Francois’ Passing: Short, Sweet, and to the Point

In their season opener, Florida State battled Ole Miss until the clock hit zero. Deondre Francois, in his first career start, threw the ball 52 times and was forced to play hero ball to lead the Seminoles in the largest comeback in school history. Francois was efficiently through the air, showing very advanced poise, pocket presence and toughness for a young starter.

After a tough neutral site game in the first week, the Seminoles returned home the following week for a much easier game against FCS Charleston Southern. Their home opener went as you’d expect a Top-10 team to do against an FCS team and Florida State blew the Buccaneers out of the water 52-8.

That being said, the passing game looked much different in the second game of the season. Versus Ole Miss, Francois was forced to throw the ball downfield as he attempted to lead the Seminoles back from a deficit. Because the ground game was non-existent, Jimbo Fisher put the game into Francois’ hands and asked him to win it.

Against Charleston Southern, that wasn’t the case. With Dalvin Cook running over, through and around Buccaneer defenders, Francois was relegated to more of a “distributor” role rather than a playmaker.

Let’s take a look at the passing chart to see what I mean by this.

Notice something about this chart? Nearly all of Francois’ throws versus Charleston Southern came at or around the line of scrimmage. The Seminoles did not push the ball downfield much against the Buccaneers, which is probably to be expected when facing an FCS team.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Behind the line of scrimmage: 8-8
  • 0-10 yards: 13-15 (TD, INT)
  • 11-20 yards: 1-4
  • 20+ yards: 2-6 (TD)

Francois was perfect on passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage and only missed two passes from the 0-10 yard range. Throwing the ball downfield was hit-or-miss, as Francois only hit three of 10 passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield. His first interception of the season came in the second half when he attempted to force a ball over a defender and it was picked off.

So why throw the ball short so much? Simply put, Florida State’s superior athletes were able to create separation in space and pick up big chunks of yardage off of those dump-off passes. It doesn’t look like it, but Francois was officially credited with 262 yards of passing in this game. Definitely surprising, but the game tape shows us that FSU’s offensive weapons were basically allowed to have their way with Charleston Southern’s defense in this game.

Most Impressive Throw

This choice was not hard at all. Most of Francois’ throws came at or near the line of scrimmage, except for this dart to Travis Rudolph for a touchdown early in the game.

Francois buys time for Rudolph to get open thanks to the great protection from the offensive line. Rudolph gets open on a deep post route and Francois hits him in stride for the touchdown. This is Francois’ longest completion of the day and the first of two touchdown passes that Rudolph would catch in this game. A free rusher gets to Francois, but the freshman releases the ball just before he gets hit.

Least Impressive Throw

No question here. The least impressive throw from Francois in this game was his first interception of the season, which came right before halftime.

Francois rolls out to his left with the offensive line and Jacques Patrick rolling in protection as well. Rudolph on the comeback route is the primary read here. Rudolph runs out ten yards and then turns and waits for the ball after the cornerback bails on the route, expecting Rudolph to go deep. This is a high percentage throw against cornerbacks that play ten yards off of the receiver.

What Francois doesn’t expect is the linebacker to drop in coverage and get in the way of the pass. The Charleston Southern defender plays this perfectly, reading Francois’ eyes and moving with the quarterback to get a read on the ball before Francois had even thrown it. He makes an easy play on the ball in the air for the interception.

Perhaps Francois thought that he could fit the ball over the defender, but the young quarterback should have never attempted this throw. This is a freshman mistake and one that he could afford to make when up by four touchdowns against an FCS team. A similar mistake would come in the bowl game against Michigan, but we’ll get to that later.


Short, sweet and to the point. That was Florida State’s game plan in this contest. Get the ball to their superior athletes in space and let them work. Francois was more of a distributor in this game rather than a playmaker, but his touchdown pass to Rudolph early on in the game was very impressive.

To be honest, there is not much to take away from this game. Against an FCS competition, the passing chart looks a lot different than, say, the one from the Ole Miss game. Further games will give us a better insight as to how Francois operates as a passer.

Up next: The tragedy at Louisville…

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