FSU Game Analysis: Taylor Surprises Seminoles

It had been quite awhile since Florida State was in Blacksburg. The Seminoles were in the middle of building one of
college football’s most powerful dynasties under Bobby Bowden while the Hokies were recovering from probation and just
trying to build a competitive program under Frank Beamer. The ‘Noles were led by a QB named Peter Tom Willis, while
the Hokies were led by a young lefty QB named Will Furrer. On that day, it was all FSU. The ‘Noles blocked two punts
and Willis put up huge numbers in an easy 41-7 win over the Hokies.

That was on October 14, 1989. Just 10 weeks earlier and 270 miles to the east, a future Hokie QB was born in Hampton,
Va. Now 18 years later, how fitting was it that Tyrod Taylor would get that monkey off of Frank Beamer’s back and lead
the Hokies to victory over FSU in their return to Lane Stadium?

Fitting indeed. And a little bit surprising. After missing four weeks with an ankle injury, Taylor broke loose for
his best game yet as a college QB, running and passing his way through, over and around the Seminoles with relative
ease. More importantly, Taylor was the trigger man on a number of big plays for the Hokies, and it was the big plays
that made the difference in this game.

While looking ahead to FSU in my analysis
of last week’s Georgia Tech game
, I predicted "a physical battle that will come down to mistakes and big
plays." I am usually not the best prognosticator, but I think I nailed this game pretty well.

This game was as physical as any I can remember — a real slobber-knocker that was determined ultimately by mistakes
and big plays. A simple look at the scoreboard reveals that the ‘Noles had more mistakes while the Hokies made more
big plays:

  • FSU had three turnovers while the Hokies had one. And every one was a big play in the game. FSU’s 3rd quarter
    comeback was triggered by an interception return for a touchdown, while the Hokies 4th quarter dominance was fueled
    by all three of FSU’s turnovers.
  • Offensively, the Hokies had five plays of at least 25 yards, while FSU had just one. The Hokies had four plays of
    over 30 yards, while FSU had none. Every big play of at least 30 yards resulted in or directly led to a Tech
  • On special teams, there were two plays that could have turned into something much bigger for the Seminoles. One
    came on the punt/run option in the first quarter that the ‘Noles converted into a first down. The defense
    stiffened and held FSU to a field goal. The second came shortly after on the attempted onside kick. Although well
    played by the front line, the Hokies were fortunate to recover the kick, preventing FSU from getting yet another big
    play on special teams against the Hokies.

Let’s break down each of the big plays in more detail.

Taylor to Harper for a 31 Yard TD. FSU had taken an early 3-0 lead, but the Hokies were making noise on their
next drive. After the interference call on a long pass from Sean Glennon to Josh Morgan, the Hokies were set up with a
first down at the FSU 33 yard line. Then the switch. For the first time in four weeks, Tyrod Taylor was in at QB. After
a short run on the read option, the Hokies struck for their first big play of the game. The Hokies set up in a three WR
formation with Justin Harper split to the boundary and Josh Hyman and Josh Morgan split to the wide side of the field.
Believing Taylor was in the game to be more of a runner than an passer, FSU aligned in straight man coverage with no
safety help deep (Cover-0). They wanted to blitz their LBs to either get a sack or to force a mistake from the freshman
QB against press coverage.

On the boundary, FSU corner Patrick Robinson was in press coverage against Justin Harper. Both Taylor and Harper read
the Cover-0 correctly. At the snap, Harper made a quick outside/inside move to avoid the bump from Robinson. On his
side, Robinson overplayed the outside move and lost his technique in bump coverage. He gave up the inside move to Harper
and slipped when he tried to recover. Harper broke away cleanly on the slant and Taylor hit him in stride for the easy

That was a huge play on a big drive because the Tech offense had answered FSU’s field goal immediately with a
touchdown. Both teams were on the board and the fun was just starting.

Hokies 6, FSU 3.

Gano Converts on 24 Yard Run. Following the all-too-familiar theme of special teams dominance against the Hokies,
the ‘Noles caught the Hokies napping midway through the first