The first half started with the Boston College defense wreaking havoc, but it ended with the Eagles looking helpless. Florida State went three-and-out on two of its first three drives, but then went on to score touchdowns on three of its last four drives-two in the final three minutes.
The second half saw the Seminoles having their way more often than not on the way to a 48-34 win at Alumni Stadium.
In the end, BC's success (or lack thereof) stopping Florida State came down to one thing: pressure, and more importantly, executing that pressure. When the defense brought it fully, they stopped quarterback Jameis Winston. When Winston had time, he picked apart the secondary with his arm or scrambled for big chunks of yards.
"We brought pressure throughout the game," said head coach Steve Addazio. "It's going to catch us sometimes, and it caught us a couple times (today). We've got to do a better job. Sometimes we lose our coverage a little bit. We're still a work in progress. We play a lot of defense and we're not clean enough yet. But we're not backing off of that."
The key play was at the end of the first half, when the Eagles brought pressure but failed to close out the play. Mehdi Abdesmad flew into the backfield but went right past Winston as he avoided an arm tackle. Mike Strizak got contact on Winston but was unable to bring him down. The extra five seconds that Winston had allowed him to air it out 55 yards to Kenny Shaw for a crushing touchdown as the clock expired. The Seminoles went up 24-17 and never looked back.
"It was devastating giving up that big play before the half," Addazio said. "We had the kid on the ground."
"It was close," Addazio said when asked if he thought time had run out before Winston released the ball. "I was watching the clock, but then I got caught up with the fact that I thought we had him on the ground, twice. We can't let that happen."
Other times, the pressure came but one player missed a defensive assignment and that's when Winston was lethal with his feet. Even if there was a blitz coming from one side, all Winston needed was one opening to get loose, and he did-the redshirt freshman finished with 14 carries for 67 yards.
"We came in with a great game plan of 'keep playing aggressive,'" said defensive end Kasim Edebali. "If you keep playing aggressive, there might be a couple of holes in the back end, and whenever there was a hole in the end, FSU made sure they executed."
For the most part, though, the BC run defense was solid, only allowing 92 yards on 22 carries by FSU's four running backs.
The pressure was at its finest in the first few drives of the game. Its first time on defense, BC recorded a swatted down ball at the line by Kevin Pierre-Louis, a near-interception by Spenser Rositano, and a sack by Kaleb Ramsey.
After the Seminoles converted on a field goal when the Eagles ended their drive early, the BC defense forced another three-and-out. The third-down defense forced the pocket to collapse and the pressure on Winston was working as planned. But the key was there were no holes for him to run to and the secondary was doing its job, not allowing any receivers to get open.
But all of that changed in the second quarter.
"When you go up against a team that's talented like them, when you leave mistakes out on the field, they're going to capitalize on it," Pierre-Louis said. "When you bring that amount of pressure, everybody's got to be locked in for that down. If someone slips up, then something's going to be open. A good team like that, they just capitalize on those types of plays."
Sean Sylvia was burned on one-on-one coverage of Rashad Greene and Winston had plenty of time to find him for a 56-yard touchdown.
The Eagles forced another three-and-out on the next possession, but it would be their last of the game until one more in the final minutes with the game already out of hand.
The following drive, Winston had plenty of time in the pocket and capped off a 7-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass.
"We threw it for 197, they threw it for 330," Addazio said. "Therein lies what got us in the end."
Even with Winston's bomb at the end of the half, the Eagles came out in the second half still in the game. A key third and 10 came up on FSU's first drive, and it looked like BC had things in order again. But Winston found Kelvin Benjamin for a 24-yard pickup. From there, the Seminoles marched down the field for another touchdown to make it 31-20.
"I'm upset about the big plays," Addazio said. "We let up too many big plays on defense, you can't do that. That's upsetting to me."
"We played that game physically enough to win it. We let up too many big plays, and that cost us a football game. And it didn't have to happen."
The Seminoles went on to score touchdowns on their next two drives and added a pick-six that put the game out of reach midway through the fourth quarter.
BC was dealt another blow when Abdesmad went down with a left leg injury in the third quarter and didn't return, having to be helped off the field by two teammates.
"I'm very concerned about it," Addazio said, adding that he didn't know the status of the injury. "He's one of our toughest, most powerful inside guys. That would be a big hit for us. I'm worried."
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