Former Seminole quarterback Peter Tom Willis will write a column every week for Warchant.com breaking down the Seminole football team. He will also be available to answer fan questions on the Tribal Council message board.
Saturday afternoon's win against Colorado was more than just a step in the right direction. I believe, more importantly than a victory, was a change in an offensive philosophy.
Florida State showed a commitment to run the football. This is something that Florida State has been unable to do consistently for a number of years. There have been games here and there that we have been able to run the ball, notably, Greg Jones against Miami or an occasional burst by Antone Smith or Lorenzo Booker. Unfortunately, the commitment to physically line up and run the football has not been there. Florida State got away with this because of the superior throwing and catching of the quarterbacks and receivers in the middle to late nineties. Without the consistency in the passing game, the inability to run the football reared its ugly head. I believe the success of the offense long term depends upon building a physical offensive line and a solid running game.
Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson both have all the qualities to be excellent quarterbacks. They are both smart, have strong arms, and can move around. Everyone needs to have patience with these two signal callers. They have made mistakes and will continue to make some mistakes, but will get better with experience. Ponder needs to become more comfortable in the pocket, be decisive in his decision making, and get the ball out of his hands on time. His accuracy will improve greatly once he becomes more confident and lets it go. Right now, he seems to be worried about making mistakes. This is common with young quarterbacks and should improve from week to week.
I was impressed with Antone Smith and the way he ran the football. He looked quick and had no hesitation hitting the holes. The offensive line also did a nice job and this game should really help their confidence. The success of the ground game should also give the passing game a great boost with the opportunity to use play-action. This was a staple of the Florida State offense in the eighties and the early nineties. This does not need to be a one game commitment, but a solution to a long term problem. It will be vital this week against Miami to be able to run the football downhill and use the play-action pass. Miami has a very fast defense, can rush the passer and will make it hard to run outside. Florida State needs to go right after them and try to take advantage of the inside. To say the least, this will be a tough test.
On Saturday, the defense had another impressive performance. I thought having Dekoda Watson, Neefy Moffett, Patrick Robinson and others really helped. The trademark of the Florida State defense has always been flying around the field, and this was evident on Saturday. Everette Brown really looks to be hitting his stride as a big play defensive end. He is very quick, physical and disruptive in rushing the passer. The linebackers are very active and seem to be all over the field. The one alarming thing that I saw was again, the inability of the secondary to cover the Colorado receivers downfield. Colorado quarterback, Cody Hawkins had multiple opportunities with open receivers downfield and could not get them the ball. Either the defensive backs are going to have to cover better, or Florida State is going to have to play more zone because teams from here on out are going to take advantage of these type of opportunities. But all in all, it was another solid performance by the defense of Florida State.
A huge bright spot in the game was the play of special teams. Graham Gano kicked the ball well, Bert Reed and the returners did a nice job and Dekoda Watson had the huge play with the blocked punt. This will be extremely important as the season progresses. With so many tough games on the horizon, the difference in winning and losing may very well rest upon the performance of the special teams. With the offense trying to find its way, special teams is an area where the Seminoles can have the advantage. Florida State needs to continue to work hard on making big plays on special teams.
This week's matchup against Miami brings back special memories for me as I'm sure in does for many Florida State fans. There has not been a better rivalry in college football over the last 25 years than the Miami/Florida State game. Even though this week's game will not have a national championship on the line, it will mean a lot to both programs. Both universities will be recruiting the same players and want to put on their best performance. Both teams are young and talented but have a lot of room to improve. This should be an even matchup with possibly the slight edge going to Miami since they are playing at home. Florida State has a great opportunity to go into South Florida and take it to the Hurricanes this year. Taking care of the football and an attitude will be key ingredients for a Seminole victory. This game will be true test to see if we have improved since the Wake Forest game. We will find out on Saturday.