On FSU Football downfield passing: Let us count the woes
If in his review of what didn’t work in a football game, a coach told you, “We were 0-for-5 for negative 30 yards” in a certain situation, you’d probably think it was one long day at the office on third down.
Poor pass-blocking is nothing new around these parts of course, so it would be a reasonable guess for a Seminole fan.
That offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham actually used those numbers to describe “shot plays” -- meaning when the offense is attempting deep throws down the field -- is shocking and disturbing in so many ways.
“We kind of had to taper down those shots as the game went along,” Dillingham continued, “just because of the negatives they were causing for us.”
Some context for the collective horror in Tallahassee:
*The "negatives" came against Jacksonville State. A prominent program in FCS football, but a program that yielded 370 passing yards to UAB in week one (nearly triple the output of FSU).
*The primary quarterback in these situations was McKenzie Milton, widely considered to be FSU’s best thrower. Milton currently sits 111th in the country in passing yards per attempt — 117 players comprise the list.
*Florida State has racked up just 311 passing yards for the season, and ranks 117th out of 130 FBS teams in passing efficiency.
*Outside of an illegal man downfield infraction, the penalties largely reinforce the idea that FSU pass-blocking is unable to hold up with consistency.
*Florida State’s passing offense had to submit to Jacksonville State’s passing defense.
So maybe that last point was redundant, but it cannot be overstated. Any quiet concerns about the FSU receiving corps were being vocalized before halftime on Saturday.
Through two games, Ja’Khi Douglas’ 60-yard touchdown and Malik McLain’s 21-yard catch-and-run -- both against Notre Dame -- are Florida State’s only receptions for over 17 yards. Douglas is the only Seminole to amass over 54 yards receiving to this point.
Cue the screeching red alert siren from Star Trek.
In head coach Mike Norvell’s own words, “by way of either a couple of penalties that showed up or just not getting the separation that was needed” on Saturday, “our vertical passing game was not very good in the game.”
A quick study in the downfield passing issues from Saturday revealed the following:
*The Keyshawn Helton fourth-down drop we’re all aware of (upper left of photo above), plus a juggle and drop from tight end Jordan Wilson, were killers.
*Consistent blanket-level coverage (bottom left) on deep throws was present.
*For all the flags thrown on Saturday, downfield contact from defenders was largely allowed (upper right).
*Some misses, like Milton’s errant seam pass toward Camm McDonald in the second quarter (bottom right) or Travis feigning a wide-open Wilson for a shot to Andrew Parchment down the field (in fairness, Parchment was held shortly after his release).
*Though probably nit-picky, it could be argued that Milton missed an opportunity on the game’s second play, as Parchment was blowing past flat-footed defenders up the seam.
“They were essentially playing drop eight, deep quarters the entire game, just forcing you to throw underneath routes over and over again,” Dillingham said of Jacksonville State.
Whatever the reasons, it appears that any explosiveness in the air will have to come through some combination of creativity, patience and consistent production in the running game.