OUCH! There isn’t much else to say about that game. The Deacs showed up to Tallahassee riding high on confidence after a huge 28-27 win over North Carolina in week two, but confidence was not enough. I hate being negative in my blog because I have been there as a player (’10 vs Stanford when we lost 68-24).
I know what it feels like to lose like this. It’s absolutely miserable especially when you get flat out beat. As a player the only thing you want to do is get home and get ready for the next game. You want to show the fans that this was a one-time deal and the next game can’t come fast enough.
That’s enough with the emotional side of it, let’s analyze this game. Here it goes:
- We found out what happens when Campanaro can’t get the ball. Camp has been the lifeline of the offense this season, but yesterday he had only two catches for 8 yards and the offense struggled. He had a couple of drops early on, but for the most part he just wasn’t open. Sherman Ragland had a huge 41-yard catch in the third quarter but by then the game was over.
- Josh Harris had a nice 34-yard run yesterday, but other than that the running game continued to struggle (43 yards rushing). The O-line was not able to get enough movement up front to open up creases. The Deacs had some opportunities to break through on outside zones, but an FSU defender was able to beat his blocker and make the tackle.
- The key to outside zone is winning inside. If the tackle loses his block outside its okay as long as the center and guard can reach their defenders quickly to open up a crease. Unfortunately the zone plays seemed to wash down the line of scrimmage leaving the running back nowhere to go.
- Pass protection was below average all day. Last season I blocked both Bjoern Werner and Cornelius Carradine and know how much talent those two have, but the line needed to slow them down a little more than they did. Jimbo Fisher’s staff game-planned the Deacs well. Werner is their best defender and FSU used him in a very clever manner. In most 3rd down situations they moved Werner into position for him to have a personnel mismatch. Typically Werner lines up across from the right tackle with his hand in the dirt, but on many 3rd downs they rushed him from a stand-up position and took advantage of his matchup with Wake Forest running backs. Carradine can thank Werner for at least one sack yesterday. Again, I thought this was a brilliant strategy by the Noles. Werner is too big and too good for a running back to block. In 2009, Georgia Tech employed this same strategy against the Deacs with their All-American defensive end Derrick Morgan.
- The Deacs really missed NG Nikita Whitlock. Going into the game I thought FSU center Bryan Stork would struggle against Whitlock because of his lateral quickness. With Whitlock out, Stork was able to take advantage of an inexperienced true freshman Tylor Harris. I’ll give Harris some credit, he played much better than many true freshman would have (3 tackles and 1 fumble recovery), but he has a different style of play than Whitlock. Harris is a big and powerful defender whereas Whitlock is very quick side-to-side. Stork capitalized on this difference yesterday. The Noles ran a ton of outside zone in the game and, as I mentioned earlier, zone is successful when the interior lineman reach their defenders. For the majority of the game Stork was able to reach Harris and Florida State’s running game flourished.
- The running success cannot be attributed solely to Harris getting reached. There were many times that the Deacon defenders over pursued the run and were burned by the cut-back run. Early on in the game, FSU was having success on the edges (74 and 80-yard runs by RB Chris Thompson). As soon as the Deacs adjusted to that they were burned by cut-back runs. When teams are having success outside, the natural tendency is to run, run, run to cover the outside run, but if you don’t have your backside defenders playing their gaps you become susceptible to cut-back runs up the middle.
- Missed tackles hurt the Deacs again this week. I think the Deacs were a little bit better than the Carolina game, but there were still too many missed tackles out there. The biggest miss of all came on FSU RB Chris Thompson’s 80-yard scamper which could have been stopped for a short gain.
- I thought DE Kris Redding had a pretty good game. He was one of the bright spots of this game for me. Redding was able sack QB E.J. Manuel twice, one resulted in a fumble and a recovery by Tylor Harris. There wasn’t much to get excited about during the game, but I think Redding showed he can play at a high level. He came into this game off the bench after seeing DE Hasan Hazime take his spot in the starting lineup. That may have lit a fire in Redding, let’s hope that fire stays lit.
- The kick-off return unit needs to improve. I give all the credit in the world to those guys for doing that job (it’s truly a selfless unit and can be a very unpleasant job). They have to block guys running at them with a 40-yard head start. It’s tough. That being said, the Deacs have to be able to get the ball outside of their own 20-yard line. Hopkins only kicked two in the end zone, but the Deacs couldn’t get anything going on their returns. Wake’s average starting position was on their own 19-yard line, but their average start in the 1st quarter was on their own 12-yard line. It’s tough to go 88 yards against anyone, let alone Florida State.
- The punt team spent too much time on the field. This was a result of a lackluster offense, but punting the ball 13 times puts you at risk for big returns. Alex Kinal averaged 40 yards per punt, but his hang time just wasn’t there. That was the main reason for the huge 60-yard return in the first quarter. Kinal’s strength is the hang time that allows the Deacon coverage team to swarm the returner.
The Deacs must improve from Saturday’s effort. The running game has to get better, if Wake can’t run the ball teams are going to blitz Tanner all game. Defensively, it all starts with the tackling. It doesn’t matter what opposing offenses throw at you as long as you wrap up and tackle. When you don’t do that consistently you will lose.
The Deacs return to action this Saturday for Homecoming against Army. Kickoff is at 12:30. Be sure to get there early and get loud in the stands. The players love it when the crowd is into the game, it really his a huge confidence boost.