FSU’s defensive struggles are exposed in loss to Miami

Florida State had a chance to win their eighth straight game against the Miami Hurricanes. A win would’ve tied the series at 31 apiece. Instead, the Seminoles defense collapsed in the fourth quarter as the `Canes stole the game in Tallahassee on a late touchdown pass. FSU has now come up short in both home games they’ve played in 2017.

The `Noles actually held Miami scoreless in the first half. The defense prevented the Hurricanes from getting across midfield during the first 30 minutes. However, things fell apart on the defensive side in the second half. True freshman quarterback James Blackman threw two crucial interceptions in the third quarter that let Miami get in position to take the lead.

The young signal-caller finally found his rhythm in the fourth quarter. He went 8-10 in the frame with two touchdown passes, including the go-ahead score with 1:24 remaining in the game. It wouldn’t matter, as poor defensive calls and missed tackles aided Miami as they moved downfield for the game-winning touchdown pass.

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1. Running Backs

Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers continued to be solid in the running game. Patrick had 11 carries for 91 yards. He took his first touch up the middle where he ran through multiple Miami defenders for a gain of 34. The junior tailback was injured in the second quarter when it appeared his leg was twisted but he returned and continued to be productive.

Cam Akers saw extra time in relief of Patrick and finished with his best career game up to this point. The true freshman had 20 carries for 121 yards. The numbers might not pop out at you, but Akers had a number of plays that brought energy to the `Noles offense, who struggled to pass until the fourth quarter. He took a handoff out of the backfield before cutting up the left side of the field. It looked like Akers might go out of bounds but instead, he lowered his shoulder and ran through a Hurricane defender.

Akers would come up big for Florida State in the final frame. He took a handoff up the middle before breaking a tackle and accelerating up the right side of the field for a 46 yard gain. The Seminoles would take the lead later on the drive.

FSU finished with 203 yards on the ground, it just wasn’t quite enough.

2. Rush Defense

Florida State’s rushing defense was excellent against the formidable ground game Miami had coming into this contest. The `Noles shut down junior running back Mark Walton, who had over 1K yards last year and was statistically improving this season. Walton had 12 carries for 25 yards before suffering an injury. It looks like he could, unfortunately, miss the remainder of the season.

The thought coming into this game was that if FSU could stop the Hurricanes on the ground, then they likely would win. Miami finished with 29 carries for a mere 83 yards (2.9 YPC). They had been averaging over 200 yards a game on the ground over their first three games.

3. Auden Tate

Junior wide receiver Auden Tate has been outstanding despite a severely limited passing game in the wake of the injury to Deondre Francois. He continued to play the lead receiver role for the Seminoles against Miami. Tate caught three passes for 56 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown catch with 84 seconds to play in the game,

Most impressive is how Tate is continuing to gut it out even though he suffered a shoulder injury during the game against North Carolina State. He is clearly injured and even had to come off the field for a few plays against Miami because he couldn’t lift his arm. Tate has caught a touchdown in each of the `Noles first four games.


1. Charles Kelly/Defensive calls

There’s no way to sugar coat it. Florida State fell apart on defense in the fourth quarter, right when they were needed the most. Charles Kelly was excellent in the first half and you have to give him credit for limiting Miami to 67 yards and zero points, but he failed to adjust, while the Hurricanes did.

Miami began to go more to the air, and they started to have success. Kelly continued to play his unit mostly around the line of scrimmage, he was relying on a lot of blitzes and loose zone coverages and the Hurricanes took advantage of it.

The Seminoles were completely outmatched in the second half and it showed. Miami scored two touchdowns in the final 5:09 game after scoring only 10 points in the previous three quarters combined. It’ll be up to Jimbo Fisher to decide if it’s time to make a change at defensive coordinator, but Kelly’s faults are beginning to shine through.

2. Tarvarus McFadden

Tarvarus McFadden had eight interceptions in 2016 and began to look confident down the stretch of last season. He was expected to be one of the best defensive backs on Florida State’s roster, if not the country, in 2017. Thing’s haven’t gone to plan for McFadden up to this point and Miami took advantage of him in coverage on Saturday.

The junior cornerback had a key pass interference penalty on third down after not getting his head back around on the play. Later on the same drive, McFadden’s soft coverage on 3rd&20 gave the Hurricanes just enough room to get the first down. Miami would tie the game on the drive. FSU needed him to step up in the fourth quarter, but it just didn’t happen. McFadden was identified on a corner blitz and the Hurricanes ended up gaining 37 yards on the play.

With 11 seconds left, McFadden was in man coverage (thanks to Charles Kelly) while FSU had nine guys around the line of scrimmage. He didn’t see the ball at all, allowing the Miami receiver to high point it before falling into the end zone.

McFadden reportedly told former Florida State star, DeMarcus Walker, to shut up on the sideline during the game. His immaturity is beginning to surface as his play on the field slips.

3. Offensive Line

Florida State’s offensive line helped open holes and pave running room for the `Noles on the ground, but once again their incompetence made it hard to pass the ball downfield.

Blackman was sacked four times and hit a lot more than that. The offensive front has allowed 15 sacks in four games.

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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