What a difference 40 football minutes can make. After a tenuous first 20-plus minutes, which saw Nevada build a 7-3 advantage, Florida State found its bearings on both sides of the ball to explode for 59 unanswered points.
After a head-scratching decision (see further below) from Nevada, the Seminoles got things going with a 92-yard touchdown drive in the back half of the second quarter. That drive, engineered by Jameis Winston, started with a simple football concept: Counting defenders.
In the Warchant chat Saturday, quite a few comments noted the back-to-back bubble screens seemed to settle Winston down and prime the offense for an explosion of productivity. This is true, however technically speaking, these were not designed bubble screen plays. They were run-pass options.
"A lot of (those) bubbles and stuff," began head coach Jimbo Fisher in his post-game press conference, "are freedom (for) him to throw it at any time."
Which brings it back to the counting concept. Note the screenshots of the first and second plays on this scoring drive. Though the offensive line and tight end [/db]Nick O'Leary[/db] are loading up on one side of the field, leading the way for James Wilder Jr., Winston alertly notes the lack of bodies accounting for his coupled receivers.
The Nevada slot defender slides toward the box, meaning just one corner occupies the space where Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw will release. Though Wilder and company fully expect to get the ball for a run (which they do on the same play later in the drive), Winston uses the freedom he has to play the numbers.
Once the ball is caught, the theory is Benjamin will seal the corner with Shaw having to beat just one man to take it a long way. Benjamin went one-for-two on these plays in terms of the block, but thanks to Shaw's elusiveness on play two, the two bubble choices went for 21 total yards.
Go back and watch that particular drive on either WatchESPN or the DVR. This play/concept was used more than just these first two examples, and Winston elected to use the run when he saw fit as well.
Just prior to the key 92-yard drive, Nevada made the curious decision to punt on 4th-and-1 from the FSU 41-yard line. At that point in the game, two things left the situational logic vulnerable to questioning. First, Nevada (which was leading 7-3) had been doing a fine job of staying out of the negative run play. The Wolf Pack wasn't gashing the Seminole defensive front, but it was good for three straight-ahead yards seemingly each play. And secondly, Nevada had already elected to go for the fake field goal earlier in the game from chip-shot range. If a team is "playing for the win" in a low-percentage moment, why not do so in a very high-percentage moment like 4th-and-1?
Much was made of Karlos Williams' offensive debut, and he certainly deserved the clippings. However, since this feature is more about the off-the-beaten-path moments/storylines, how about taking a minute to credit Freddie Stevenson for an impressive home debut as a fullback? It would be unfair to expect a whole lot out of Stevenson this season as a lead blocker, but the freshman out of Bartow showed signs of future potential in mop-up duty Saturday afternoon. Stevenson runs low and with conviction, as evidenced on the play prior to his official touchdown carry late in the action. Keep an eye on No. 33 in the next season or two as a long-term successor to the ever-reliable Lonnie Pryor.
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