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Countdown Q&A, Week 6 - Florida State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Florida State at Boston College Photo by Malcolm Hope/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This week the Cards get to battle one of the two “big dogs” in the Atlantic least that's what we pegged them when we joined the conference six years ago. What's happened since that time is that Florida State has hit a few bumps in the road, Renegade got side tracked, and the ‘Noles are now on Coach number three just since we hopped into the ACC. With that said, although the series feels much closer, the ‘Noles still have the advantage in the last six contests (2-4) and are looking to go on a three game winning streak against the Cards. So, how do find out more about this division foe heading into Saturday? Glad you asked...

This week I sat down with Jon Marchant from over at ‘Tomahawk Nation’ to get some insight from a fans perspective about what’s going on down in Tallahassee. Some familiar names emerge, a holiday focused conversation takes place, and we reminisce about the time Lamar Jackson ran for 8,000 yards and 17 touchdowns (ok, maybe I skipped that topic).

The Seminoles are coming off a nice win over North Carolina last week, jumping on them early and then hanging on late against a group of receivers who somehow started the petrification process mid-drive. Fans talk all the time about “must win” games, but how bad did Florida State need to pull that one out, especially after getting up big?

What an interesting question. I definitely wouldn’t have called it a must-win game before kickoff, but you make a good point that you’d never want to allow that big of a comeback, and to do so would have been really disappointing. Unfortunately, Seminole fans are used to that exact disappointment as they have given up big first half leads numerous times in recent seasons. I wouldn’t say FSU needed to pull that one out yet at this point in the rebuild, but the fact they did is absolutely huge. Not in terms of this season, but because it’s a feather in the cap of this coaching staff that can sell progress to recruits that previous staffs couldn’t.

Before the season began I actually pointed to the Louisville transfer, Jordan Travis, to be the starter by the time this one rolled around because I have never been sold on Blackman as the guy to get things rolling at FSU and if history has told us anything ex-Cards with an opportunity to blow up against their old team seem to be batting a thousand in years past. What are your thoughts on Travis having now seen him take on the starter’s role?

Alabama State v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Haha I can sympathize with being stuck in that kind of position with your team. I like Travis, and his athleticism has meant everything to this team. He’s still pretty raw as a passer but the kid can play and sling it. Moving to him as the starter and crafting an offense around him on the fly is nothing short of remarkable, and it’s clear he’s earned the opportunity for himself. The run and pass game are both more explosive with him as the signal caller, and the coaches said he’s doing a good job with his checks at the line of the scrimmage. His ability to make consistently good reads in the read-option game as well as throwing from a variety of platforms has elevated the play of the offensive line. My only concern is the beating he’s taking from getting hit, and at this rate he won’t last the season.

While Chief Osceola running onto the field with a flaming spear in his hand is considered a pretty damn impressive weapon, I was actually more concerned with the weapon named Tamorrion Terry heading into the season. It appears FSU will be without Terry again this week due to a leg injury he’s been nursing for a couple weeks. While they could use him, do they ‘kneed’ him? Get it? “kneed him”, ya know cause his knee is hurt…nevermind. Who do you see stepping up against an improved but somewhat sketchy Louisville secondary?

That information is on a kneed to know basis! Ok, enough with the dad jokes. To answer the question, honestly nobody. The guy who needs to step up and fill that role is Warren Thompson. He has all the size and athleticism you want, but he’s never made a big or consistent impact, and we’re all tired of waiting. The other two main guys at receiver are Keyshawn Helton and Ontaria Wilson. Both are pretty athletic and good at creating after the catch, so if the Louisville secondary is sketchy, either of them have the potential to break one. But there’s one obvious answer to your question. I also have to mention that Mike Norvell likes to use his running backs in the pass game because there’s too much talent not to. He has frequently put true freshman Lawrance Toafili and transfer Jashaun Corbin in the slot this season, so I expect that to continue. Travis just needs to get the ball to the right player.

Florida State is currently giving up nearly 475 yards per game (yikes), and allowing a tick over 32 points per game (double yikes). While the Louisville offense has had it’s struggles it’s still putting up crooked numbers in a lot of areas and has some atheletes that can make plays. Where can Louisville attack FSU to try and get the offense rolling again?

Yikes is right, although there has been improvement to point to in the last few weeks against top-ranked teams Notre Dame and North Carolina. One of the reasons for their struggles is a ton of running quarterbacks, but the biggest issue is the boundary, or short side of the field. Florida State is still trying to figure some things out personnel-wise across the entire defense, but there isn’t any answer at boundary corner. Akeem Dent and transfers Jarrian Jones and Meiko Dotson have all played a ton of snaps there. The best one in my opinion is Dotson, but I’m not sure that Dotson is completely healthy. FSU’s other cornerback, Asante Samuel, Jr., is really good. Like really really good. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the size and therefore physicality to play on that side so he mostly sticks to the field side. The Will backer over to that same boundary side has also struggled immensely, but the play has been better recently. So the boundary where I think you can expect Louisville to attack over and over. The other main weakness is the second level overall. To make a long story short, the linebackers are still largely a liability in coverage. Some of that is a talent issue, some of that is just experience.

While Mike Norvell was at Memphis we were contractually obligated to hate his face as Louisville fans, but I actually liked the hire from FSU and think he could get them back in a position to be competing in the Atlantic in a few seasons. What’s stuck out to you about Norvell and his staff that’s different from the previous regime?

I’ve been really happy with him so far. The first answer that pops in my head is the in-season improvement, of which last week is proof enough. I really liked Willie Taggart and not only did I want him to succeed, I thought he would. But his first staff was a huge dud, and there were rumors of malignant disorganization across the program, as well as culture rot and APR issues left over from Jimbo Fisher, not to mention the worst offensive line in the Power 5. Not all Taggart’s fault by any means, but one of the issues with his teams is they never got better during the season. What we got in Week 1 we pretty much got in the bowl game.

Florida State Football Program Leads a Unity Walk in Tallahassee Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

I do think Taggart left the job slightly better than he found it. But already through five games this season we’ve seen quite a bit of improvement in the on-field product as well as proof this staff can coach. A win against a top-five team is huge in changing the culture of this team and getting kids invested and bought in to what this staff is doing. Progress isn’t linear week-to-week and there are more bumps in the road, but hopefully this staff can build on this the rest of the way and then transfer that momentum to recruiting.

We’re a week out from Halloween so I’m gonna hit you with a timely ‘trick or treat’ question about your program, it’s like bagging one of those wax orange wrapped candies but following it up with a snickers. So, in your memory what was the best ‘trick play’ an opponent ran on FSU and if you can find video footage, bonus points. Inversely, what was the most satisfying “treat” of a win, meaning a game you likely should have lost but found a way to get the dub?

What a great question. I’m not great at remembering individual plays, and I definitely can’t remember any trick plays that played a huge role in beating FSU, like say Boise State’s Statue of Liberty against Oklahoma. I definitely remember plenty of failed trick plays attempted by FSU that backfired haha. They had one just a couple weeks ago against Miami. While I enjoy any play if it’s fun and done well, I just don’t have a favorite trick play against FSU. I will however go with this 2017 play by Boston College against FSU on a reverse pass.

As for a game FSU somehow found a way to win, there’s many, many candidates, but two are my favorite. First, when FSU came back against Clemson in 2014. All the Tigers had to do was run it three times and kick a chip shot field goal to break the tie as time expired, but their running back fumbled and FSU won in OT. The other one is Chris Rix to PK Sam in 2003, my freshman year at FSU, to beat the Gators. Tomahawk Nation ranked that play as the 11th greatest in school history. As an honorable mentions I’ll go with EJ Manuel to Rashard Greene to edge out Virginia Tech in 2012, or when the referees correctly called offensive pass interference against Notre Dame in 2014 when the Irish had scored the go-ahead touchdown.

At the time of this post the line is floating around the Card being a five point favorite when they kick things off at noon on your favorite regional sports network. Similar to FSU last week Louisville is desperate for a win, and even though they are slight favorites this is basically a pick ‘em game between two teams looking to get some momentum for the last half of the season. How do we see this one play out?

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what to make of Louisville this season after that close Notre Dame game they had so I’m not sure what to think about this game. I do think this has all the makings of a “let-down” game for FSU from the big win last week. The Cards being a five-point favorite sounds about right to me. Then again, FSU just beat a two touchdown favorite in the Tar Heels! I think Louisville has a great chance here, but I’m gonna go homer for the fun of it and say FSU wins by something really close like 24-23.


Big thanks once again to Jon for his time and well thought out answers. You can also follow ‘Tomahawk Nation’ on twitter for all your FSU news and when do they plan to relinquish their completely fake ACC Tournament Championship trophy from 2020? I’m following that one closely. Also, be on the look out for my responses to their inquires landing on their page in the next day or so. I’ll come back here and link it up once it’s posted, laughing in the face of shameless self-promotion.

UPDATE: As promised, here is the link to my Q&A with Jon over at TN