Florida State faces its first true road test this week when it kicks off against North Carolina State Saturday night. The Wolfpack are coming off a wild loss to Miami in which both teams racked up over 600 yards of offense. The buzz around N.C. State at this point in the season contains two principle points: defensive disappointment and a veteran quarterback. Let's explore both.
The numbers aren't pretty for the Wolfpack defense. Not only does it rank last in the ACC in pass yardage allowed, but it ranks 10th in pass efficiency defense. Miami registered 566 yards passing last week, and in the season opener, Tennessee produced 524 yards of total offense. Here are some observations as to why that has occurred.
One thing that the N.C. State defense was routinely against Miami: late to the ball. Whether that means late to cover a receiver as a defensive back, late to the perimeter as a linebacker or late to the backfield as a blitzer, the Wolfpack was a step behind.
Now, a few times because of confusion on potential offside/encroachment plays, Wolfpack players were simply not playing through the whistle. Let's rule those plays out. One example in which a player got beat on just a simple fade design is highlighted below. Receiver Philip Dorsett is in a one-on-one situation, and after one simple stutter move to the outside, Dorsett gains a distinct advantage on corner David Amerson, generating the separation needed for a simple throw for quarterback Stephen Morris.
If N.C. State is to have a chance at matching up with Florida State's perimeter athletes, coverage has to be tighter. The statistics tell us that is a tall order.
In the details
Penalties. Missed tackles. Poor angles. These are all potential killers to a defensive effort. N.C. State has been inconsistent this season in being able to take down a skill player the first or second time. The Seminoles, especially at the tailback position, have shown the kind of physicality that can bounce off a defender to break big plays. This is a vital area of contention for both sides Saturday night.
Quarterback Mike Glennon , when given time, has the tools a typical pocket-passer needs to succeed. Before we get to Glennon however, let's look at one other player that is worth watching.
RB Tony Creecy
A redshirt sophomore out of Durham, Creecy is a versatile cog in the Wolfpack offensive machine. Creecy is capable of using power with his six-foot, 210-pound frame. His ability to pick up blitzers only enhances an above-average knack for catching passes too.
There's no question Florida State's rush defense has been good this season, but it's also fair to say it has not been performing to its elevated expectations the past two weeks. Could Creecy be the next to challenge the interior of the FSU defensive front? He would seem to have the game to do so.
Glennon and protection
Plain and simple, Mike Glennon possesses the requisite arm strength and touch to burn a defense. The only problem is N.C. State has allowed 16 sacks through the first month of the season. Much of this has to do with offensive line shuffling and missed assignments, however it's also worth noting that Florida State's front-four is far superior to that of a Tennessee or Miami this season.
Take a look at this miscommunication in the second quarter of the Miami game. It's unclear whether the missed assignment fell on the tight end marked 'A' for a chip block, the tailback marked 'B' for a missed cut, or if Glennon missed a blitz read pre-snap. Whatever the case, the linebacker has a free shot on Glennon which forces a fumble. Communication and assignment sound football are key in giving an immobile pocket-passer time to find gaps in the Seminole defense.
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