Head to Head: Notre Dame vs. Florida State
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, October 16, 2014
Everett Golson continued his trend of turnovers Saturday against North Carolina.Golson’s two most inconsistent passing performances have come in the last two games. He completed 46.5 percent of passes against Stanford and a 55.3 percent against North Carolina.
Still, Golson throws for an average of 280.5 yards per game and has 16 passing touchdowns to his name (in addition to four rushing). Against Stanford, he showed his mettle by coming through with the game on the line on fourth-and-11. He brings the intangible of experience under pressure into what will be a high-octane game.
The Irish receivers continue to develop into more reliable targets for Golson and dangerous threats to the opposing defense. When Golson plays cleanly and the receivers are clicking, the Irish offense rolls. Will Fuller racked up 133 yards and two touchdowns against North Carolina.
Florida State’s passing defense has not been as dominant as last season. The 2013 Seminoles ranked first in the FBS in passing yards allowed. This season, Florida State has allowed an average of 213.7 passing yards per game, a mark that leaves the Seminoles tied with West Virginia for 41st in the FBS.
Golson has the talent to exploit Florida State’s defense.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Against North Carolina, the Irish finally got the breakout rushing game they were looking for all season. Sophomore running back Tarean Folston broke out for 98 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore running back Greg Bryant and senior running back Cam McDaniel each added one touchdown apiece, as Notre Dame tallied 219 total rushing yards, its second best rushing performance of the season.
Prior to last Saturday, Folston’s most productive game was a 71-yard effort against Rice. In the intervening four games, Folston rushed for fewer than 20 yards twice. The Irish as a whole have struggled to activate the running game.
With a rearranged offensive line settling down and improving every game, Notre Dame’s running game could be ready for production more like that it received in last Saturday’s game rather than the previous four. Florida State’s rushing defense isn’t in the FBS top 50, so this could be a chance for another strong performance from the Irish.
IRISH OFFENSIVE COACHING
Florida State’s defense hasn’t been stifling against either the pass or the run. Notre Dame’s running game perked up against North Carolina and if the Irish rushers turn in another strong effort Saturday, it will take pressure off Golson, and Irish offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock will have more room to work.
The Seminoles haven’t made a seamless transition under defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, who was promoted from linebackers and special teams coach after Jeremy Pruitt left for Georgia following last season’s national championship.
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
Senior kicker Kyle Brindza had some shaky kicks against Purdue and in subsequent games, but he’s still reliable and has been strong with kickoffs and punts.
Notre Dame has averaged just 9.1 yards per punt return this season. Special teams hasn’t granted Notre Dame consistently amazing field position, but the offense has managed to score anyway.
On defense, junior defensive lineman Jarron Jones has blocked two kicks this season and gives the Irish big-play potential.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Florida State puts up 39 points per game, and redshirt sophomore Jameis Winston is the big reason why. On average, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner tallies 321 passing yards per game. He has put together a 70 percent completion rate and thrown for 11 touchdowns and 1,605 yards.
His main receiving threat — by far — is senior receiver Rashad Greene, who has caught 44 passes for 683 yards, an average of 15.5 yards per catch. Senior tight end Nick O’Leary and sophomore receiver Jesus Wilson round out the Seminoles’ top-three targets.
Winston could do some damage against an Irish defense that ranks 67th in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game. North Carolina junior quarterback Marquise Williams gashed Notre Dame on Saturday for 326 passing yards as the Tar Heels scored 43 points, and Winston is an even better quarterback.
EDGE: FLORIDA STATE
Like Notre Dame, the Seminoles have a three-back approach. Senior running back Karlos Williams handles the bulk of the work, followed by freshman running back Dalvin Cook and redshirt sophomore Mario Pender. Also like Notre Dame, Florida State hasn’t received prolific efforts out of its running backs this season.
Undoubtedly, the lowest point was the Seminoles’ 23-17 win over Clemson, in which they rushed for a total of 13 yards. Even if you forgive redshirt sophomore quarterback Sean Maguire for his -46 rushing yards, the Seminoles totaled just 63 rushing yards. Florida State has rushed for over 200 yards just once this season, against The Citadel, when they muscled their way to 210 yards.
The Seminoles come up against a Notre Dame defense that has been unforgiving to opponents’ rushing attacks this season. The Irish held Purdue and Stanford to 56 and 47 rushing yards, respectively, and no one has broken the 200-yard mark against them. There’s no reason to think Notre Dame’s front seven won’t stay strong in this one, too.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
SEMINOLES OFFENSIVE COACHING
Co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey is in his eighth year as receivers coach. This is his first year as co-offensive coordinator, but he has a nuanced knowledge of the system after so many years with the program, and he provides stability for what has been a talented receiving corps, particularly in the last two years.
Dawsey and co-coordinator Randy Sanders (also in his first year as co-coordinator) have guided the continued growth of Florida State’s potent offense.
But Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder can be unpredictable. His creativity and varied looks could prove challenging for the Seminoles. VanGorder found a way to have his defense ready against each of Notre Dame’s first five opponents. He’ll need to do the same against the toughest offense the Irish will have faced.
SEMINOLES SPECIAL TEAMS
Winston headlines the Seminoles, but if the game comes down to a kick, Florida State still should feel good. Redshirt sophomore kicker Roberto Aguayo hasn’t missed an extra-point attempt all season, and he is 13-for-13 on field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder.
Florida State’s return game has been comparable to Notre Dame’s, and the Irish coverage unit has avoided giving up breakaway plays, but the Seminoles earn the edge here on the overwhelming strength of their kicker.
EDGE: FLORIDA STATE