Three Up, Three Down: Notre Dame

In this week’s edition of 3 Up, 3 Down, we look at the Florida State loss to #5 Notre Dame. While the end result wasn’t good and the Seminoles dropped to 1-3 on the season, there are quite a few things to like about this weekend’s game in South Bend.

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Florida State went to South Bend Saturday and played their most competitive game versus a ranked team in years. While Florida State is used to be a winning program, it’s safe to say many were left slightly surprised with how well the Noles played in the 42-26 loss. Here are our 3 Up, 3 Down for the game.

Three Up

1. The Offensive Line

It is clear four games into the season that the hire of Alex Atkins is one of the best off-season hires of any coaching change nationally this past off-season. There’s no need to beat a dead horse regarding how inept FSU’s offensive line has been, but they were very serviceable Saturday. Florida State has found something with Jordan Travis at quarterback. His athleticism has helped the offensive line tremendously, and the difference in play calling has allowed for easier blocks and reads for the linemen. FSU was able to amass over 400 yards of offense against one of the best defenses nationally. A lot of this was due to the play of the offensive line. The move of Devontay Love-Taylor to left tackle, and Robert Scott to right tackle, is something to watch to see if they stick with.

2. Mike Norvell’s Playcalling

Go watch the 2018 FSU vs Notre Dame game, and then watch this weekend’s contest. There is a stark contrast between the two. This team is moving in the right direction and the offense is moving forward pretty quickly. The coaching staff has done a hell of a job scheming to the current strength of this team, and Norvell has flashed the run game calls that separates him as a play caller. FSU fans say things like overloading one side to get Tamarrion Terry in one-on-one match-ups, leading to Terry’s best game of the season and one of his best games in his career overall. We saw fake zone reads that were designed QB rushes, a fake bubble screen that was another QB run, and we even saw some delayed counter draws. FSU scored 26 points Saturday but they were very close to hanging 40 on the Irish. There’s a lot to be excited about moving forward.

3. Effort

One thing FSU hasn’t done well over the past three years is fight and battle through adversity. A late interception in the fourth quarter was the nail in the coffin so to speak, and FSU still held on to stop Notre Dame on 4th and goal (Brian Kelly called a timeout to score, folks). There’s marked improvement here from the Miami game. Some of that is the infusion of younger players combined with the energy Travis has given the team overall. True buy-in will only help as FSU navigates its way through a tough couple weeks. 

Three Down

1. 350 Yards Rushing

While Notre Dame was held to just seven points in the second half they were able to run the ball all night long on the FSU defense. Kyren Williams ran for 185 yards and Chris Tyree ran for another 103 yards. Both averaged over 9 yards per rush! 9! N I N E! In the second quarter the Irish outscored FSU 21-3 behind a ridiculous 12 yards per rush that quarter. PFF tells the story as FSU allowed 4.4 yards per rush before contact, and they gave up another 3.98 yards after. This poor performance is on the defense as a whole – lack of push up front, poor run fits and bad angles, and missed tackles. When the game got tight and Notre Dame had to make a play it was on the ground. 

2. Linebacker Play

While I haven’t rewatched the whole game yet the linebackers continue to struggle. The blueprint is out – expose the FSU linebackers and you will control the game, create big plays, and likely score. Emmit Rice was okay but still wasn’t consistent. The upperclassmen are athletic liabilities while the new players like Stephen Dix Jr and DJ Lundy, while more physically dominant, are filling the wrong run fits and taking some really bad angles. This unit is on skates – thinking too much and just not playing. This is hand-cuffing what FSU wants to do overall on defense.

3. Time To Make Positional Changes

Four games into the season, the defense is what it is. Is there a more frustrating player than Janarius Robinson? Alone he missed 5 or so tackles for loss while also doing a really poor job of setting the edge. Amari Gainer needs to make the move to Jack and be the primary pass rusher. He showed last year that he can be a dependable speed rusher. Jaiden Lars-Woodbey and Brendan Gant continue to struggle at safety. Both need to move into the box. Gant is a hard-nosed player, but his aggressiveness can be reckless at times and it causes him to miss tackles. Lars-Woodbey needs to get a look at the STUD spot. It’s yet to be determined if/when Hamsah Nasirldeen is coming back, and the injury to Travis Jay hurts. Scheme is a small issue on defense but this is a personnel problem.

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