Florida State Seminoles: Instant analysis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The game was billed as a battle of division leaders, but Duke hardly looked the part Saturday as Florida State dominated the Blue Devils en route to a 48-7 victory.

Despite Duke's upstart status this season, little has changed in its rivalry with the Seminoles. EJ Manuel threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns, Tyler Hunter added a 75-yard punt return for a score and Florida State cruised to its 18th victory in as many tries against the Blue Devils.

It was over when: James Wilder Jr. rumbled into the end zone from 1 yard out just 1:50 into the second quarter. That touchdown put Florida State ahead 24-0, and it was already clear that in spite of all the buzz leading up to the game surrounding Duke's sudden resurgence, the Blue Devils simply weren't in the same class as the Seminoles.

Game ball goes to: Wilder and Devonta Freeman. There were plenty of stout performances, from Manuel's long passes to stellar defensive work by Cornellius Carradine and Christian Jones. But coming into the game, the big question was how Florida State's ground game would respond to the loss of starting tailback Chris Thompson, and Freeman and Wilder offered an emphatic answer. The pair combined for 174 yards on 25 carries and scored three times on the ground. Since Thompson's injury, Wilder and Freeman have averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

Stat of the game: Manuel wasn't asked to do much against Duke, but when he unloaded in the passing game, it was usually for a big play. Manuel averaged 17.6 yards per attempt against Duke -- the highest average of his career. Five of Manuel's eight completions gained at least 30 yards, and he finished with 282 yards passing. In his two career starts against Duke, Manuel has completed just 17 passes, but five have gained 50 yards or more. Meanwhile, Duke's quarterbacks averaged just 3.6 yards per attempt Saturday.

Unsung hero: Dustin Hopkins. OK, so neither of his field goals meant a whole lot in determining the outcome, but Hopkins connected on a 56-yard kick with 9:40 to go in the fourth quarter to set the ACC's all-time record for most field goals in a career, eclipsing former Maryland kicker Nick Novak. Hopkins has 15 field goals in his last five games, but the 58-yarder was a career-long for the senior. He's just 10 points shy of setting the NCAA record for most points scored in a career.

Record performance: Hopkins provided the only ACC record of the day, as Duke's Conner Vernon will have to wait to set the conference record for receiving yards. Vernon entered play needing 94 yards to break Peter Warrick's career mark for ACC receivers, but he managed just three catches for 12 yards.

Cause for concern: It was an easy win for Florida State, but fumbles remained a big problem for the second consecutive game. FSU coughed up the football four times Saturday, with Duke recovering each of them. This comes on the heels of a six-fumble performance against Miami last week. The problems were across the board, too, with Manuel fumbling on a QB run, Rodney Smith fumbling after a long reception, Freeman coughing up the football on a running play and Hunter muffing a return.

Instant Analysis: FSU 51, BC 7

October, 13, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For a week, Jimbo Fisher listened as fans criticized his conservative play calling following a devastating loss to NC State. On Saturday, Fisher made sure there wouldn't be a repeat performance.

The Seminoles demolished an overmatched Boston College defense, as EJ Manuel threw for a career-high 439 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-7 win.

Fisher set the tone early, calling for passes on the first nine plays of the game, and Florida State's passing game never slowed.

It was over when: Lamarcus Joyner picked off a Chase Rettig pass at the Florida State 11-yard line, returning it 33 yards and setting up a field goal. Rather than going into the half with momentum, Boston College ended the quarter down 31-7 and mustered little the rest of the way.

Turning point: Florida State dominated from the outset, but the turning point for the Seminoles probably came last Sunday, when players gathered at linebacker Nick Moody's house for a cookout where they cleared the air about last week's loss and vowed to turn the page with an impressive performance against Boston College.

Game ball goes to: Manuel. The FSU quarterback had a rough week after struggling to move his offense in the second half against NC State, but he had no problems finding big plays Saturday. Manuel completed 27-of-34 passes for 439 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with nine different receivers in the game.

Stat of the game: 104. That's the rushing total for BC tailback Andre Williams. It's tough to find too much for Boston College to be pleased with after this one, but Williams became the first running back to top 100 yards against the FSU defense in more than a year. Of course, even that stat isn't particularly significant for the Eagles, as 89 of Williams' 104 yards came in the first half. Florida State, meanwhile, added 153 of its 201 rushing yards in the second half.

Unsung hero: Dustin Hopkins. The Florida State kicker connected on three field goals -- including a 51-yarder to close out the first half -- and was perfect on six PATs in Florida State's win. The 15 points gives Hopkins 402 points for his career, which sets a new Florida State and ACC record. Hopkins is now 31 points shy of Art Carmody's NCAA scoring record.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State's players spent the week insisting they'd turned the page on last week's shocking loss to NC State, but a dominant first-half against Boston College on Saturday was as much about exorcising some demons as it was about moving past an ugly loss.

After a week of criticism for conservative play calling, Jimbo Fisher called for one deep throw after another in the first half Saturday, and EJ Manuel racked up 295 yards and three touchdowns as the Seminoles jumped to a 31-7 halftime lead.

Stat of the half: 343. That's the total yards of offense in the first half for Florida State -- the same total the Seminoles had mustered by the end of last week's loss to NC State. Fisher called for passes on the first nine plays of the game, and 20 of Florida State's 33 passes overall have been throws by Manuel, who has four completions of at least 40 yards.

Player of the half: Manuel. He hasn't been perfect -- there were a few deep balls to open receivers he couldn't complete -- but after shouldering a big part of the criticism after last week's loss, the FSU quarterback posted big numbers in the first half against Boston College. The fact that Manuel has been such a big part of the offense against BC -- which ranks 121st nationally in run defense -- could be due in large part to Fisher and his quarterback wanting to make up for last week's struggles.

What's working for Florida State: The passing game -- and, in particular, the deep ball. Manuel connected with Kenny Shaw on two long passes, including a 77-yard touchdown throw that marks a career long for both players. Shaw is the first FSU receiver this year to top 100 yards.

What's not working for Florida State: The run defense. FSU's defensive line has struggled with gap integrity, and as a result, BC running back Andre Williams has 89 yards rushing on 14 carries. The Seminoles hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 14 games.

Noteworthy: With his 51-yard field goal to end the first half, FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins became both the school's and the ACC's all-time leading scorer. … Safety Lamarcus Joyner recorded his first interception of the season in the second quarter. … Lonnie Pryor's first-half rushing touchdown was his fifth of the season, a career high.

Halftime Analysis: FSU 16, NCSU 0

October, 6, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The good news for NC State is that it could have been worse. The bad news is that there are no signs the Wolfpack will turn the tide in the second half.

Three Florida State drives stalled and ended with field goals, but the Seminoles' stout defensive front has dominated the line of scrimmage and Chris Thompson has already crossed the 100-yard mark on the ground as FSU has jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead.

Stat of the half: 115. That's the rushing yards for Thompson in the first half. Thompson needed just 11 carries to top the 100-yard mark for the third time this season, as he set the tone for the Florida State offense. The FSU O-line has had trouble protecting EJ Manuel, but the running game has had no trouble finding holes, averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Thompson's 115 yards on the ground give him 546 for the year -- just 33 shy of Devonta Freeman's team-leading total from a year ago.

Player of the half: Thompson, but the FSU defensive line can also make a good argument for the honor. Thompson has been the game changer on offense, but FSU's defensive front has tormented Mike Glennon, who is averaging just 3.2 yards per attempt. The NC State running game hasn't fared any better, with starting tailback Tony Creecy tallying just 21 yards on 10 carries.

What's working for FSU: Aside from the run game and the defensive front, it's been all Dustin Hopkins, who has connected on three field goals for the second straight week. That's good news for Hopkins, who struggled three weeks ago against Clemson, but bad news for an FSU offense which has endured some notable red-zone struggles of late.

What's not working for FSU: The biggest problem for the Seminoles has been pass protection. Manuel was sacked three times in the first half, a season high. Even when he hasn't been brought down, he's been under pressure. Manuel has fared rather well -- 11-of-15 passing for 117 yards and a TD -- but he hasn't had the time to look downfield as Miami did in exploiting the NC State secondary a week earlier.

Worth noting: Right tackle Menelik Watson has an illness, according to FSU sports information, that sidelined him for the game. Daniel Glauser got the start. ...Thompson left the game for a series in the second quarter for treatment on his elbow. He returned to the field, but with the elbow heavily wrapped. ...Rashad Greene tied his season high with four catches in the first half. ...Anthony McCloud recorded his first sack of the season.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida State hasn't marched down the field with ease the way it did during its first four games of the season, but EJ Manuel has been efficient, Rashad Greene provided the finishing touches on an early touchdown drive and Dustin Hopkins has drilled two field goals to give the Seminoles a 13-3 lead over USF at the half.

Stat of the half: Greene's 10-yard run on an end-around provided the lone touchdown of the first half, and it also provided a nice bit of trivia for the sophomore receiver. The rushing score was the fourth touchdown of the year for Greene, who has also caught a TD pass and returned two punts for scores, too. He's the first Seminoles player to score on a rush, a reception and a return in the same season since Peter Warrick did it in 1999.

Player of the half: Manuel hasn't provided the same fireworks he did a week ago when he jump-started his Heisman campaign with a big game against Clemson, but the Florida State quarterback turned in a solid first half, completing 12-of-15 passes for 139 yards. Most of Manuel's numbers came over the middle though, with few downfield options against the USF secondary.

What's working for Florida State: The defense hasn't dominated, but Xavier Rhodes' interception late in the second quarter provided one final scoring chance for FSU, and the Bulls haven't mustered much after a strong opening drive. B.J. Daniels engineered a 10-play, 62-yard opening drive that ended with a field goal, but the Bulls have managed just 100 yards the rest of the half.

What's not working for Florida State: The FSU running game was dominant in the first four games of the season, but Chris Thompson and James Wilder Jr. have had trouble finding much room to run against USF. Lonnie Pryor broke a huge 44-yard run, and Kelvin Benjmain took a reverse for 17 yards. Beyond that, however, FSU has averaged just 2.3 yards per carry, and it was stuffed near the goal line on three straight plays.

Noteworthy: Cornellius Carradine leads FSU defenders with six tackles. … Pryor's 44-yard run was the second longest of his career. … Kevin Haplea made his second career catch with FSU, an 11-yard reception. … Rhodes' interception was his second of the year and the third overall for Florida State.

Halftime Analysis: Clemson 21, FSU 14

September, 22, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Tajh Boyd needed just five plays to solve Florida State's vaunted defense, hitting DeAndre Hopkins with a 60-yard touchdown pass on third down in what set the precedent for a high-scoring first half, with Clemson holding a 21-14 halftime lead.

The two teams combined for 564 yards of offense in the first half, with EJ Manuel carving up the Clemson defense as easily as Boyd moved the Tigers' offense, but two missed field goals and a fumbled punt doomed Florida State through the first 30 minutes.

Stat of the half: 8.1 That's Florida State's average gain per rush in the first half, and it's the Seminoles' best hope for a turnaround in the second half. Manuel and Chris Thompson have done their share of damage on the ground, and Clemson hasn't had an answer. Both of the Seminoles' touchdowns came on the ground, too -- a 13-yard run by Lonnie Pryor and a 5-yard run by James Wilder Jr.

Player of the half: Boyd. The Clemson quarterback was 12-of-17 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns, including the 60-yard bomb to Hopkins on the Tigers' opening drive that quieted a raucous crowd. Boyd has hit six different receivers in the first half. Manuel nearly matched him -- 15 of 20 for 181 yards -- but two FSU drives stalled thanks to penalties, forcing field-goal tries.

What's working for FSU: Manuel's legs. There's been plenty of room underneath for the FSU offense, and when the big plays haven't developed down field, Manuel has made his mark on the ground, picking up 53 yards on six carries.

What's not working for FSU: Clemson has done its share of damage, which was to be expected. But the self-inflicted wounds are the difference right now for FSU. Dustin Hopkins' two missed field goals, four penalties and, most importantly, Rashad Greene's fumbled punt return have squandered scoring chances and bolstered an already potent Tigers' attack.

Noteworthy: FSU defensive end Cornellius Carradine has two sacks in the first half. ... Clemson's Sammy Watkins has five touches but just 35 yards through the first half. He ha been matched against Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby throughout. ... The 21 first-half points by Clemson snaps a streak of 11 consecutive games in which the FSU defense had held opponents to 19 or fewer points.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A year ago, Chris Thompson's career nearly ended against Wake Forest. He took a handoff, cut inside, lowered his head, and ran into a tackle that broke two bones in his back and ended his season.

Thompson said this had been an emotional week as he thought back to the injury and how far he has come since, and, in the first half Saturday, he marked the occasion by delivering one of the best running performances in Florida State history.

Thompson had touchdown runs of 74 and 80 yards in the second quarter, helping Florida State to a 38-0 halftime lead.

Stat of the half: 197. That's Thompson's rushing total in the first half, more than double his total for the entirety of the 2011 season. In addition to his dominance on the ground, Thompson added two catches for 23 more yards.

Player of the half: Thompson, of course. The senior tailback had already tallied the 10th-best rushing day in Florida State history with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter. The two long touchdowns were the fourth and fifth of Thompson's career of at least 70 yards. Thompson was responsible for 62 percent of Florida State's total offense in the first half.

What's working for FSU: Aside from Thompson, the special teams have been the key. Rashad Greene returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown, his second of the year. Dustin Hopkins has pinned Wake Forest inside the 20 on five of six kickoffs, and punter Cason Beatty delivered two exceptional kicks in the first quarter to pin the Deacons deep in their own territory.

What's not working for FSU: Despite Thompson's big day, it's hard to say the first big test for Florida State's offensive line has gone well. The pass protection has been bad, with EJ Manuel sacked twice and under pressure throughout. The Seminoles also were stuffed three straight times from inside the 2 in the second quarter. Pass protection and short-yardage play were big concerns a year ago, and the revamped line has done little to show it has turned a corner.

Noteworthy: Florida State has outscored its first three opponents of the season by a combined 162-0 in less than nine quarters of action. … Right tackle Menelik Watson (ankle) was available for Saturday's game, but Daniel Glauser got the start. … Defensive end Bjoern Werner added 1.5 sacks in the first half and has 6.5 for the season.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State's blowout of Savannah State proceeded as expected through the bulk of the first half before lightning provided the Tigers with a merciful early conclusion.

The Seminoles scored on eight of nine possessions in the game, including their first seven, en route to a 55-0 win against overmatched Savannah State. EJ Manuel threw three touchdown passes and freshman Kelvin Benjamin hauled in two scores, and the Tigers mustered just 28 yards of offense.

The game was delayed twice by lightning, the first resulting in a decision to use a running clock the remainder of the game, and the second calling the proceedings to an end completely.

In its first two games of the season, Savannah State was outscored 139-0, having lost its opener to Oklahoma State 84-0.

Florida State, meanwhile, opens ACC play next week against Wake Forest, having taken its first two games by a combined score of 124-3.

It was over when: There was still 8:59 left in the third quarter. Really, it was over before it started, as Florida State had no trouble carving apart the Savannah State defense. But the real intrigue came when the players left the field for the second time due to a weather delay at about 8:52 p.m., and about 40 minutes later the game was officially called.

Game ball goes to: Manuel. He didn't get much playing time, but he certainly made the most of what little action he got. Manuel completed 11 of 13 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns -- just the second game of his career with three or more TD throws.

Stat of the game: 385. That was the total yardage difference between the two teams, despite the game ending 23 minutes early. Florida State racked up a whopping 413 yards of total offense before the weather forced an early finish, while Savannah State mustered a mere 28 yards in the game, including just nine via passing plays, as QB Antonio Bostick finished 2-of-15.

Unsung hero: Chris Thompson. The senior running back didn't see a ton of action, like all of FSU's starters, but he did pick up 44 yards on just four touches, including a 6-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. It was Thompson's first touchdown since Sept. 10, 2011 against Charleston Southern. The senior broke his back three weeks later and missed the remainder of the 2011 season.

What we learned: Not a whole lot. Florida State's starters barely played. The second-stringers took only a few snaps in the second half. The third-stringers barely had a chance to get loose before the weather brought things to a halt. But if there's anything for coach Jimbo Fisher to take from this game, it's that his team lived up to expectations, looking incredibly sharp early rather than overlooking an obviously inferior opponent.
There was little doubt this would be a blowout, but the onslaught started early, and the bulk of Florida State's starters were off the field by the end of the first quarter.

The Seminoles breezed through the Savannah State defense, racking up 376 yards of total offense and scoring on their first seven drives while building a 48-0 halftime lead. The only thing that slowed Florida State's dominance was the weather, as lightning suspended play for nearly an hour late in the second quarter. Play resumed with an announcement that the rest of the game would be played with a running clock.

Stat of the half: It's hardly worth noting all the huge offensive numbers, as Savannah State hardly put up a fight against the Seminoles' first-stringers, who all had early seats on the bench. The most noteworthy number of the half was probably the one negative moment for Florida State, when senior kicker Dustin Hopkins had his streak of 145 consecutive successful PATs snapped with a miss following FSU's seventh touchdown of the game.

Player of the half: EJ Manuel only played the first quarter, but he made the most of his time. Manuel completed 11-of-13 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns before exiting in favor of Clint Trickett. It marked just the second time in Manuel's career he'd thrown for at least three touchdowns in a game.

What's working for FSU: Everything. Florida State's first four touchdowns required just 12 total plays, and the offense moved the ball at will. Defensively, the starters were virtually all on the sideline by the start of the second quarter, after holding Savannah State to minus-20 yards in the first.

What's not working for FSU: The weather. The stands were already only half full with rain throughout the day and a mismatch on the field dampening much in the way of fan enthusiasm. The combination of the lopsided score and the lightning delay in the second quarter emptied a majority of the fans.

Noteworthy: Freshman Kelvin Benjamin scored his first career touchdown, a 9-yard fade pass from Manuel in the first quarter. … Senior running back Chris Thompson scored his first touchdown in nearly a year in the first quarter. Thompson broke his back last October and missed the remainder of the season. … Junior receiver Willie Haulstead had his first reception since the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl. ... Tight end Nick O'Leary (thigh) and center Bryan Stork (neck) did not play in the first half. Austin Barron started at center and freshman Christo Kourtzidis and Penn State transfer Kevin Haplea both started at tight end. Kourtzidis made his first career catch in the second quarter. ... Defensive tackle Anthony McCloud got his first playing time of the season after missing the opener with a chest injury.


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