Inside the FSU Offense: Breaking down an improved Seminoles' attack

The Clemson Sports Blog

Florida State's EJ Manuel extends the ball over the goal line as he escapes the grasp of Wake Forest's Scott Betros to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Tallahassee, Fla.(AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Photo by Steve Cannon

Florida State's EJ Manuel extends the ball over the goal line as he escapes the grasp of Wake Forest's Scott Betros to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Tallahassee, Fla.(AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

The No. 4 Seminoles were hyped preseason for their defense, featuring elite returning starters and depth behind those starters - especially on the d-line.

But offensively, FSU has made significant season-to-season jumps in rushing offense (96.3 to 279 yards per game), total offense (421.67 to 543.67 per) and scoring offense (36.3 to 58.7 per), and punched in 19 touchdowns in 23 red zone trips.

According to Florida State, Jimbo Fisher’s offense is averaging a touchdown per every 8.8 plays – gaining 8.4 yards per (7.6 yards per rush and 9.5 yards per pass).

What’s the new-look ‘Noles offensive identity? Taking an in-depth look at FSU through three games, specifically the 52-0 win over Wake Forest last Saturday, playcalling tendencies and last year’s FSU-Clemson contest…

Wake Forest at Florida State, Play by Play Breakdown

First Half: Formations – Shotgun (25), I-formation (3), Goalline set (3) Singleback (1) and Pistol (1)

Run/Pass: 21 rushes/13 passes

Explosive Plays (Runs of 12+ yards/passes of 16+ yards): 9.

Notes

* It was slow-going to start, but once FSU’s offense got cooking – this game was over quick. What helped FSU all game was their special teams winning the field position battle, starting in Deacs’ territory four times, and within 10 yards of the 50 three more times. On their first scoring drive, they began on Wake Forest’s 47, topping it off with a 16-yard touchdown run by quarterback E.J. Manuel.

* Check out the video of the first of two Chris Thompson 70-plus yard touchdown runs…

Notice at the very, very start of the clip – FSU fakes a wide receiver screen on the weakside of the play, occupying two Demon Deacon defenders. Next, No. 80’s (Rashad Greene) block on the edge makes the play – leaving it up to Thompson’s speed for the rest. Explosive.

* Check out the video of the second TD run…

Again, another big wide receiver block enables the score, with No. 81 (Kenny Shaw) driving a defender downfield as Thompson glides past. The senior rested the second half after averaging 21.9 yards per rush, with 197 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.

* It wasn’t all positive for the FSU offense, failing to punch in a score in a goalline set with three tries from the inside the 3. They didn’t display a whole lot of creativity in the playcalling – just lining it up and pounding the ball unsuccessfully.

* The short field helped FSU again to close the second half, starting at the Deacs 44, and six plays later, Manuel finding wide receiver Rodney Smith on the run for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

Third Quarter: Formations – Shotgun (18), I-formation (1), Singleback (1).

Run/Pass: 5 rushes/15 passes

Explosive Plays: 2

Notes

Florida State's Kenny Shaw catches pass for a touchdown against Wake Forest during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Tallahassee, Fla.(AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Photo by Steve Cannon

Florida State's Kenny Shaw catches pass for a touchdown against Wake Forest during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Tallahassee, Fla.(AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

* Like you might expect with a team up 38-0, FSU came out of the half flat, with one first down and seven plays for 28 yards on their first two drives.

* But the third drive was impressive, going 13 plays and 80 yards, with Manuel lofting a 17-yard touchdown pass to Shaw in the back of the endzone. The ‘Noles opened alternating run-and-pass on the first four plays before chucking it seven out of the next nine. Fisher said in his halftime talk with ESPN they were going to work on the pass, and he wasn’t lying.

* And that was Manuel’s last drive of the game, up 45-0 with 39 seconds to go in the third quarter.

First-team offense totals: Formations – Shotgun (43), I-formation (4), Goalline (3), Singleback (2) and Pistol (1)

Run/Pass: 26 rushes/28 passes

Explosive Plays: 11

Notes

* FSU ran the majority of its shotgun formation plays (60 percent) with two backs flanking Manuel, and on the season, haven’t been afraid to hand it off to fullback Lonnie Pryor, who looks to have every bit the athleticism of the Seminoles’ tailbacks. They alternated with three wide receiver and two receiver-one tight end sets with that arrangement, with more use of the tight end in the second half when Fisher started calling more passes. Tight end Nick O’Leary had just one catch for 11 yards though.

* Manuel faced some pressure, but was only sacked a couple times and effective on the run. He averaged 6 yards per carry with a score, and on the 20-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Smith, Manuel escaped a collapsed pocket to the outside where he delivered a bullet to a wide-open Smith in the back of the endzone. Overall, Manuel had a strong 19.8 yards per pass attempt, and 11 different FSU receivers got in the action on the game.

* Thompson had the flair of two 70-plus yard runs, but sophomore James Wilder Jr., at 6-2 226, is a weapon in any situation – effective most in short-yardage. The physical tailback averaged 5.9 yards per carry against the Deacs, and led the Seminoles in rushing after the first two games.

* Back to pass protection, FSU ranked 109th nationally in sacks allowed (3.33) after three games last season, but in the same sample size (though without a game against a top-ranked Oklahoma team), are giving up a sack per game in 2012 (T-23 nationally). The Tigers had two sacks in last year's game in Death Valley, including Rennie Moore's on FSU's final offensive play.

Half Formations Run/Pass Explosive plays Result
1st 2 shotgun, 1 singleback 1 run/2 pass 0 Punt
1st 5 shotgun, 2 I-form, 1 Pistol 5 run/3 pass 0 Punt
1st 2 shotgun, 1 I-form 3 runs 2 E.J. Manuel 16-yard TD run
1st 3 shotgun 2 run/1 pass 0 Manuel fumble
1st 2 shotgun 2 runs 2 74-yard touchdown rush by Chris Thompson
1st 1 shotgun 1 run 1 80-yard touchdown rush by Thompson
1st 4 shotgun, 3 goalline 6 run/2 pass 1 19-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal
1st 6 shotgun 5 pass/1 run 1 20-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Smith
2nd 4 shotgun 3 pass/1 run 0 Punt
2nd 3 shotgun 3 passes 0 Punt
2nd 11 shotgun, 1 I-form, 1 singleback 9 pass/4 run 2 17-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Shaw

What to expect by down

FSU keeps track of playcalls by situation, which gives an interesting look into early tendencies.

On first down, the Seminoles ran 60 percent of the time against Wake Forest, and 63 percent in the FCS openers against Savannah State and Murray State.

On 2nd-and-3rd-and-short situations, FSU kept it on the ground 100 percent of the time – four times against the Deacs.

Even sporting a solid yard per carry average, the Seminoles passed 60 percent of the time in second-and-long.

Overall, they’ve averaged 35.6 runs to 29 passes per game.

With blowouts in the first three contests, these could very well not hold true to form Saturday night, but it’s how Fisher is calling the games so far.

Stats to Win

The last couple weeks, I’ve compared Seldom Used Reserve’s “stats to win” game by game, but I’ll clue you in – Furman lost handily in the key areas.

But focusing on the showdown in Tallahassee, the 2011 35-30 Tigers’ win over FSU was more decisive statistically than on the scoreboard.

Category Clemson FSU
Yards Per Pass 9.8 8.8
Yards Per Play 5.2 6.9
Total Yards 443 365
Rushing Yards 99 29
Yards Per Rush 2.0 1.9
Rushes 50 24

Clemson held the edge in rushing yards (99-29), yards per rush (2.0-1.9), rush attempts (50-24), yards per pass (9.8-8.8) and total yards (443-365).

But with only 53 to Clemson’s 85 plays, the Seminoles did average more yards per play (6.9-5.2).

One reason why it was closer in the final score – was the inexplicable Tajh Boyd fumble-to-Bjoern Werner-touchdown to start the second half.

(Half) Team Plays-Yards Possession Score Type
(1st) FSU 9-67 4:37 FG (3-0 FSU)
Clemson 7-80 2:36 TD (7-3 Clemson)
Clemson 8-77 3:35 TD (14-3 Clemson)
FSU 5-71 1:34 TD (14-10 Clemson)
Clemson 9-79 3:37 TD (21-10 Clemson)
(2nd) Clemson 11-70 5:08 TD (28-17 Clemson)
FSU 7-80 2:52 TD (28-23 Clemson)
Clemson 6-80 1:49 TD (35-23 Clemson)
FSU 4-78 1:20 TD (35-30 Clemson)

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