At 13:40 of the first quarter, on second down and ten after an incomplete pass, Ty Jones takes a handoff. Led by Lonnie Pryor, he rushes toward the middle of the LOS where he meets a solid wall of blockers and defenders. Jones bounces to his right, off balance because he either trips or is tripped up by a defender on the ground. Meanwhile, right tackle Zebrie Sanders has fired off the line to engage a Louisiana Monroe corner. But the defender effortlessly slips around the larger Sanders and nails Jones before he can regain his balance.
Result: One yard of forward progress, though Jones is driven back three yards by the corner and two other Warhawks running free in the backfield.
It wouldn't go much better on the second possession, just 11:03 into the opening quarter. With good field position at ULM's 44, Jones takes a first down handoff and gets two yards through the middle. On second down Jones can manage only a yard running left. With third and seven, E.J. fades to pass, is pressured, can't find a receiver and the Noles punt. A scoring opportunity wasted. And FSU, obviously determined to prove what it could do on the ground, was denied.
And so it went through most of the afternoon. And though FSU won handily, the final stats were bittersweet. A mid-major defense that was 67th in stopping the run the season before (allowing more than 159 ypg), held FSU, a team predicted to finish in the top ten, to 92 total yards rushing (ULM had 99). Seminole running backs gained just 77 net yards, including a loss of one yard and two rushes for no gain. E.J. was sacked twice for six yards lost.
The Achilles heel (duh) was the offensive line. Yes, injuries were a major part of the problem. But the lack of solid backups can't be overlooked.
Too many recruits couldn't measure up to Rick Trickett's mold of a sleek and mean O-lineman, even though he thought enough of them as prospects to recruit them. Signing OL was another problem. Some years during Trickett's five seasons, there just weren't enough offensive linemen in the class.
Other questions loomed in 2011. Jacob Fahrenkrug looked to be a valuable newcomer to replace the departed Ryan McMahon. We heard promising comments from coaches about Fahrenkrug's development during spring and fall practice. He supposedly picked up the system so well, he’d be the starting center against ULM. Yet if you look at a DVD of the game, Andrew Datko -- not Fahrenkrug -- is clearly making the line calls. Of course, that lineup experiment didn’t last long. Fahrenkrug was shifted to guard, though didn't do much to help the OL's overall effectiveness.
How, after having all spring and fall to retool the OL -- even with injuries -- could a major Div. 1 power eager to show it was worthy of all the hype, put such an ill-prepared, less than mediocre front five on the field?
The season's final stats were embarrassingly unacceptable: FSU was 104th in rush offense (112.15 ypg), and near the bottom in sacks allowed, giving up 41 on the season (3.15 per game).
Some of the blame is on the Noles colorful OL coach. But if the 2012 OL is anything like Trickett's 2011 group (heaven forbid), that will be on Jimbo.