Florida State's defensive shortcomings were on display right from the start last night, as a North Carolina offense that had been held to less than four yards per snap in four of six games coming into the evening went 80 yards on 10 plays for a score. The Noles were able to settle the Heels down a bit after that opening drive, but their fundamental issues--an inability to keep contain, tentative linebackers, among other things--were evident throughout.
While hardly the dominant units of old, the FSU defenses of the last few years have held together pretty well. Not so in 2009. Those issues have made for a total defensive collapse.
(excludes last night's game)
It's really too bad, because Christian Ponder has been absolutely brilliant this season, and despite a modest amount of help from the ground game, he's running one of the more potent attacks in the ACC. Nobody's been able to stall the Ponder-led passing game for 60 minutes. The very legitimate Tar Heels defense could only manage to stall him for a half; Ponder had more time to throw in the second half, which hastened a return to business as usual. He finished the night with 395 yards passing on nearly 10 yards per attempt.
If he can tear apart a good defense like that, what will he do to the Wolfpack? Considering the defenses involved, next week's game could in theory be all sorts of fun. But I have a feeling that FSU's defensive shortcomings will prove as irrelevant as whatever wrinkles we throw at Ponder. They'll do enough to get stops against an NC State offense that isn't executing the way it should be, and unless they take their foot off the gas, FSU's offense will cruise to 40 points.