TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State’s offensive output against Virginia Tech looked about the same on film as it did live.
“A lot of self-inflicted wounds,” coordinator Walt Bell said. “… Just critical error in really unfortunate times. And I think that’s obvious to everybody that watched the game, that was a part of the game, from a fan to a coach.”
Florida State’s coaches and players agree that the offense needs to improve, and they’ll certainly get no argument from the Seminoles’ fanbase.
But don’t expect wholesale scheme changes when FSU hosts Samford on Saturday.
“I don’t think it was anything we’ve got to change up,” coach Willie Taggart said. “We’ve just got to do it a lot better than what we did.”
By now, Florida State’s offensive trials have been thoroughly dissected.
On their own, five turnovers or a 25-percent conversion rate in the red zone might be enough to sink a team.
Together, they virtually guarantee defeat.
Procedural penalties, missed blocking assignments and a failure to “win” first down – often defined as gaining four or more yards on first-and-10 – don’t help either.
The Seminoles have acknowledged all of those problems in the last day or so.
But as far as Bell is concerned, they can all be pretty much summed up by one word:
“Details,” he said. “Just details.”
And the only way to fix those details is on the practice fields.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Bell then mentioned two specific drills geared toward ball security.
“Everything we do, there’s a reason and purpose,” Bell said. “And we’ve got to make sure that every one of those drills, regardless of how monotonous, that we execute them like our lives are on the line.
“Because we did not do that, and our lives were on the line.”
All that said, Taggart and quarterback Deondre Francois both reminded that the offense did, in fact, show some signs of life.
The Seminoles outgained the Hokies, had 10 “chunk plays” (passes of 15-plus yards, runs of 10-plus yards) and saw their playmakers make a handful of highlight-reel moves – like when Khalan Laborn juked his way past half the Virginia Tech defense on his way to a 37-yard gain.
(And yes, for those wondering, Taggart and Bell both said they plan to get Laborn more touches this week.)
“We did a lot of things well,” Francois said. “… But we missed a lot of little details. We played a good game. We got the ball in the red zone. We just couldn’t capitalize.”
Bell did allow that there’s plenty of room for introspection in the coaches’ meetings, and that they’ll always spend time analyzing what works and what doesn’t.
But there’s not much to be gained by having a pity party.
“The only way to really fail at this whole thing is to not learn anything from Monday night,” he said. “… You don’t learn a lot from the wins. You learn a lot about yourself and what really matters to your football team when you get a butt-whipping.”
Taggart on VT injuries: It is what it is: To be clear, Willie Taggart did not blame Florida State’s loss on Virginia Tech’s injuries, legitimate or otherwise.
But he also couldn’t help but notice a few instances when, after seeing his team break a big play, he then saw a Virginia Tech player lying on the ground.
For an offense built on speed and rhythm, an injury timeout can have a disruptive effect.
“Yeah, that happened quite a bit,” Taggart said. “It is what it is. Can’t do anything about it, you’ve just got to line up and play the next play.”
It happened most obviously after running back Cam Akers broke free for an 85-yard run early in the fourth quarter. With the Seminoles hurrying to the line in pursuit of a touchdown that might have swung momentum their way, a Hokie defender went down and got treatment on the field.
The game broadcast then went to a commercial break, and FSU didn’t run a play until several moments later. (The player sat out the rest of the drive but returned for FSU’s next possession.)
“That killed our tempo a lot,” Francois said. “Whatever their injuries were – if they had any injuries – just killed our drives sometimes.”
But Francois was quick to echo his coach:
“That wasn’t the focal point of our offense not succeeding. It was all on us.”
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente defended his team during the ACC coaches’ teleconference, and said that the Hokies were bothered by the Tallahassee heat and humidity.
“We had numerous issues with cramping and guys battling through bumps and bruises and nicks and things they were fighting through,” Fuente said.
“Fake injuries” have been part of a national discussion in college football in recent years, as hurry-up, no-huddle offenses have become more prevalent.
NC State coach Dave Doeren accused Florida State of faking injuries after a 2014 game in Raleigh, but later apologized.
There’s nothing in the rulebook about it – and such a thing might be virtually impossible to legislate – but Taggart wouldn’t be surprised to see it addressed one day.
“I’m sure we will (make a rule) one day. Kind of like everything else, it comes when it starts happening. They’ll come up with something. Until they do, I don’t see why anybody wouldn’t do it.”
Injury updates: Taggart confirmed Wednesday that linebacker DeCalon Brooks and offensive lineman Cole Minshew are expected to play Saturday after missing last week’s game with concussions.
And linebacker Jaiden Woodbey should be good to go after suffering a shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter.
Lineman Landon Dickerson’s status, however, isn’t as clear.
Dickerson is dealing with an ankle injury and was not participating in the open portion of Wednesday’s practice. He’s one of Florida State’s most experienced linemen, although he made his debut at right tackle on Monday.
“We’ll treat that and see how it goes,” Taggart said. “A big guy with an ankle sprain is not good.”