Thursday, September 26, 2013
Planning for success: Florida State
By David M. Hale
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When Boston College arrived in Tallahassee a year ago, the Eagles were reeling, mired in the doldrums of a season that would end with just one win over an FCS team with an offense that would rank dead last in the ACC -- and 119th nationally -- in rushing.
The result was predictable. Florida State won in a landslide, 51-7. The game was out of hand by halftime, and yet there was one distinguishing bit of unlikely success for the Eagles. When it was over, tailback Andre Williams had tallied 104 yards rushing, his second-best total of the season and the first time in 15 games that Florida State allowed a runner to top the 100-yard plateau.
In his first season as starting quarterback, Florida State's Jameis Winston has been efficient and accurate.
A year later, Boston College has already matched its win total from 2012, Williams has already had three 100-yard games, and the Eagles are rushing for 50 more yards per game than they did in 2012. But Florida State already knew what they were capable of.
"They're very physical on offense, and a very physical offensive line -- probably the best we've seen so far," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Andre Williams is very physical, big, breaks tackles and is strong."
It's not that Boston College's offense blossomed into a juggernaut overnight. The Eagles still rank 85th nationally in rushing and 107th in scoring (just 18 points per game), but it's still progress.
Against Wake Forest in Week 2, Williams racked up a career-best 204 yards, demolishing the Demon Deacons defense. His 356 yards through three games puts him on pace to nearly triple his total from 2012.
Against the Seminoles' high-flying offense, the strategy for Boston College is obvious: Run the ball, and keep FSU's offense off the field. That's a philosophy that has safety Terrence Brooks excited for the matchup.
"They like to run the ball, and we like to hit," Brooks said. "So we'll see how that works out."
Of course, if FSU is going to win that battle, it will need to play a bit better than it has thus far.
After finishing among the top rush defenses in the nation in 2011 and 2012, Florida State ranks fifth in the ACC so far this season, allowing nearly 50 more yards per game on the ground than it did a year ago. Pitt, Nevada and Bethune-Cookman all managed to find some measure of success on the ground, which exposed some weaknesses on the Seminoles' D -- particularly when it comes to missed tackles.
"Tackling is going to be critical, being physical is going to be critical," Fisher said. "You have to control the lines of scrimmage."
That's been the priority this week, as Fisher has driven home the mantra that too many flubbed plays against Boston College's running game could present significant problems.
Brooks insists the players have gotten the message. The early struggles weren't a sign of weakness, he said, but rather isolated mistakes that are being remedied slowly, but surely.
"A lot of the opponents we've played have done things on our defense because it's our fault, really," Brooks said. "We just need to capitalize on our opportunities and I feel like we should be fine. We're a little shaky right now, but we're getting into it."