FSU Football: How the ‘Noles defense can stop Wake Forest

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 03: Stanford Samuels III #8 of the Florida State Seminoles taunts the North Carolina State Wolfpack fans after a defensive play at Carter-Finley Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 03: Stanford Samuels III #8 of the Florida State Seminoles taunts the North Carolina State Wolfpack fans after a defensive play at Carter-Finley Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

Heading into Saturday’s game, Chop Chat’s Sam Tschida takes a look at how FSU football can limit Wake Forest’s potent offense on the road in Winston Salem.

The FSU football team plays the most important game of the season this upcoming Saturday when they take on Wake Forest in Winston Salem. At 3-3, this week’s matchup with the Deacs could determine whether the Seminoles are going bowling in December. It’s a game Coach Taggart absolutely needs to win.

Coming into the contest, Wake Forest is 5-1 and has one of the most potent offenses in the entire country. Wake is currently ranked 26th in offensive SP+, averaging 527 yards-per-game and just put up 59 points against Louisville in a loss.

This offense has a lot of different weapons. It starts at quarterback, where Jamie Newman was putting together a spectacular season (17 touchdowns and 1775 yards) before going down with an injury against UL. He’s also been great on the ground, bowling over defenders for 275 yards and three touchdowns. While he is listed as day-to-day, if Newman doesn’t play, backup Sam Hartman will, who has a ton of starting experience. Hartman is quicker than Newman and provides a similar skillset, so the dropoff with Newman out would be very slim.

At running back, senior Cade Carney leads the way with a bruising rushing style that should concern FSU fans. Carney runs right through arm tackles (hello Seminole linebackers) and is the Deacon’s number one back. He is also very patient for holes to open up, and on read-option plays, he gets the ball at the last second. Carney mostly runs up the middle through the ‘A’ and ‘B’ gaps and could give the second level of the FSU defense issues.

Backups Christian Beal and Kenneth Walker III both have received a lot of carries this season, with Walker averaging 8.9 yards a carry.

The real threats for thew offense are on the outside. The wide receiver duo of Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington is one of the best in the ACC, and possibly one of the best in the country. Surratt is having an All-American type year with 46 catches and 9 touchdowns, while Washington is has been great as well, totaling 29 catches with 7 touchdowns. Both players are over 6’3 and very physical, presenting a major challenger for the FSU secondary.

Kendall Hinton is their primary slot receiver with 30 catches, and while he is a downgrade from Greg Dortch last season, is still a mismatch in coverage with FSU’s linebackers.

Finally, with an offensive line that is decent, if not great, the Demon Deacons posses an elite offensive attack. So how can FSU stop them?

For starters, while Wake Forest has a lethal passing attack, head coach Dave Clawson is a big believer in ‘using the run to set up the pass’. The Deacs run the ball a lot and are probably more balanced then they should be on offense this season. The two times they’ve been held under 30 points (against UNC and Boston College), the Wake rushing attack didn’t get going.

The ‘Noles are decent against the rush (although still not good), and the middle of their defensive line is elite. Marvin Wilson is a dominating defensive tackle, while both Corey Durden and Robert Cooper have improved every game.

Expect a lot more looks of four-down lineman against Wake than in previous weeks, with Wilson at the 3-tech and Durden at the 5, with Coop in a 1-tech on the other side. These dudes can give the Wake offense a lot of trouble inside, and while their backups still aren’t great, the middle of the d-line presents a challenge to Carney and Deacon’s rushing attack.

FSU needs to give Amari Gainer and Robinson help on the outside and force the Deacs to feed Carney up the middle. If that happens, then expect the Deacs to have a much tougher day than anticipated. But if they let Wake go for 6 yards a play around the edge, it will be a very long day.

Next, the ‘Noles need to dare Wake to be explosive. For all of FSU’s faults, the one thing that they’ve been good at this season is limiting explosive plays. Wake is ranked 73rd in explosiveness on offense according to SP+, so that’s not a good matchup for the ‘Noles.

Wake will run a million plays and kill the ‘Noles with long, sustained drives. Against UL, the Deacs ran 102 plays. FSU absolutely needs to be aggressive; they cannot sit back in zone coverage and let Wake kill them with the short and intermediate passing and running game. The FSU defense needs to dare Wake to take deep shots, and while they will hit a few of them, it is absolutely worth it if it means more touches for FSU’s offense.

Florida State absolutely needs to run a lot of man coverage and put Asante Samuel Jr, arguably the best cover corner on the team, in one-on-one with Surratt or Washington. Do not make Janarious Robinson have to cover anyone out of the backfield, but give him a shallow zone on the edge. Send some edge blitzes and let your athletes take over.

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It’ll be high scoring, but if the FSU offense can convert a lot of opportunities into points, the ‘Noles should win the day.