• With true freshman QB James Blackman under center, Florida State's offense struggled to get going against NC State's ferocious defensive line Saturday as the Seminoles fell at home.
By Eric Single
September 23, 2017

When Florida State lost quarterback Deondre Francois to a patella tendon injury in the final moments of its season-opening loss to Alabama, head coach Jimbo Fisher thought he would have a manageable home game against Louisiana-Monroe to break in true freshman James Blackman. Instead, after Hurricane Irma wiped two games off the Seminoles’ September schedule, Blackman was subjected to a baptism by fire, courtesy of Bradley Chubb.

Chubb and the rest of NC State’s defensive front completely disrupted the Florida State offense, allowing the Wolfpack to walk out of Doak-Campbell Stadium with a 27–21 win, their first victory in the series since 2012. Chubb capped off a two-sack day by appearing to spit on the Seminoles’ logo as the Wolfpack celebrated on the field, one final exclamation point on an afternoon when he treated the Seminoles as if they were the 13-point underdogs, not NC State.

Florida State dropped to 0–2 for the first time since 1989 and now will have to recalibrate its expectations for a year that started with national title aspirations.

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The final stats—four sacks, three hurries—don’t nearly convey the impact of NC State’s senior-laden, NFL-bound defensive line, which roughed up Blackman at every opportunity and confirmed FSU fans’ worst fears that the lanky freshman would need more than three weeks of practice prep to settle into a leading role. Blackman finished 22 of 38 for 278 yards and a touchdown, but he also shouldered the blame for the game’s lone turnover after being stripped (by who else but Chubb) at the end of a scramble to the edge of the red zone late in the second quarter.

After a shaky start left the Seminoles trailing 10–0 at the end of the first quarter, Blackman established a rapport with physical receiver Auden Tate, who finished with nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown. But Tate left the game for good with a shoulder injury after making a leaping catch for a 51-yard gain late in the third quarter, and the rest of the offense stalled out in the final minutes as the Seminoles tried to reel NC State back in. On a pivotal fourth-and-11 with just over five minutes to go, Wolfpack safety Tim Kidd-Glass shot through the middle of the line untouched on a blitz, forcing Blackman to juke right and overcook his downfield throw. A field goal on FSU’s next and final drive only served to bring the final score to a respectable one-possession deficit.

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NC State pulled out all the stops on offense, neutralizing the Seminoles’ blue-chip-laden defense by deploying all-purpose star Jaylen Samuels on a shovel pitches, sweeps and even a halfback pass that set the tone early on. It didn’t always work (Florida State finished with 10 tackles for loss)—but the Wolfpack did find some big plays, including a 71-yard touchdown catch-and-run on which Jakobi Meyers left FSU star safety Derwin James swiping at air on a cutback en route to the end zone.

Florida State still has the talent on both sides of the ball to be a major factor in the ACC race, and in Blackman the Seminoles have a young quarterback that many teams would consider an enviable emergency option. They just ran into the worst possible opponent to serve as his college football initiation.

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