OL issues arise
Florida State's offensive line was banged up … and it showed. A concussion sidelined left guard Kareem Are, who started eight games for the Seminoles last season. Derrick Kelly earned his fifth career start in Are's absence. Center Alec Eberle started despite battling migraine issues during practice. Another contributor, Tampa Catholic alum Corey Martinez, was out with a knee injury, and converted defensive end Rick Leonard made his first career start at right tackle and looked shaky at times. The overall results weren't pretty; in the first quarter alone, the Noles allowed two sacks and committed two holding penalties – including one of each on the same play. The mistakes kept coming, including an ineligible lineman downfield and a leg whip. Line struggles led to only 14 rushing yards on 15 first-half carries.
Ramsey is missed
FSU missed star defensive back Jalen Ramsey, badly. Sophomore Tarvarus McFadden replaced Ramsey — now a rookie with the Jacksonville Jaguars — as the starting boundary cornerback and made a few costly mistakes. He was in coverage on Ole Miss' first touchdown, a 3-yard pass to Damore'ea Stringfellow, and on the second, when D.K. Metcalf came down with a tipped ball in the end zone on a 3-yard fade. McFadden also missed a key tackle in the first quarter.
Cook the receiver
Running back Dalvin Cook is growing as a receiving target. The ACC's leading rusher from 2015 said he spent his offseason trying to improve his game away from the ball, including as a route runner. The work showed (with one notable mistake). The junior and Heisman Trophy hopeful was FSU's leading receiver in the first half, setting career highs with six catches for 95 yards, including an 18-yard third-down conversion that helped set up FSU's first field goal. He did, however, fumble the ball out of bounds on one catch in the second half. Instead of an easy touchdown, FSU had to settle for another field goal.
Ups and downs
Safety Derwin James had an eventful opening quarter. He was flagged for a personal foul after a late hit on the fourth play from scrimmage. That penalty helped set up an Ole Miss touchdown. But the All-America candidate made up for his mistake on the Rebels' next drive when he undercut a route and soared for his first career interception. He had five tackles in the first half.
FSU feels crowd love
The crowd had a heavy FSU flavor. Ole Miss practiced with a silent cadence and prepared as it was playing a road SEC game, while FSU coach Jimbo Fisher thought the atmosphere would be more like a bowl game. The truth was somewhere in the middle. Seminoles fans outnumbered Ole Miss fans by about two to one. Among the notable spectators: Ramsey, current Bucs and former Noles Jameis Winston and Roberto Aguayo, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Bucs/FSU legend Derrick Brooks and NASCAR drivers (and Rebels fans) Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Winston joined FSU for its pregame huddle before the team broke for the locker room.