After a 69-3 romp like Florida State's win over Murray State Saturday night, there are not many concerning developments to discuss. Indeed, a game like this week's will be a bolstering performance for the proverbial G.P.A.. Let's see how the grades turned out.
The Seminoles principally used their two quarterbacks in the game, but also worked in third stringer Jacob Coker late in the second half. The trio combined to throw for 321 yards while completing 25 out of a total 35 pass attempts.
Senior EJ Manuel displayed accuracy with his arm and was the beneficiary of time in the pocket, as he went 16-for-22 and threw for the game's only aerial touchdown. Manuel did walk away with an interception, ending a prolonged streak of blemish-free passing, but it was hardly his fault as receiver Kenny Shaw bobbled and lost a wide open chance in the first half.
Shaw, who led the team with four catches and 82 yards, would later find redemption after hauling in a six yard touchdown catch on what was an impressive extension of a play by Manuel.
Backup quarterback Clint Trickett completed the longest pass of the night, finding (you guessed it) Shaw with a perfectly placed throw up the seams for 40 yards. Outside of one dangerous throw on a bench route to tight end Kevin Haplea, Trickett was solid in his 8-for-11 night.
11 different players came down with a catch Saturday night, and four had three receptions or more. Sophomore Rashad Greene brought in four catches for 40 yards, true freshman Kelvin Benjamin had three receptions for 50 yards and junior Jarred Haggins snagged three catches for 34 yards.
Perhaps most importantly for this segment, the offensive line yielded no sacks on the evening.
Overall passing game grade: A
Top performer: EJ Manuel - 16/22, 188 yds, TD, Int.
More good news for the Seminoles here, as the running backs compiled seven scores behind a revamped offensive line on the way to a prolific night.
Senior Lonnie Pryor grabbed the early headlines as the combo-back scored three rushing touchdowns, including two from one yard out. Then the second half belonged to sophomore James Wilder Jr. who rushed for a career high 106 yards on 12 carries while adding two scores.
Senior Debrale Smiley had two rushing touchdowns of his own as the 'Noles ran for 285 yards on 42 carries, a 6.8 yards per rush average.
Like the passing game, the Seminole rushing attack did not lose one yard from scrimmage the entire evening.
Overall rushing game grade: A
Top performer: James Wilder - 12 carries, 106 yards, 2 TD
The defensive line was expected to be Florida State's strength heading into the fall, and through one game it did not disappoint. The Seminoles dominated the point of attack against Murray State, registering an unexpectedly high number of sacks and tackles for loss against an offense that figured to distribute the football quickly after the snap.
Without delay, the game's most impressive player was end Bjoern Werner. The junior registered career highs with four sacks and five tackles for loss, forced a fumble and broke up a pass. Werner highlighted a pass rush which totaled six sacks, two forced fumbles and two additional quarterback hits.
Senior defensive end Tank Carradine led all players with nine tackles (five solo) while adding a sack and two tackles for loss. Fellow end Brandon Jenkins had a sack and bass break up before leaving the game in the first half with a bruised foot. Jenkins' status for the week ahead remains in question.
At the second level, linebacker Vince Williams led all tacklers with seven plus a half tackle for loss. In total, the front-seven allowed 39 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
Overall front seven grade: A
Top performer: Bjoern Werner - 5.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, FF, Pass break-up
The Seminole secondary compiled eight pass break-ups and one interception against Murray State. Xavier Rhodes brought in the INT on an errant first-half deep ball, and the redshirt junior cornerback added five tackles and two break-ups to his credit as well.
Both cornerbacks Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby drew heavy praise from coach Jimbo Fisher in postgame. Waisome, the team's starter at field corner, registered just one tackle in the stat book, but he was tested and defended well throughout his night. Darby did not record a tackle but broke up two passes as the true freshman rotated in at field corner.
Safety Lamarcus Joyner led the defensive backs with five solo tackles, although both Joyner and sophomore Karlos Williams were flagged for late hits out of bounds. Aside from those discipline issues, the segment held its own throughout the night and shut down the Racer offense the few times it faced a red-zone possession.
Safety Terrence Brooks left the game for a spell in the first half with an apparent injury, but returned to action after halftime.
Overall secondary grade: A
Top performer: Xavier Rhodes - 5 tackles (4 solo), INT, 2 Pass break-ups
Kicker Dustin Hopkins was a busy man Saturday night. The senior made both of his field goal attempts in addition to kicking nine extra points. Hopkins has now hit on 139 consecutive extra points.
New punt returner Rashad Greene started the special teams' evening in grand fashion with a lightning quick 47-yard punt return for a touchdown. Greene would later add a blemish to his first game as the team's punt returner with a return fumble lost in the second half.
Seminole punter Cason Beatty was solid in his debut, pinning the Racers inside their 20-yard line twice when given the opportunity. Beatty's longest punt was just 39 yards, but again, the freshman was operating twice in coffin-corner situations.
As for kickoffs, the strategy was clear. The Seminole coaching staff wanted every yard it could get and tried to avoid the new 25-yard line touchback rule throughout the first half. The results were mostly positive, as Hopkins' higher kicks ended up gaining the Seminoles yards five times.
FSU allowed two decent Racer kickoff returns and committed a facemask penalty that had Murray State starting one drive in Seminole territory. For the game however, Murray State's average starting field position was at its own 26-yard line.
Overall special teams grade: B
Top performer: Rashad Greene - 47-yard punt return TD
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