TALLAHASSEE — No. 11 Florida State didn't need to be reminded how hard it could be to defend an athletic quarterback today against USF. Last week's game film was enough.
The Seminoles led 14-3, but Texas State was driving at the FSU 29 when Bobcats quarterback Tyler Jones rolled left. Jones already had broken out a 26-yard run, so eight Seminoles rushed to corral him, including All-ACC defensive back Jalen Ramsey.
"I immediately got the run read, so I came up," Ramsey said.
But instead of running forward, Jones shuffled back. He lobbed a 25-yard pass to a wide-open receiver whom Ramsey had left. Texas State scored on the next play.
When the Bulls and Seminoles line up at Doak Campbell Stadium this morning, both defenses face similar challenges: trying to contain quarterbacks with legs as dynamic as their arms. FSU's Everett Golson ran for almost 600 yards at Notre Dame; USF sophomore Quinton Flowers averaged 9 yards on his seven carries last week.
"It's just like another ball carrier," FSU defensive back Lamarcus Brutus said.
But how do you neutralize that other ball carrier when he can throw deep downfield, too?
For USF defensive coordinator Tom Allen, the explanation is far simpler than the execution: keep the quarterback in the pocket, and confuse him.
"I think you can (confine them to the pocket) with pressure, you can do that with your coverages," he said. "Because when they move around and they extend the play … that creates challenges for your defense, to be able to stay with those receivers.
"You can't cover a guy every second, so when that play gets extended, that's why those guys are so dangerous."
Golson showed some of that in his FSU debut. He threw one of his four second-half touchdown passes by rolling left to extend the play, eventually finding receiver Travis Rudolph in the end zone.
"(The Seminoles) lose Jameis Winston and you're like, 'We might have a chance,' " USF coach Willie Taggart said. "And Coach (Jimbo) Fisher does what he does best, goes out and recruits and gets Everett Golson to come in. And you watch him on film and you're like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' "
The good news for USF is it was able to test Allen's defensive philosophies during the preseason against Flowers, who totaled 204 yards in the Bulls' season-opening 51-3 rout of Florida A&M.
The signature play of his night — and to this point, his career — occurred on third and goal from the Rattlers 22. Flowers dropped back, spun to his left when the pocket collapsed, nearly stumbled as he stepped forward, regained his balance, ran backward to avoid a defender, then dashed right. At the cusp of the line of scrimmage, he heaved a pass across his body to isolated tailback D'Ernest Johnson in the end zone.
"I knew him in high school, the guy was a heck of a football player," Fisher said. "Very athletic, very dynamic. Everybody sees the things he does with his feet, but the guy can throw the football."
FSU replicated Flowers on the scout team with freshman Deondre Francois, last year's top dual-threat quarterback recruit in the country. To try to stop him today, the 'Noles will focus on the basics, such as keeping good leverage to force him outside.
"You can't be greedy," Brutus said. "You can't get out of your gaps trying to make a play or take a play off because that's another threat we've got to focus on."
Fisher said the most important key to slowing down any running quarterback isn't a scheme or a technique. It's power.
"When they run it," Fisher said, "you've got to make them feel it."
Because even a running quarterback doesn't like to get hit.
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