FSU collapses late in home loss against Louisville

Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire

Florida State (2-4) fell to Louisville (5-3) at home 31-28 last Saturday. The Seminoles have yet to win a game at Doak Campbell Stadium during 2017, we’re now entering week ten of the regular season. The last time FSU lost their first three home games was before Bobby Bowden took over and revitalized the university’s football program.

The `Noles 2-4 start is their worst since Bowden’s final season in 2009. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has a lot of work to do with his team if he hopes to lead FSU to a bowl game for the 36th straight year. His squad will have to win four of their final five games against Boston College, Syracuse, Clemson, Delaware State, and Florida, to reach six wins. Certainly not an easy task.

3 UP

1. Nyqwan Murray

FSU once again relied heavily on juniors Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate in the passing game. The Seminoles were already fielding an injury-depleted unit with starters Keith Gavin and George Campbell out with injuries.

Murray would record his second good game in as many weeks. He caught four passes for 95 yards and a score. The performance would net the shifty receiver his highest yardage total of the 2017 season plus his first score thus far. Murray made his presence known early in the matchup with the Cardinals. He lined up in the slot before running a deep crossing pattern across the right side of the field. True freshman quarterback James Blackman play-faked and then rolled to his right before stepping up and delivering a pass perfectly over Murray’s shoulder. The receiver would hold onto the ball for a gain of 37-yards.

Noonie wouldn’t catch another pass until the fourth quarter, right when Florida State needed him the most. Blackman found Murray for a gain of 16-yards on the first play of the final frame as the `Noles reduced their deficit to a touchdown. Blackman would look for his safety net again as he led the offense on the game-tying drive. A 22-yard strike to Murray on first-down pushed FSU out towards midfield and gave the young signal-caller confidence. Later on the drive, Blackman would toss up a pass on a fade route to Murray, who came down with it. The play reminisced the game-winning catch Noonie made in the Orange Bowl against Michigan.

2. Passing defense

The Seminoles have been taken advantage of on defense for much of the season. The passing defense, in particular, has been rather disastrous. We’ve seen players line up out of position, continue to blitz despite clearly being identified, confusion, and more infuriating play out of this secondary. Louisville entered Tallahassee with the most explosive offensive attack that this defense has faced all season but the `Noles were up for the challenge.

FSU held Lamar Jackson to a season-low 156 yards passing and one touchdown pass. Jackson had 101 yards passing in the first half but just 55 in the final 30 minutes. 31 of those 55 yards came on the final drive of the game.

3. Joshua Kaindoh

Former five-star prospect Joshua Kaindoh has seen sporadic playing time throughout his first season in Tallahassee. The 6’7” 250 lbs. prospect finally made a breakthrough play against Louisville.

Lamar Jackson faked a handoff to his running back on a read-option play before deciding to keep it for himself. Kaindoh read the play perfectly off the edge and drilled a surprised Jackson, who fumbled. Senior linebacker Matthew Thomas was in a position to scoop up the fumble and sprint into the end zone, giving FSU a 14-7 first-half lead.

Plays like this should only mean more snaps for the hungry freshman.


1. Jimbo Fisher

Fisher’s stock is nearing an all-time low since he became the head coach back in 2010. FSU is just 2-4 after being mocked as a preseason top-five team and playoff contender. Sure, the `Noles lost Deondre Francois for the year, but the issues with this team run much deeper than the performance of the quarterback.

Plain and simple, this defense is bad. They don’t have an excuse to be bad. Nine starters returned across the defensive unit. Players that made 35 of the 51 sacks that the `Noles recorded in 2016 are all back, not to mention the experience across the defensive backfield. Is it the players or the schemes at this point? It’s no secret that FSU’s defensive performances have fallen off since Charles Kelly took over in 2014. Jimbo Fisher needs to recognize his mistake and demote or replace Kelly. He hasn’t fired a coordinator in his eight seasons as head coach. That loyalty, sometimes to a fault, is beginning to hurt his team.

The play calling was also subpar once again on Saturday. Florida State had a chance to make something happen late in the first half tied at 14 apiece. Blackman completed a pass to Jacques Patrick, who was tackled inbounds. The clock continued to tick and Fisher refused to call a timeout. Blackman missed on his next pass before Cam Akers carried the ball for a first down. The head coach once again didn’t call timeout as the `Noles scrambled to get another snap off. This time, Blackman would make a poor decision and throw an interception. Florida State would enter the half with not one, but TWO timeouts remaining. Loving that situational awareness.

Fisher refused to insert freshmen receivers DJ Matthews and Tamorrion Terry for regular snaps against Louisville despite the fact that Keith Gavin and George Campbell were out with injuries. Instead, the legendary offensive mind went with walk-ons Jared Jackson and Justin Motlow to replace them. Neither Jackson nor Motlow caught a pass all game.

His confrontation with a fan after the game just added to the porous afternoon for Fisher. One thing is for sure, coaching changes are needed, an offensive coordinator is needed, and a reality check for Jimbo Fisher is certainly NEEDED.

2. James Blackman

Blackman completed 16 of his 28 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. It was an up and down day for the young quarterback, who has tossed six interceptions in only his last three games. He led FSU on an early touchdown drive with a first-quarter touchdown pass to Ryan Izzo.

However, the Seminoles wouldn’t score again offensively until the fourth quarter. Blackman, frustrated with the lack of production in the first-half, would throw a bad interception with only seconds remaining. The turnover put Louisville in position to take a lead into halftime but they missed their field goal try. Blackman would toss another interception in the third-quarter when throwing deep to a walk-on Jared Jackson, it probably wasn’t the best decision by the freshman.

Despite the mistakes, Blackman once again came to life in the final quarter. He turned a 28-14 deficit into a locked up 28-28 tie with two marvelous touchdown drives. Florida State’s defense stopped Louisville, putting the ball in his hands for the game-winning drive. Blackman moved the `Noles downfield and they found themselves on the cusp of the red zone with just over two minutes to play. FSU decided to try a read-option of their own. Blackman couldn’t decide on whether to hand the ball off or keep it himself and ended up fumbling it with the Cardinals recovering. You know the rest of the story. Three bad turnovers aren’t gonna cut it for Blackman.

3. Rushing defense

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson once again made the Seminoles defense look like they were playing in mud. He led the Cardinals offense to 293 rushing yards, netting 178 and a score for himself. Jackson used back to back 20+ yard runs to begin inflicting the pain early, the second was a 22-yard scamper that the junior quarterback scored on.

Jackson continued to gash Charles Kelly’s unit for the entire game. He routinely would make plays with his feet, saving the Cardinals time and time again. When FSU covered Jackson’s receivers well, he decided to just do it himself.

Not even Alabama could make Florida State look this mediocre against the run. It was the most yards on the ground allowed by the Seminoles since Louisville dropped 314 yards on them last year.


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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