No longer winless, FSU now searches for offensive consistency with Miami on horizon
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State’s offense showed some progress in last week’s win over Wake Forest. But there are still plenty of things that need improvement as preparations begin for Saturday’s game against 13th-ranked Miami.
The points of emphasis for this week will be scoring touchdowns in the red zone and not trying to overly rely on big plays.
“We found ways to make plays when we had to last week, and that’s a huge step. Now we’ve got to take the next step as Miami is a heck of a team,” coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Florida State (1-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) has made 12 trips to the red zone, but has just three touchdowns, which is tied for the third-worst TD percentage in the nation. Seven of Ricky Aguayo’s eight field goals have come in the red zone, but Fisher knows his offense can’t continue to leave points on the field.
Trying to improve that this week will be a big challenge. Miami has allowed only three touchdowns in 11 red-zone trips, which leads the nation at 27.3 percent. Fisher said that the Hurricanes’ defense, which features defensive ends Joe Jackson and Chad Thomas, might be the most physical they have faced.
The Seminoles are also 119th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense, averaging 300.7 yards per game. They had 270 yards in last Saturday’s 26-19 win over Wake Forest, but 152 yards came on three plays of 40 yards or more. A bigger concern is that 17 of 64 offensive plays resulted in negative yards.
Freshman James Blackman continues to show he has a big arm, as evidenced by his game-winning, 40-yard touchdown pass to Auden Tate, but he continues to be tentative at times. He was been sacked nine times in his two starts, with most being due to holding on to the ball too long.
“He’s showing great patience in the game for a young guy. There’s some things I definitely want him to do better,” Fisher said.
Tate has accounted for three of FSU’s four touchdowns this season while the other receivers have struggled. Nyqwan Murray is averaging just 4.4 yards on seven receptions the past two games while tight end Ryan Izzo hasn’t had a catch since the opener against Alabama.
Fisher is hoping that the ground game can continue to sustain the momentum it gained last week. Jacques Patrick had just 14 carries in the first two games but posted his first 100-yard game of the season with 120 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Freshman Cam Akers has two straight games where he has rushed over 50 yards.
More consistency in the running game could also open opportunities for other receivers.
The offensive line, which has struggled the past two games, goes into the week hampered by injuries. Left tackle Derrick Kelly along with guards Landon Dickerson and Cole Menshew, suffered injuries against the Demon Deacons, but Fisher was optimistic that all three could return to practice by Tuesday.
Florida State has a seven-game winning streak over its in-state rival, but this marks the first time since 1983 that the Hurricanes (3-0, 1-0) go into the game ranked and the Seminoles are not. The game was originally scheduled to be played on Sept. 16, but was moved due to Hurricane Irma. The Hurricanes remained unbeaten with a 31-6 win last Friday at Duke.
“I think they’re playing with a great confidence, and it’s just typical Miami team. Great player and playing really good,” said Fisher of Miami.