It’s the kind of thing much better discussed after a win than a loss.
But Florida State’s 56-41 win on Saturday at North Carolina State didn’t stop coach Jimbo Fisher from giving a blunt assessment of FSU’s defensive woes.
Particularly when it came to tackling.
Missed tackles aren’t kept as an official stat, so Fisher didn’t immediately know just how much the whiffs contributed to North Carolina State’s 521-yard output.
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Still, Fisher saw plenty enough to know that it wouldn’t be pretty.
“Extremely concerned,” he said. “... They got us in space and we did a very poor job of tackling on defense. We really did.”
The Seminoles allowed short runs to become long gains. And quick passes to break free for big chunks of yardage.
Most of all, they allowed Wolfpack quarterback Jacoby Brissett to look like a superstar.
Brissett exploited FSU’s pass rushers on several occasions, but never more so than on a Houdini-like escape that led to an 8-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Taking a third-down, shotgun snap, Brissett first shook off a high tackle attempt from blitzing defensive back Jalen Ramsey. He then scrambled to his right, pump-faked, slipped free of defensive end DeMarcus Walker and delivered a strike into the end zone while falling out of bounds.
The ball sailed past three FSU defenders before finding receiver Jonathan Alston for one of Brissett’s three touchdown passes.
“There’s no excuse for missed tackles,” junior linebacker Terrance Smith said. “It’s just part of the game and we’ve just got to go to practice better. Get better habits.”
Fisher, though, insisted that FSU starts every practice with tackling drills. And he implied that the Seminoles look just fine when tackling their own players, many of whom are among the fastest and most athletic in the nation.
For whatever reason, that success in practice didn’t translate to the game.
“We open up with tackling every day, and we tackle our guys,” Fisher said. “I mean, they’ve got great players, but they ain’t no more athletic than our guys who we tackle every day.”
That’s not to say that it was all bad news for FSU’s defense.
Yes, the Seminoles surrendered 24 first-quarter points for the first time in school history. And they allowed an opponent to reach the 500-yard mark for the first time in nearly five years.
But after surviving that disaster of a first quarter, FSU settled down and limited N.C. State to just 17 points and 307 total yards for the rest of the game.
The Wolfpack’s final 20 points came as the direct result of four turnovers by the FSU offense, three of which gave them possession deep in Seminoles territory.
“We weathered the storm,” Smith said. “And fought back pretty good the rest of the final quarters.”