TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jimbo Fisher met with the media Monday to discuss Florida State’s 17-10 win at Duke and look ahead to Saturday’s showdown with Louisville (noon, ESPN). Here are highlights from that conversation.
While he would have preferred to score more than 17 points, Fisher saw encouraging signs from his offense in Durham. The Seminoles were crisp and methodical on the game’s opening drive, a 12-play, 83-yard touchdown march, and they went on to finish with a season-high 425 yards.
“As we look at our team, (we’re) starting to get closer to the team to which we thought we could be, and (we’re) getting better,” Fisher said. “(We) envisioned the thing where we’re getting to. Offensively, developed much more of an identity.”
That said, while yardage and completion percentages are nice, the offense’s No. 1 job, of course, is to score points. And Fisher believes the Seminoles still have plenty of room to grow in that regard. FSU is averaging 18.2 points per game, which is near the bottom of the national standings.
“It’s there,” Fisher said. “But you have to still go do that (score points). Close isn’t good enough. … But as we get this going – and we’re getting very close – and you hit those one or two little big plays and you get them executed (the points will come). Like the first drive of the second half, we could have scored there. We had perfect plays, missed one block on second-and-seven (when) we have a guy wide open in the right corner of the end zone and we’re going to him.”
While no one in the FSU locker room has forgotten what happened at Louisville last year, Fisher cautioned against the idea that Saturday’s game against the Cardinals would be made more meaningful because of the previous result.
“That game is over with,” Fisher said. “Different team, different place.”
But that doesn’t mean that Fisher expects a lesser challenge come Saturday. The Cardinals may be 4-3, and coming off of back-to-back losses, but as far as Fisher is concerned, they’re still dangerous as long as quarterback Lamar Jackson is in the huddle.
“You know what they’re capable of,” Fisher said. “You know that guy that has the ball (Jackson) that guy is the most dynamic player in college football. Because even when you do everything right, you can’t get him sometimes.”
With Landon Dickerson sidelined for the rest of the season, Florida State shuffled its offensive line with positive results Saturday at Duke. Derrick Kelly, previously the starting left tackle, moved to left guard, and redshirt freshman Josh Ball took over at Kelly’s old spot.
Then, when Kelly left with an injury, Brock Ruble filled in at guard.
The outcome was pretty encouraging: The Seminoles’ running back combo of Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers dominated on the ground and allowed only two sacks of quarterback James Blackman, their lowest total of the season.
“I thought Kelly had a good, solid game. He played well,” Fisher said. “Ball had some youth mistakes at times on his sets. He’s got to get set a little tighter, a little more vertical. Just anxious getting out wide. But he blocked well, didn’t have any penalties, got lined up.”
Not only are Patrick and Akers enjoying a torrid few weeks of production, but they’ve also done it while maintaining a close relationship off the field – Patrick even called Akers his “brother for life” after the Duke game.
That can be a rare thing at the running back position. Teams often use only one running back a time, which can sometimes make it hard for more than one player to make a significant impact. See Dalvin Cook’s three-year career as an example.
But that hasn’t been the case with Patrick and Akers, whose numbers show that they’ve become an excellent 1-2 combination: Akers has carried 71 times for 379 yards, Patrick 62 for 364.
Fisher said the dynamic reminds him of the days when Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. shared the running backs room.
“You remember when Freeman and Wilder used to run? You’d think they were twin brothers,” Fisher said. “One of them would make a play, (and) they were more excited for the (other) guy than they were for themselves.”
While his team hasn’t reached the same heights as last season, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson still commands respect from defensive coordinators across the country.
The junior has already accounted for 3,012 yards and 26 touchdowns this season, with a big chunk of that total coming on the ground.
As for the best way to corral him? Fisher has an idea:
“See if you can get 13 guys on the field,” he said with a laugh. “That would be the best way to do.”
Short of that, Fisher said the Seminoles would plan to give Jackson a wealth of different defensive looks in hopes of keeping Jackson off- balance. But even that, he said, comes with a risk.
“It’s all Lamar, Lamar, Lamar,” he said, “and all of a sudden (you realize) they’ve got good receivers, they’ve got good backs and tight ends. And (Coach) Bobby (Petrino) knows how to use those guys so they feed off of that.”