By Tim Linafelt (@Tim_Linafelt)
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Mario Edwards would prefer that he and his teammates on the Florida State defense not spend much time in their red zone in the first place.
But if the Seminoles are going to be inside their 20-yard line, as they were at times here at Syracuse on Saturday, then Edwards is at least happy to see the defense tighten up the way it did in a 38-20 victory over the Orange.
SU’s offense possessed the ball at FSU’s 20 or better four times on Saturday, twice during sustained drives and twice after fumble recoveries.
Those red zone trips yielded only two field goals. And FSU’s defense didn’t allow a single completion on seven red-zone passing attempts.
“I’m happy with the red-zone defense because we kept them from putting six points on the board,” Edwards said. “But, as a defensive player, you don’t want them to get in the red zone.
“And the way that they got in the red zone, with big plays and big runs, we didn’t like that. But as far as keeping them out of the end zone, it was nice.”
Indeed, FSU’s ability to limit Syracuse to three points instead of seven allowed for some breathing room in a game that might have otherwise been a little close for comfort.
Rotating a pair of inexperienced quarterbacks in injured starter Terrel Hunt’s absence, SU still managed over 400 yards of offense.
And Syracuse running back Prince-Tyson Gulley broke off a 35-yard run as part of an 86-yard performance.
But yardage, of course, doesn’t guarantee points.
Jalen Ramsey’s first-quarter interception after SU drove to FSU’s 12 illustrated that point.
So, too, did an acrobatic pass break-up by P.J. Williams that forced a turnover on downs late in the first half.
“To me, that’s what championship-caliber teams (do),” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You don’t always have to play the whole game well. But situations – third down, red zone, those kinds of things, you’ve got to understand how to play well.
“And our team is doing a good job of that.”
With FSU holding a 31-13 advantage in the third quarter, a muffed punt by Jesus Wilson at his own 21 gave the Orange a chance to pull within two scores.
But just one play later, sophomore Nate Andrews ended any hint of an SU rally with an interception at the FSU 8-yard line.
It won’t go down as a red-zone stop, but Andrews’ pick – his second of the season – still fit in fine with FSU’s short-field dominance.
“One of the big stories that I thought came out of today was our defense,” Fisher said. “Even though they moved the ball, we played tremendous red-zone defense, we created turnovers, held them to a field goal.
“We even got some four-down stops which I thought was critical to our success.”