Florida State football: Grading the Seminoles’ 31-28 loss to Louisville

If there’s been a theme to Florida State’s season, it’s been the team’s inability to make pivotal plays to close out tight games.

A late turnover by freshman quarterback James Blackman on Saturday led to a game-winning drive by Louisville star QB Lamar Jackson that culminated with the Cardinals kicking a field goal to defeat the Seminoles 31-28.

The result wasn’t as eye-catching as last year’s 63-20 win, but the long-term impact on Florida State’s program may be just as impactful.

The Seminoles have a 2-4 record and will have to win four of their last five games to extend the nation’s longest bowl-eligibility streak (36 years).

How did each unit fare against the Cardinals?

Let’s take a look at how Florida State graded out in its loss to Louisville:

Offense: D-minus

Coming into this game, it seemed Florida State might be primed for a breakout performance. The Seminoles performed well against Duke last week despite scoring just 17 points, and Louisville was coming off a loss to Boston College in which it gave up 45 points and 555 yards of total offense.

However, it was another afternoon of frustration for FSU coach Jimbo Fisher’s offense.

Much like last week, it began with an opening drive that was close to perfect and resulted in a touchdown. After that, very little went smoothly.

Blackman had his first game in which he looked like a freshman, as he finished 16 of 28 for 248 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The costly fumble came with 2 minutes left in the game as Florida State was deep in Louisville territory trying to notch a late score to win the game.

It was on a botched zone-read play in which Blackman tried to pull the ball from running back Cam Akers and it squirted out before being recovered by the Cardinals. In essence, it was an unforced error, which is essentially pouring salt on an open wound.

For the third straight game, Florida State topped 400 yards of total offense. But the Seminoles were only able to muster 21 points.

Running backs Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers combined to rush for 145 yards on 30 carries and the duo added another 54 yards on 5 receptions.

Tight end Ryan Izzo found the end zone for the second time in three games and is starting to become a bigger factor in the offense.

Along with receiver Nyqwan Murray — who caught 4 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown — those four players were largely responsible for the Seminoles’ bright spots on offense.

But, perhaps in a signal of the lack of depth at receiver, one of Blackman’s picks came when he targeted walk-on receiver Jared Jackson on a deep ball over the middle. The ball was underthrown, but the timing of the call and the execution left a lot to be desired.

Overall, turnovers, penalties and the Seminoles’ inability to convert in pivotal situations doomed whatever momentum they were able to put together — which has been a constant for them with Blackman at QB.

Defense: D-minus

The defense did not give up 63 points and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson didn’t account for 5 touchdowns on Florida State like he did a year ago.

However, Jackson had 334 yards of total offense and 2 scores while helping Louisville amass 449 yards, the most the Seminoles have given up this season, as detailed by cfbstats.com.

The Seminoles forced a Jackson fumble in the second quarter that linebacker Matthew Thomas recovered and returned for a touchdown to put Florida State up 14-7. However, Louisville answered on the following drive with a touchdown and put up 21 unanswered points heading into the fourth quarter.

Third-down defense has been an issue for the Seminoles this season and the Cardinals converted 50 percent of their attempts — although defensive coordinator Charles Kelly’s unit did make two critical stops when Louisville went for it on fourth down.

Individually, Thomas and defensive ends Josh Sweat and Joshua Kaindoh had flashes of strong play.

Still, despite the ups and downs, the defense was not able to stand tall in the game’s waning moments and allowed the Cardinals to drive for the field goal that helped Louisville win the game.

Special teams: D

Ricky Aguayo missed a 45-yard kick on the opening drive of the second half that would have given the Seminoles the lead. Louisville responded with touchdowns on its next two drives to take control of the game.

Additionally, Florida State had a kickoff go out of bounds after its first touchdown and failed to notch any big plays in the return game.

The bright spots for Florida State were the play of punter Logan Tyler, who averaged 42 yards per punt, and a coverage unit that did not allow any big returns.

Overall: D-minus

Every time it seems the 2017 Seminoles have things figured out, they find a way to put themselves in a worse situation than they were in the past.

Injuries and youth are prominent on this team, but so are unforced errors such as penalties and blowing costly timeouts at inopportune times.

For a team that has a knack of playing in a number of close games, these are issues that have been prevalent throughout the season.

If Florida State hopes to get back to the level where Fisher had the program when it was a perennial national title contender, those are the same issues that he and the coaching staff have to address if they hope to become a dominant power again in the near future.

The post Florida State football: Grading the Seminoles’ 31-28 loss to Louisville appeared first on Diehards.

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