Florida State survives against Wake Forest

Florida State (1-2) fought their way to a 26-19 victory over Wake Forest (4-1). It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Seminoles did enough to pull out a narrow victory over the Demon Deacons. The offense was pretty frustrating to watch throughout the duration of the matchup.

FSU finished with just 270 yards of total offense against Wake Forest. The `Noles spent most of their possessions trying to pound the ball on the ground. As a team, they had 43 carries for 149 (3.5 YPC) yards and their first rushing touchdown of the season. Jimbo Fisher’s conservative play calling didn’t do this team many favors in the first half. The Seminoles were shut down by the Demon Deacons outside of a few sporadic successful rushes. Fisher opted to run on long third downs multiple times during the first 30 minutes. Opting to run instead of the conventional pass in these situations killed a number of offensive possessions.

True freshman James Blackman completed five of seven passes for a mere seven yards in the first half. However, he finally found his footing in the fourth quarter. Blackman would go three for six passing for 90 yards and the game-winning toss to Auden Tate. The true freshman then found Tate on a deep route with a perfectly placed pass into his hands for a 40-yard score.

3 UP

1. Resiliency

There were multiple times in this game where Florida State could’ve rolled over and let Wake Forest finish them off. Instead, they continued to battle and compete. In the end, that fight was the difference in getting a win versus starting off 0-3 for the first time in 41 years.

FSU went up 3-0 early in the contest. The Demon Deacons responded by forcing a fumble and locking up the `Noles on defense. The game quickly turned to 12-3 in the home team’s favor. Sophomore receiver Keith Gavin used an electric 81-yard kickoff return to bring his team back to life. Jacques Patrick would score the Seminoles first rushing touchdown of the season on the ensuing possession to close the gap to 12-10.

Sophomore defensive back Kyle Meyers picked off Wake Forest’s’ John Wolford later in the second quarter. The interception was the Florida State defenses first turnover of the season. The `Noles would kick a field goal to go up 13-12 at the break.

The Seminoles would be forced to respond again late in the game. The FSU trailed 19-16 in the final frame and needed a spark of life. Blackman used an explosive passing play to push his team into field goal range. Ricky Aguayo would step in and drill his fourth field goal of the day. He’s now made eight straight field goals dating back to last week.

Two defensive stops got Florida State the ball back with less than a minute remaining. The predictable play was to run the ball three times and kick the field goal. Instead, Fisher finally got aggressive. Blackman play-faked a run before rolling out and finding Tate in the end zone, securing the victory.

2. Rushing defense

The Seminoles continued to be successful against the run. They held Wake Forest to 96 yards on 34 carries (2.8 YPC). The Demon Deacons running backs had 11 combined carries for 26 yards. Wolford was the one finding most of the running room on designed quarterback carries and scrambles out of the pocket. He ran 19 times for 63 yards with a long of 33 yards. So 18 runs for 30 yards outside of that big play.

The defensive front was able to overpower Wake Forest’s offensive line for much of the day. Mathew Thomas had ten tackles and two sacks. Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas combined for 12 tackles and three tackles for loss. Jalen Wilkerson and Brian Burns both had three tackles of their own.

3. Keith Gavin

The sophomore receiver regained the game’s momentum for Florida State with two big plays on Saturday. The Seminoles were trailing 12-3 in the second quarter and it definitely felt like the game was on the brink of getting ugly. Gavin fielded the ensuing kickoff and took off on the right side before cutting through a hole formed by his blockers. He ran for 81-yards before being brought down at the Wake Forest 16. FSU would score its first touchdown of the day three plays later.

Gavin would come up clutch again in the fourth quarter. The `Noles faced 3rd & 20. Blackman had been under constant duress and hadn’t had the time to go through his reads on most of his deep passes. The true freshman quarterback eluded the rush for an extra second and found Gavin down the right sideline as a result. Gavin would sprint for 43 yards before being pushed out at the Wake Forest 20. FSU would kick a field goal to tie the game at 19 before getting the game-winning score on their last possession of the contest.


1. Offensive line

There’s no way to sugar coat it. Florida State’s offensive line was pitiful against Wake Forest. They looked more lost against the Demon Deacons than they did against Alabama and North Carolina State. Granted, the Seminoles lost starters Derrick Kelly and Landon Dickerson to injury, but it was no excuse for that kind of showing up front.

Rick Trickett’s unit gave up five sacks today. That means we’re going up by the week folks. FSU gave up three sacks against Alabama, four sacks against NC State, and five more today. Completely unacceptable considering the quality of defensive line they faced today versus what they went up against in Atlanta. Brock Ruble looked like he didn’t belong on a college sideline this weekend. He surrendered a strip-sack on his first play in place of Kelly and he was routinely beaten by the Demon Deacon defense.

This unit just hasn’t taken the step forward that everyone hoped for over the offseason. They look even more anemic without a quarterback that can make plays while being under pressure during practically every snap.

2. Passing defense

Wake Forest outgained Florida State 367-270 in total offense and that was mainly due to their success through the air. Wofford is an experienced signal caller and he showed that off on Saturday. He finished 24-34 for 271 yards and an interception. The Demon Deacons were able to nickel and dime FSU for most of the game.

They used mostly short and intermediate passes to find holes within the Seminoles secondary, and they were successful. This team has to be a lot better at defending in the zone if that’s the primary coverage they are going to use. Charles Kelly switched to a much more man defensive-oriented scheme late last season after their struggles throughout 2016. Maybe Kelly will go back to that strategy.

The `Noles need their leaders in the secondary like Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden to get their unit on the same page. FSU is going to continue to be picked apart if they continue to have miscommunications on defense. This flaw is unacceptable out of a defensive unit that is talented enough to be among the best in college football.

3. George Campbell

Campbell had a letdown performance after the best game of his career last week against North Carolina State. The redshirt sophomore wide receiver had three catches for 85 yards against the Wolfpack. He responded against Wake Forest with a mere one catch for one yard.

Most worrisome was the way Campbell performed outside of his statistical production. He caught a bubble screen before being hit by multiple Demon Deacon defenders in the first quarter. Campbell lost the ball in the process and it was recovered by Wake. Later in the game, he was the blocker on a bubble screen and completely whiffed. The defender Campbell failed to block went on to lay Nyqwan Murray out. Thankfully, Murray was able to return to the game despite the hard hit.  

Dustin Lewis
Lead writer for NoleGameday. Majoring in Editing, Writing, and Media at Florida State University. Staff Writer for the FSView and contributor for Celtics Hub.

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