| Tallahassee Democrat
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Florida State entered Saturday looking to build upon its first positive momentum of the season.
It didn’t show up in the win column, but the Seminoles looked like a totally different team on offense facing a tough Notre Dame defense.
The Seminoles — who managed a total of 23 points in their first two games against FBS opponents this season — nearly matched that total in the first quarter alone against the Fighting Irish.
No. 5 ND (3-0, 2-0 in ACC) proved to be too much in the end, running away with a 42-26 win over the Seminoles (1-3, 0-3 in ACC) in front of a reduced crowd of 10,409 fans at Notre Dame Stadium, but it was an effort the Seminoles look to be able to build upon.
Making his first career start, FSU quarterback Jordan Travis led FSU to an early 3-0 lead off an ND turnover and a 17-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
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The Irish took the lead back on the first possession of the second quarter and held it for good from there, but the Seminoles hung around into the closing minutes, battling a great deal more than they did two weeks ago at Miami.
The good news was that the Seminoles amassed 405 yards of offense against a stifling Notre Dame defense. The bad news was that they allowed Notre Dame to rack up 554.
Jordan Travis has brought the FSU offense to life
It was easy to excuse away what Travis did in FSU’s win over Jacksonville State due to the talent level of the opponent.
But what Travis did Saturday in his first career start at quarterback vs. a very good Notre Dame defense showed that his JSU performance was no fluke.
He looked entirely comfortable running the Seminoles’ offense, again flashed his downfield throwing potential and did well to keep plays alive while under siege from the ND defensive front.
His beautiful 48-yard touchdown pass to Tamorrion Terry capped off a first quarter in which he led the Seminoles to 142 yards of offense and 17 points. In that quarter, FSU scored more points than Notre Dame had allowed in its first two games vs. Duke and USF combined (13).
FSU never found consistent success on offense from there, but the Seminoles’ offense showed glimpses of promise through the rest of the game.
Much of this was led by Travis’ legs as he consistently made something out of nothing. He was sacked twice and it could easily have been at least five or six sacks were it not for his mobility.
Travis was responsible for 300 of FSU’s 405 yards (74%). He had 204 yards through the air, 96 on the ground and scored two touchdowns, one each rushing and passing.
There were questions on if Travis was a temporary fix or a long-term solution for the Seminoles entering the Notre Dame. If his performance in his first start is any indication, it’s the latter.
FSU’s run defense is a problem
Through three games this season, FSU’s run defense hasn’t been stellar, but it’s been far from the Seminoles’ biggest problem.
FSU entered Saturday allowing 141.3 rushing yards per game and 4.28 yards per carry this season, both middle of the road among the 75 FBS teams that have played this season.
However, against a team determined to impose its will on the ground, the Seminoles were deemed totally unable to whatsoever limit the Fighting Irish’s potent rushing attack.
After FSU forced a fumble on Notre Dame’s second carry of the game, the third carry of the game on the ensuing drive went for 65 yards. It was the start of what would be a long day for the Seminoles’ run defense.
By halftime, Notre Dame had amassed 240 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on 20 carries, averaging 12 yards per carry.
Notre Dame’s standout offensive line manhandled FSU’s defensive line while the skill position players set the edge, regularly freeing the Fighting Irish for long runs. They had three runs of 40 or more yards in the opening 30 minutes.
This trend trailed off in the second half as Notre Dame began passing more, but Notre Dame still managed to rack up 353 yards on the ground. This exposes a significant FSU issue many future opponents may look to exploit as well.
Discipline issues continue to loom large for the Seminoles
FSU has struggled to play disciplined football for much of the last few years.
It’s one of the things Norvell has been hardest on his team about through the first few games. The Seminoles entered Saturday averaging 10 penalties per game for an average of 89.3 yards, both among the 10 worst marks in FBS.
This was again the case for the Seminoles against Notre Dame as a few 15-yard penalties that were very avoidable occurred at key moments.
The biggest-such moment came with the Seminoles trailing 28-20 late in the first half. Notre Dame had just over a minute to work with after receiving the kickoff and was aided significantly by a late hit penalty on FSU safety Jaiden Lars-Woodbey which was committed on ND quarterback Ian Book after he was well out of bounds.
ND took advantage and found the end zone with 11 seconds left, extending its lead to two scores when it looked like it was possibly an eight-point deficit. FSU never again cut the deficit to one score.
Another very unnecessary personal foul, a very obvious kick catch interference on a fair catch committed by Jashaun Corbin, severely helped the Irish’s field position early in the game.
Overall, FSU was better at avoiding penalties in key moments Saturday, committing seven penalties for 59 yards. But the same issues with a few key completely unnecessary penalties loomed large in shutting down FSU’s upset bid.
Reach Curt Weiler at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.
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