There's no question that when watching the Seminole offense in Blacksburg, one dimension looked much different than the rest. Well, one thing other than the running game.
When Florida State upped the ante and the tempo against the Hokies, the offense flourished at an astronomical rate. The 'Noles scored three touchdowns in three up-tempo (or no huddle) drives, producing 22 out of 28 total points. The drives also accounted for 188 of Florida State's 311 offensive yards, taking a total of just 5:16 off the clock.
Offering his thoughts on Monday, head coach Jimbo Fisher was right down the middle on how much he'd like to use an up-tempo offense. Fisher cautioned reporters that a quick pace can expedite the establishment of good tempo or, conversely, provide a quick death.
"Well on offense, what you constantly look for is rhythm, timing," Fisher said. "And all of a sudden, you get in that no huddle sometimes, you get two or three plays, you get in a rhythm, you get confidence and that rhythm comes quickly. Now when it's not going, it can be ugly because (of) three and outs, and that's what defensive guys hate."
It's true that the Seminoles have implemented the up-tempo approach more than in just the Virginia Tech game this season. However, given the nature of the most recent coaching chess match - one which saw Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster constantly stacking and attacking the box against Fisher's offense - there might be something greater to take away from Thursday night.
Consider this: in the three scoring drives, Florida State ran a total of 19 plays. Foster blitzed 12 times, including seven times in the deciding eight-play fourth quarter drive. With the Seminole offensive line struggling throughout the game in traditionally-paced offensive series, Fisher decided quicker was better.
He was right.
The question now becomes about the next two defenses Florida State will face. Given that Foster and Virginia Tech decided to eliminate the run, and were just plays away from victory, one would think Maryland and Florida may craft similar gameplans to eliminate balance.
Ask senior quarterback EJ Manuel his opinion, and he seems awfully comfortable with the idea of picking up the pace throughout the game. Speaking to reporters Monday, Manuel went so far as to say that "every time" Fisher has decided to go up-tempo "it's worked for us."
"We'll just go right down the field, hit four or five passing plays and then come back to the run and get positive yards all the time," Manuel said. "Because, really, a defense can't, they can't prepare for it. It's really hard for them to get subs in and
for their coaches on the sideline to get calls in, so sometimes those guys just line up not really knowing what to do. So that gives us the advantage."
And who can blame Manuel? His stat line from the three up-tempo drives in Blacksburg reads like this: 12-of-14 in pass attempts for 183 yards and three touchdowns. Clearly Manuel, his offensive line and the receivers found the white-hot variety of the "rhythm" Fisher was looking for.
Now does this mean that coach Fisher will morph Florida State into an Oregonian offense with two weeks left in the regular season? That's neither likely nor prudent.
But given the success of the up-tempo approach against a talented defense this past week, and given the quarterback's comfort level with said approach, it would be unwise to rule out a larger role for the quicker Seminole offense in 2012's stretch run.
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