Why is Paris Hilton famous?
- What is the Dharma Initiative?
- How did Michael Rapaport ever get his own TV show? And most puzzling of all...
- How come when ESPN, Athlon, Sporting News and other so-called experts publish their pre-season previews and list the best Defensive Coordinators I never see Mickey Andrews mentioned?

Bud Foster's always in there along with Gene Chizik and Bo Pelini, and while those gentlemen are certainly worthy of the honor I don't believe any of them have coached multiple #1 rushing defenses like Mickey has, nor have they coached as many All-Americans and NFL stars as Mickey. Miami's Randy Shannon may match Mickey in productivity and star power, but Mickey's been doing it longer. Plus he's WAY more fun to watch! True, FSU's defense hasn't been as dominant the last few years as it was in the '90s, but a lot of that has to do with the 'Noles offensive struggles. Turnovers, poor field position, and the lack of long drives have repeatedly put FSU's defense in tough positions the last few years, yet they've risen to the occasion more often than not. In 2006 a new twist was added to the defense's woes: massive, crippling injuries.
That's two rings for Mickey,
one for Foster, Chizik, and Pelini

In order for Mickey to play his style of defense he needs run stopping beasts at DT, pass rushing terrors at DE, lightning-fast LBs who can hit, lock-down CBs that can play man-coverage, and play-making safeties. Thanks to unprecedented attrition he now has tackles and linebackers that used to be DEs, with a bunch of rookies at DE, more rookies at CB, and exactly two healthy safeties. And yet his defense just pitched a shutout. Unbelievable! Granted, Virginia helped out by dropping several third-down passes and their young QB Jameel Sewell hasn't yet grasped the concept of throwing the ball away, but the defensive effort was still mighty impressive and will do wonders for the confidence of a young but rapidly improving unit.

I had to mention all of this now since there's no room for "Spectacular" in the Good/Bad/Ugly format, but there's plenty more to talk about after FSU's first shut-out in three years so away we go...


The Good
- In his second career start Xavier Lee overcame a shaky start to record another strong outing. The passing numbers won't blow you away (12-for-25, 184 yards and 1 TD) but Lee added 49 yards rushing and was much sharper in the 2nd half once he settled down. His 37 yard strike to Chris Davis was a thing of beauty, and he made a couple of plays that simply wouldn't have happened with Drew Weatherford behind center. We love Drew, but the offense looked significantly less dangerous when he entered the game in the 4th quarter. If Xavier continues to develop and gets more consistent the FSU offense is going to be dangerous once again.
You have much much to learn young
grasshopper. But DAMN you're fast!

- Pass protection was excellent again. Virginia's no slouch on defense and they play a tricky 3-4 scheme but the Seminole OL kept Xavier Lee's jersey pretty clean all day. In addition to the line I noticed the backs doing a great job of blitz pick-up, especially Lorenzo Booker.

- The receivers are starting to play like men out there, led by senior Chris Davis. If Davis had played this way all season he'd be a Biletnikoff finalist, but at least he's finally turning it on. Greg Carr was mysteriously quiet, but Brandon Warren and Caz Puirowski made up for his absence. In fact, those two may form the best TE tandem FSU has ever had. Warren in particular is turning into quiet a player. And if you believe the rumors about the Caz Twins, Mr. Puirowski may be quite a “player” in his own right.
Davis has kicked his game into high gear

- Davis is also starting to pick up his game on punt returns. He averaged 12.4 yards per return and looks approximately 350% more comfortable fielding punts than he did early in the year. Willie Reid grew as a punt returner last season to the point that he was a threat to take it to the house on every return. Chris Davis has the talent to be just as dangerous as Reid if he continues to improve at his present rate.

- Myron Rolle is really coming on strong. I covered the defense in the opening, but young Mr. Rolle deserves special mention after playing a whale of a game. After all the pre-season hype Myron was fairly quiet the first half of the season, to the point that I wondered whether his shoulder was still bothering him, but he's really started to assert himself the last few games and was all over the field against Virginia. He made tackle after tackle - several of the Jack'd Up! variety - and played like a veteran, sniffing out several screens and play-actions. He's got to stay healthy now that he doesn't have a back-up, and I'd like to see him start making more plays against the passing game, but he's already living up to his five-star ranking.
Myron Rolle: the man, the myth, the legend

- No turnovers! FSU was -6 in turnover differential during their disappointing 4-4 start. Against the Cavaliers the 'Noles were +2, including Tony Carter's interception return for a touchdown. In a related story, the 'Noles picked up a W on Saturday.

- The kicking game was excellent again. Gary Cismesia nailed a 44 yard FG and Graham Gano averaged over 40 yards per punt. How we can get a great kicking performance in a season when every other unit has struggled is beyond me. I just hope it keeps up, because this is one area where we might have a decided advantage against UF.


The Bad
- The offensive production in the first half has been pretty poor all season, and that trend continued against the Cavs with the Seminole offense posting -9 yards of offense in the 1st quarter. In losses to Clemson, BC, and Maryland the 'Noles kept digging themselves into holes they couldn't get out of. Thanks to the dominant defensive performance that wasn't the case against Virginia, but the 'Noles can't keep trying to mount a comeback every week. If we fall behind against Wake Forest and their stingy, ball-hawking defense there could be trouble.

- As good as the pass protection was, the run blocking still leaves much to be desired. Too many times the FSU linemen simply leaned against their man instead of driving him back. Virginia has a pretty stout DL, but the 'Nole OL still looks too timid in the running game and I doubt we'll see much improvement in this area until next season at the earliest.
Hey, YOU try finding a good picture of FSU's OL!

- Kicking coverage continues to be abysmal. Again, I doubt we'll see significant improvement in this area due to our forced reliance on walk-ons. Wake Forest and Western Michigan shouldn't test us too much in this area, but Florida will definitely make us pay for poor coverage and shoddy tackling.


The Ugly
- There's not much to complain about after a 33-point victory. In fact, the only thing I didn't like was Drew throwing for the TD at the end of the game. The game was over at that point so why go for the score there instead of just running for the 1st down and killing the clock? Maybe we were working on our red zone offense or something, but it seemed like poor sportsmanship to me. On the other hand Virginia knocked us out of the National Championship race last year, so I don't feel too bad. I just don't think we should risk the bad karma.


Look, I hate to complain after a much-needed win. It was a great performance for a young team and I love seeing a new spirit of optimism among 'Nole Nation today. Bring on Wake Forest!

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