Florida State Rush Attack needs to keep Momentum
“What a difference a year makes”. Words from the mouth of Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher as he reflects on his senior tailback’s road to recovery. Last September, Chris Thompson cracked two vertebrae in the first quarter against the Demon Deacons on the road. This past Saturday, the Madison County native put up a career day against those same Demon Deacons, in front of his home crowd. Nine carries for 197 yards and two huge back to back touchdown runs for 74 and 80 yards a piece in one half of football. These are the type of feel good stories that we all appreciate about college football, and for the Seminoles it represents a very real and exciting offensive revelation–they can run the football.
Last season, the FSU offensive line was the target of unlimited, but warranted scrutiny. Their play left a ton to be desired in pass protection and in the running game, especially. The Seminoles struggled greatly to establish an adequate rush attack all year and coming into 2012, the unit up front on offense was the main concern surrounding this team. Through three games, the change is noticeable both on the field and in the box score as FSU’s improvement up front has produced eye popping numbers.
Chris Thompson, James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman all average at least 6.4 yards per carry and the team has rushed for 15 touchdowns on the season already. In 2011 they were held to 20 rushing touchdowns on the entire year. There is no arguing that the competition that FSU has found this ground success against is sub-par, but for perspective, against two cupcakes and Wake Forest last season the results were abysmal. Against LMU, Charleston Southern and Wake Forest, the Seminoles rushed for 3.3, 4.6 and 4.1 yards per carry respectively.
In addition to being much better within their own right from one year ago, the Seminoles are not exactly facing a juggernaut run defense this weekend in the Clemson Tigers. Make no mistakes about it, Clemson has much more comparable individual athletes and will be stronger and faster than what FSU has faced to date, but what they lack is comfort in their new defensive scheme and the type of discipline and sound play that a team like Wake Forest may play with. In each of their first three games, the Tigers have allowed their opponents best or second best performance on the ground and with each passing week, what once looked like an impressive win against Auburn is now losing its luster.
If Florida State can exploit Clemson’s defensive deficiencies and control the clock with what has been a dominant running game so far, they can win this game convincingly. Later, we will discuss more about the keys for Florida State’s elite defense in trying to contain Clemson’s incredibly explosive offense.