Three thoughts on Florida State’s disappointing loss to Louisville

Coming off of an emotional win against the No. 5 team in the country a week ago, Florida State laid an egg on Saturday afternoon in Louisville, falling 48-16. After the Seminoles scored a touchdown on their opening drive, the Cardinals responded by going on a 28-0 run while connecting on big play after big play and never looked back. It was an extremely disappointing performance across the board as the team falls to 2-4 heading into a BYE week.

There’s not a whole lot else to say other than this team bought into their own hype and failed to show up in Kentucky. FSU still hasn’t won a game on the road in 2020.

Here are three thoughts on the loss.

1. Florida State’s defense played its worst game yet

Following the defensive performance that we saw today, I think it’s safe to conclude that last Saturday’s performance against North Carolina was just an outlier for this unit. Today, Florida State allowed a season-high 569 yards of total offense (which was also a season-high in production for Louisville) and the most points since its second game of the season in Miami.

From their opening possession, the Cardinals did basically whatever they wanted on offense. A 66-yard pass on third down from Malik Cunningham to Tutu Atwell, who beat Jarvis Brownlee on a slant, set up Javian Hawkins’ first touchdown run of the game. On the next possession, Hawkins was about to be brought down for a loss before he cut back against the ‘Noles defense and outran everybody for a 70-yard score. Following that, Malik Cunningham broke free for 35 yards on the ground en route to another touchdown. Louisville’s final touchdown of the first half came on a 58-yard pass from Cunningham to Atwell on third and 24. The defense gave up five plays of 35+ yards in the first 30 minutes, you just can’t make the ineptitude up, folks.

From the defensive line, to the linebackers, to the defensive backs, it was basically a meltdown on all fronts today. Florida State allowed 9.3 yards per play which has got to be one of, if not, the worst performances by a defense in school history. To put it in perspective, every time Louisville touched the ball, it was essentially expected to be a first down.

We talked about the defense building off of the performance we saw in Tallahassee last week, they went in the complete opposite direction against Louisville. FSU held UNC to 2/12 on third down and 0/3 on fourth down while also blocking two kicks and getting a pick-six. The Cardinals converted on five of nine third downs and didn’t have to attempt a fourth-down conversion due to leading for almost the entire game. The ‘Noles did come up with a fumble but it was late into the game when the result was basically decided

The defense has now allowed 28+ points and 517+ yards of total offense in four of their last five games (@ Miami, @ Notre Dame, vs North Carolina, @ Louisville). There’s not a ton of optimism moving forward with this unit right now.

2. Jordan Travis is clearly not healthy but his receivers didn’t help him on Saturday

Jordan Travis was not sharp on Saturday and there were a combination of things that led to him completing just 14 of his 32 passes for 141 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Travis was late on a few throws and also missed some passes downfield. His first completion of the day to Cam McDonald for 30 yards was Florida State’s longest pass of the game. This comes a week after Travis was able to connect with four different receivers on 30+ yard passes in the win over North Carolina.

Louisville made it a point to stack the box in this game to limit Travis’ ability to scramble and it worked. The redshirt sophomore finished with his least productive performance on the ground since he took over as the starter, running 12 times for 47 yards. On the flip side of that, Travis failed to make the Cardinals pay in man on man coverage with some of his misses. You can’t put all of the incompletions on him though, the wide receivers were AWFUL today. Keyshawn Helton dropped a deep ball, McDonald dropped a touchdown, and a pass bounced off of Ontaria Wilson’s hands that was intercepted. It was ugly. This unit needs Tamorrion Terry back and fast.

The drops didn’t stop late in the game when true freshman quarterback Chubba Purdy took his first reps in garnet and gold either. Purdy went 0/9 in his debut, with a large part of that being due to drops. Helton dropped one, Darion Williamson had a drop, and Kentron Poitier had two drops. I haven’t seen anything like that in quite a while. Purdy and Travis combined to go just 14/41 passing.

It was also clear, especially in the second half, that Travis is not fully healthy right now. Ever since the Notre Dame game, we’ve seen him having some trouble with his left arm and it was apparent that he was favoring the injury against Louisville. After the game, Travis was grimacing in pain during postgame interviews while stressing that he was fine. I don’t doubt the kid’s toughness but Florida State can’t have him out there if he’s consistently hampered. That said, he got ZERO help on Saturday and you can’t put the offensive failures all on his shoulders.

3. The BYE week couldn’t come at a more perfect time

Florida State is limping into a much-needed BYE week after being thumped by an unimpressive Louisville team. You could say this break is coming at the perfect time for the Seminoles. Multiple players on this team need the time to heal up like Travis, Dotson, Terry, etc and this week will be useful in that regard. This also gives the staff a chance to evaluate more without being tasked with game preparations. I wonder if this is the result that finally leads to some changes.

Mentally, this team is broken right now. Guys need some time off to regroup and refresh. There’s no doubt that FSU is leaving Louisville with its season on the verge of completely falling apart. So far, they’ve melted in the face of adversity. This loss is another opportunity to become tougher and more resilient. The response we see after this BYE week against Pittsburgh is going to show us a lot about the heart of these players and whether they’re truly buying into what the coaches are saying.

Once again, the veterans quit in this game today and mailed it in for basically the entire second half. Is this the time we start to see the staff begin to shift towards more of a youth movement?

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