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Thoughts from Alec’s Brain: Florida State


North Carolina State v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Saturday’s 31-13 loss to Florida State was a pretty comprehensive exhibit of this year’s Wolfpack and all of its shortcomings. Might as well start from the top.

The quarterback thing did the thing and whatnot

I thought Bailey Hockman played admirably, even if “admirably” doesn’t quite get to be a synonym for “well.” The redshirt sophomore was pretty clearly more accurate down the field than the guy he replaced. The threat of a big play at least existed, even if it never actually happened. Most people would draw the conclusion that Hockman needs to be ahead of McKay on the depth chart, and I think I would agree with that, but there are a few caveats here.

While Hockman raised the ceiling for the offense, he also lowered the floor. The redshirt sophomore probably should have tossed about three interceptions, and the fact that these passes ended up on the turf was pretty lucky. If that doesn’t happen, we’re likely talking about his performance in a very different way.

This was a good window into Doeren’s preseason comments about “protecting the team” also. See, what it appears happened with the quarterback situation is that McKay was a much better practice player than he has been in the games, and he was smarter with the ball than the other quarterbacks. I keep going back to the spring scrimmage and how accurate and smart McKay was in that game when I think about the possibility of him being one of those guys who can do it in practice but not a game.

Given this and Hockman’s propensity for turning the ball over, it would seem to me that Doeren thought continuing to send McKay out there in hopes that the game would click for him was State’s best chance to succeed. Perhaps he didn’t feel he could trust the other two quarterbacks and he felt the chance that McKay would eventually settle down and the game would come to him was one worth taking. Evidently, that process was taking longer than acceptable.

You can have whatever opinion you’d like about that thought process. I’m obviously speculating about it, but Doeren’s quotes seem to back that up too. Unfortunately, it just never worked out for McKay.

As far as Devin Leary goes, I’m disengaging from that discussion entirely. This is heading for a week and a half of a Leary firestorm among the fanbase because of what happened at the end of the game. I prefer to not draw any large conclusions from six garbage time snaps. The only one I’m comfortable making, good or bad, is that he can throw a really pretty ball.

State gave up too many points for how dominate it was up front

NC State absolutely dominated Florida State’s offensive line, no doubt a familiar refrain for the Noles. The Pack had eight sacks and 14 tackles-for-loss. Florida State had zero rushing yards at halftime. These are numbers that typically coincide with a points-allowed total of less than 31. Usually, more like six, or three, or zero. But despite all that time spent in the Noles’ backfield, Florida State put three scoring drives together in the first half. It’s really a testament to how poor the Pack was at keeping receivers covered, which is a familiar refrain again, this time for NC State. It didn’t seem like this was going to be an issue though until Florida State changed what it was doing and it put the corners in a tough spot, which I why I feel like Florida Stat’s offensive adjustments got the best of NC State

The Pack really did shut down the Noles’ offense entirely with pressure for most of the first half. The tide turned when Florida State started working in quick slants to get the ball out fast and take advantage of all the space they were being given. State was playing some soft coverage and bringing linebacker pressure, which left the middle of the field pretty wide open.

Florida State sparked their offense by attacking the middle of the field and got three huge chunk plays on essentially the exact same route. It then got the long touchdown when it caught Taiyon Palmer cheating on that exact route. Now Palmer was only in the game for injury reasons, and that’s obviously not on the coaches. Still though, it felt like State made itself vulnerable and it was only a matter of time until it bit them.

State’s offense doesn’t do enough to win this game anyway, but that adjustment was the point where the game really turned. Maybe I’m wrong and there isn’t a counter-adjustment that’s worth making. Maybe you can’t adjust away a pass defense that was likely already bad before it lost its best cover corner and his backup, and that’s why State is so willing to gamble on defense. I can’t judge the process because I am not part of it. I can only judge the results, and Hornibrook threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns.

Open the receivers! Stop having them be closed!

(Gold star to anyone who gets that reference)

State’s offense has to be better at getting guys open. There was a lot of exciting play design stuff in the first few games that got receivers open. It either has been well defended or it hasn’t been well done as of late. When you have a quarterback that can hit a squirrel in the nuts from 40 yards away and receivers that will find a way to catch a ball that’s thrown into the stands, things are a lot easier for a coordinator. Guys like Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers can make a scheme look better than it is, and they did for a long time. Now State needs the scheme to help the players.

Final Take

This is not looking very good. 13 points is the lowest output of the season by any team playing Florida State, and that list includes Louisiana-Monroe and Louisville. In fact, only one FSU opponent scored less than 30 points against the Noles, and it was Louisville with 24. State scored 13.

I’d say that’s a bad omen, but we’re too far into this season for there to be omens anymore. The Pack looks like it could be heading down a very nasty path if it can’t regroup. It’s tough to see, because this team definitely has talent. It’s just that it doesn’t have enough really good pieces to make up for the ones it is so blatantly missing.

Other thoughts

  • Penalties and drops were absolute killers. Have to erase those unforced errors.
  • Syracuse is an absolute must-win. A loss next Thursday probably means you can start writing the eulogy for this season.
  • Glad to hear Ricky Person’s x-rays were negative.