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Noles Rushing Attack Shines vs. Hokies

Noles Rushing attack

Florida State moved to 5–0 on Saturday as the Noles took care of business and beat Virginia Tech at home, 39-17. Mike Norvell and his staff decided to take a different offensive approach. One of the main keys to victory heading into the game for the Seminoles offense was to attack the Hokies on the ground. That’s exactly what they did, and boy, was it an effective game plan. The Noles rushing attack was the difference.

The FSU running game had out-gained the potent passing attack only once prior to the season. This occurred on the September 9th victory over Southern Miss, where the Noles had 306 rushing yards to 248 passing yards in the contest. The ground game has otherwise been lackluster, to say the least. The talented playmakers in the passing game have dominated the point of attack and quickly took over the focus of offensive game planning.

That was certainly not the case during Saturday’s matchup.

MVP: RB Trey Benson

Starting running back Trey Benson has experienced a disappointing beginning stretch to the season. Coming into 2023, there were lofty expectations placed upon his shoulders, with many pundits and NFL draft analysts projecting him as high as a first-round prospect. He showed off that potential and displayed support for the hype against the Hokies. Benson exploded for 200 yards and two touchdowns off only 11 carries on Saturday. He was the primary factor for how the Noles beat Virginia Tech. For those doing the math, that’s an average of 18.2 yards per attempt. That staggering figure, along with the double century yardage statistic. marked career highs for Benson. His efforts helped the Florida State rushing attack to outperform the passing game for the second time, 282 to 170.

Other Notable Performers:

WR Johnny Wilson

It was Keon Coleman’s time to re-emerge and shine as the primary receiving threat against Clemson. Against VT, it was time for the other half of the dynamic duo, Johnny Wilson, to come to the forefront. The Noles’s explosive air attack took a backseat to the ground game. Jordan Travis finished with an efficient yet pedestrian stat line, completing 18 of his 24 attempts for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Both of those came to the big-bodied red zone threat in Wilson, who finished the day with four receptions for 54 yards and two scores. Wilson and Coleman seem to be trading off for the top spot week after week. At worst, they can be considered one of the more reliable wide receiver tandems in the country.

DL Jared Verse

From at least a disruptive standpoint, Verse was the defensive MVP of the game. He may not have filled out the stat sheet like linebacker Kalen DeLoach, who finished with nine tackles. However, one can argue he completely dictated the play style and strategy of the Hokies offense. Verse collected two sacks in the game, which would end up being the only two the Seminoles’ defense would have all game. His performance was a reason for Virginia Tech’s transition to focusing on running the ball. Verse reminded everyone watching why he’s a first round lock in the upcoming NFL draft.

Areas Needing Improvement:

While the Seminoles’ secondary was stout, the front seven once again struggled with another dynamic dual-threat quarterback. Hokies signal caller Kyron Drones became yet another opposing leading rusher from the position, logging 80 yards on 14 attempts. It has become a recurring theme this season for Florida State: they have struggled to contain dual-threats. This is an essential point of emphasis that needs to be fixed. The next two weeks bring opposing quarterbacks who are even more experienced, dangerous, and dynamic.

The special teams unit also took a step back for the Seminoles. Hokies starting running back Bhayshul Tuten had a massive day on kick returns, finishing with four returns for 156 yards and a touchdown. Kick return touchdowns can often result in huge momentum swings, and could even mark the difference between a win and loss. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case here, but down the road, the Noles need to be more cautious and stick to their assignments.

Main Takeaway:

This was a classic display of a “don’t forget about me” performance from the Florida State running back room. The run defense for Virginia Tech has had a rough outing and now ranks second-worst in the ACC by giving up 195 rushing yards per game. Nonetheless, the Seminoles reestablished the argument that they have the ability to display offensive balance when necessary. In addition to Benson’s incredible outing, Lawrance Toafili served the perfect complimentary role with six rushes for 50 yards and a score. Sure, the passing game is the strength of this offense and will continue to remain so as the season progresses. However, that does not mean defensive coordinators can simply ignore the threatening depth and talent of the Florida State running backs. Or else, they’ll live to regret it.

Noles Rushing attack
Photo courtesy: Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK

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