October 7, 2012

Insider Report: The sack, blocked punt, the mood

The locker room was quiet. The mood was somber.

EJ Manuel was quiet during post-game interviews. Still affected by the loss, the usually effervescent quarterback spoke softly and his eyes seemed fixed on a point on wall.

There was little talk between players after the game and Dustin Hopkins attested to how much the loss rattled the team.

"It hurt, it hurt real bad," Hopkins said. "I don't know if it's because it's my senior year or the implications this season had, but I just feel like this one hurts more than it did two years ago."

Coach Jimbo Fisher understands that his team is hurt, but said they will focus on not allowing one loss to turn to two.

"We've got a huge challenge to get ourselves back because it's a tough loss," Fisher said. "A heartbreaking loss because of the way it happened."

"It was hard," Everett Dawkins said of walking off the field with the loss.

The team was obviously disappointed, but players stressed the importance of not allowing a mid-season tailspin.

"Bjoern was standing up and telling everybody it's not over," Dawkins said. "(He said) don't put your head down because it's not over for us."

Dawkins said that the team was down because they went into the game 5-0 and are leaving Raleigh 5-1 with a noticeable blemish.

"People are probably going to throw in the towel on us, but it's not over," Dawkins said. "We're going to fix our problems, that's a promise."

Sacked out of range

The thought flickered through Jimbo Fisher's mind, but a field goal attempt seemed too risky. His quarterback had just taken a 15 yard sack off of a 3rd and 2 attempt. It had been a bootleg run, but a blocker missed his man and as Manuel backtracked and escaped one defender, another wrapped him up from his blindside.

"We can (throw it away) if he can pull it up, he didn't see the pressure come from behind," Fisher said about what went wrong. "That's what he's trying to do, trying to avoid the guy to try and throw again."

Manuel said that the play was a simple bootleg run, one that the team practices.

"We didn't protect the edge," Fisher said. "We had the edge that they came from, we had assigned for it and worked it and knew that they were going to do exactly what they did and we did not execute it."

Manuel said that the offense was trying to get NC State to bite on the fake and to then boot outside.

"What we usually do is get a guy to seal that inner for me to go around," Manuel said. "The guys made a good play, he got through. That's what obviously stopped me from being able to get around the side. I turned around and somebody else was there."

After Manuel was dropped at Florida State 34-yard line, Fisher thought about attempting a long 52-yard field goal. Dustin Hopkins was ready if his coach made that call.

"Yeah, I was right there behind coach waiting to go in," Hopkins said. "Quarterbacks want to throw, receivers want to catch, I wanted to kick it. But I'm not a head coach and I don't pretend to be…I trust (Fisher) wholeheartedly."

Fisher is thinking about that field goal now and wishing he called it because in a game where one point made the difference, three points there may have been enough for the 'Noles.

"In hindsight, don't put him in that position," Fisher said.

"In hindsight, call it, run the ball, if you make it (good), if you don't, kick a field goal."

Get the points on the board, he said.

"In hindsight, should have just ran the ball and kicked a field goal," Fisher reiterated.

Hindsight is 20-20.

Punt Protection Woes

For the second game in a row, Florida State had a punt blocked against it.

Against USF last week, the blocked punt allowed the Bulls to start a drive on Florida State' eight-yard line, which eventually led to a touchdown. Against North Carolina State, the blocked punt led the Wolfpack to a win.

Freshman punter Cason Beatty had an otherwise solid night, averaging nearly 40 yards per punt. He hit a long of 51 yards. Jimbo Fisher stressed that both occurrences are not the freshman's fault.

"No, the timing, he's right at that, he's right in the range," Fisher said.

The Seminoles have fielded a top-notch special teams unit, but the group has suffered some blunders early this season, none more so than two blocked punts in two weeks.

"You can't have a punt blocked," Fisher said. "That's two and nobody gets punts blocked anymore."

Kicker Dustin Hopkins spoke with Beatty after last week's block and will talk through this week's block with the punter as well.

"I'm not worried about Cason, he's a strong young kid," Hopkins said.

Fisher doesn't seem worried about his punter, either, but does expect to fix whatever blocking issues have caused the problem. He said this week it was a blocker who made just one misstep.

"We have (always) done a great job on special teams," Fisher said. "It's been one of our strong points and the last couple of weeks, we've had some miscues and we've got to get that fixed immediately."

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