What did we learn from FSU’s win over NC State?

Well, it took some last-minute heroics, but Florida State escaped Raleigh with a win over NC State.

For most of the game, the Wolfpack controlled the momentum. NC State seemed to move the ball at will against Florida State’s defense and the Seminoles struggled themselves to move the ball on offense. Fans in the stands and back home had terrible visions of the 2012 matchup, when a last-second drive by the Wolfpack ended Florida State’s undefeated season.

But this time, it was Florida State who would bust out the heroics in the final minutes.

Despite struggling most of the game, the Seminoles drove the ball down the field on a five play, 83-yard drive that ended with a fantastic touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to Travis Rudolph. This put Florida State up 24-20 and they managed to stop NC State from getting to the end zone in the final seconds.

It took a little longer than expected, but this Florida State squad is finally bowl eligible. With three winnable games remaining in the regular season (vs Boston College, at Syracuse, vs Florida), the Seminoles have a chance to give themselves some positive momentum heading into the bowl season. This was a hard fought win in a stadium that has given Florida State fits in the past and this victory should not be taken lightly.

So what did we learn from this win over NC State?

1. Nyqwan Murray is the real deal.

After a fantastic debut last week against Clemson (6-96-1), Nyqwan “Noonie” Murray stepped up to the challenge yet again against the Wolfpack, catching 9 passes for 153 yards. Throughout the course of the game, Murray was FSU’s most consistent receiver and made several big-time catches. He was Francois’ security blanket throughout the game and it is clear that the two Orlando natives have a connection in the passing game. Despite being only a three-star recruit out of high school, it is clear that Murray is perhaps one of Florida State’s best receivers right now as a true sophomore. With Rudolph and Auden Tate on the outside, Murray has been able to thrive in the slot. There is no question that Murray has earned major reps moving forward.

2. Is Jacques Patrick the second-best QB on the roster?

I joke, of course. But it was interesting to see Jimbo Fisher pull out all the tricks in this game. As Florida State drove down to attempt to score before halftime, Fisher ran a reverse to Kermit Whitfield and a halfback pass play from Jacques Patrick on the same drive. Patrick’s pass to Ryan Izzo was incomplete, but it did draw a defensive pass interference call that spotted Florida State on the two-yard line. Patrick would punch it in for the score on the very next play. With three games left in the regular season, it will be interesting to see if Fisher pulls out more trick plays if the offense continues to struggle early in the game. Also, am I not the only one that really wanted Patrick’s pass to Izzo be complete for a touchdown?

3. Tarvarus McFadden is eighth on the roster in catches.

In this game, McFadden grabbed his nation-leading seventh interception of the season on the first NC State drive. The 6-2 cornerback is really making the most of his opportunities and has emerged as one of Florida State’s best playmakers in the secondary. He is not a lock-down corner by any means (he comes off the field on third downs) but has shown the ability to make opposing quarterbacks pay when they throw in his direction. McFadden has a very high ceiling as a cornerback (think Xavier Rhodes) and should draw interest from NFL scouts as he finishes up his sophomore season and becomes draft eligible.

4. The makeshift secondary is working, for now.

The injuries in the secondary continue to pile up. Trey Marshall was sidelined in this game due to concussion-like symptoms, meaning that more inexperienced players were relied upon to play major snaps. True freshmen like Kyle Meyers and Levonta Taylor played for a majority of the game and the safety rotation continued to be a makeshift combination of Ermon Lane, A.J. Westbrook and Calvin Brewton. For a unit that was thought to be a major strength for this team at the beginning of the year, injuries and poor play have really ravaged the secondary. NC State was able to drive up and down the field for the most part due to the inconsistent play of the secondary. McFadden did nab an interception, but the true freshmen and safeties were picked on for a large part of the game.

To their credit, they did make some plays when the game was on the line. Westbrook punched the ball out of the receivers hands on 3rd and 12 with 1:14 remaining and Meyers had good coverage on the next fourth-down attempt to seal the win for the Seminoles. With pass-heavy Syracuse still on deck, this secondary needs to find their grove.

5. Do the refs have it out for this team?

Another week, another questionable call by the officials. Last week it was a “block below the waist” that cost Florida State a 40+ yard run from Dalvin Cook late in the game versus Clemson. This week, it was a questionable targeting call against true freshman pass rusher Brian Burns. On NC State’s final drive of the game, quarterback Ryan Finley scrambled to escape the pocket and picked up a first down before sliding. As he was sliding, Burns dove on Finley.

Unnecessary roughness? Sure. But targeting? Certainly not. Florida State was eventually able to stop NC State from scoring on the drive, but now Burns is suspended from the first half of the game against Boston College. Also, DeMarcus Walker was pretty blatantly held on the same play as well and it went unnoticed from the officials. I’m not going to suggest some sort of conspiracy theory here, but this is the second week in a row that Florida State has been on the receiving end of a pretty bad call from the referees. Jimbo Fisher was already fined $20,000 for his last outburst against the ACC and its officials, so I’m sure the school has asked him to cool it on the post-game comments, but I can’t see Fisher holding it in anymore if this trend continues.

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