As mostly everyone expected, the Texas State Bobcats ran into a buzzsaw at Doak Campbell Stadium against a talent-laden Florida State roster. I was in Tallahassee and didn't have time to write a recap before hitting the road back to Austin later in the morning (ugh), so I recommend you head over to Tomahawk Nation if you want a full account of what happened.
Having had some time to digest the loss, here's my perspective on what went down in Tallahassee on Saturday.
The Good Things
I was more than impressed by the turnout of Texas State fans at the game. The Alumni Association tent was full and a fairly raucous contingent of 1500 or so fans made their voices heard in front of a mostly disinterested FSU crowd at Doak Campbell. Take note, bowl committees.
As for the game itself, a few players stood out.
Lumi Kaba did an excellent job at punter, both running the fake punt in the first half and for booming kicks downfield with consistency all evening. He consistently outshone his FSU counterpart and was the only Bobcat to consistently show off his skills. It's comforting to know that losing Will Johnson likely won't cause a massive falloff in the punting department.
Demetrius Woodard showed flashes of brilliance with an excellent sack of FSU quarterback Everett Golson, and was the only Bobcat to consistently show he could get into the backfield and disrupt plays. Steven Smith might also have what it takes to be a difference maker at linebacker as he showed good pursuit on a sack of his own. Backup QB Connor White made some good plays against FSU's 2's and 3's in garbage time, and could end up being a serviceable alternative to Jones should the latter player suffer an injury or have his composure revert back to 2013's turnover-prone jitters.
As aggravating as it's been to watch in Sun Belt games in the past, the conservative playcalling of screens and short routes was there for a reason against FSU. The only big gain Texas State made through the air was on a busted play--and Tyler Jones was so off on his accuracy by that point that a wide open Chris Nutall had to adjust back to the ball and catch it while falling down.
Tyler Jones was rattled and off in his accuracy likely because he had to scramble almost every time he was in the pocket, as FSU's monstrous d-line often overwhelmed Texas State's outmatched protection. Not wanting to expose an already rattled Jones to early turnovers that might affect his confidence later in the season made some sense. FSU's secondary also would've smothered Texas State's inconsistent receiving corps regardless of whether they'd tried to go deep or not.
After losing potential playmakers in WR Brice Gunter and DL Steven Eddings to season ending injuries in practice, Dennis Franchione likely wanted to preserve as much depth as possible. Putting in his backups relatively early in the 2nd half showed that preference, and although it certainly didn't help on the scoreboard, Texas State did score a minor victory by keeping their team mostly healthy.
Now if we see a similar scheme deployed against Sun Belt foes with similar results, then by all means Coach Fran deserves to be roasted.
The offensive side of the ball should be fine as long as the offensive line's poor performance was a one-off against vastly superior talent, but Jones's poor accuracy in Tallahassee was somewhat concerning. Granted, he was scrambling all evening and had 3-4 FSU players consistently in his face on passing downs. But the game was clearly moving too quickly for him, and he either threw behind or missed wide open receivers multiple times. Jones can't regress like that against Sun Belt opponents, or Texas State could be in big trouble.
However, the main concern is on defense. Nobody played particularly well in giving up 59 points and 600+ yards, but the front six in particular got completely obliterated by the Seminoles. Karee Berry was the only d-lineman to get into the backfield and combined for a tackle for loss with Demetrius Woodard, otherwise the front four might as well have not been there (and where was Cedric Gambrell, who was supposed to be starting at DT at some point?).
Tim Gay made some nice hits at linebacker, but he's clearly playing out of position and doesn't have the ins and outs of the position down yet. Trey McGowan also got plowed consistently by FSU's re-tooled o-line and was barely heard from at all.
The most concerning thing was that FSU's run schemes weren't complicated, yet they had frightening amounts of success on the ground. Jimbo Fisher simply gave Texas State a healthy helping of Cook and Mario Pender either running through massive holes or bouncing to the outside whenever the middle was plugged and running straight past the linebackers. The losses of Craig Mager and David Mayo were especially noticeable on the latter type of running play, as nobody at linebacker had the lateral speed and block-shedding ability to shut down big gains, and none of the corners had the run support skills of Mager.
Yes, it was FSU, but unless Texas State can get somebody to step up in the front six, and quickly, they might get shredded by Louisiana's Elijah McGuire and Georgia Southern's Matt Breida as well. Not to mention Houston's Kenneth Farrow.
The Big Picture
Texas State hanging around for the first half was a nice thing to see, but it was also evident that FSU was toying with their overmatched opponent before ultimately lowering the boom in the final 30 minutes. The talent differential between the two teams in this game was so stark that forming many conclusions about Texas State's chances for the rest of the season based on that game alone seems foolish. If anything, the FSU game was a chance for potential Bobcat playmakers to step up and play above their head for 60 minutes against a superior opponent.
Next week's home opener against Prairie View also won't tell us much, as the Panthers should prove an inferior opponent. If anything, that game will only expose any starters or backups not ready for Sun Belt football. We likely won't be able to make too many conclusions about this team until they host Southern Miss and visit Houston.
Until then, Texas State needs to take out their anger on PVAMU and hope for minimal injuries for a second straight week.