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Second half thread: Florida State 21, Syracuse 7

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That was difficult to watch, despite the final play.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

You may hate this game for a long time.

While the Florida State Seminoles have been able to move the ball reasonably well on the ground (Dalvin Cook has 104 yards on 13 carries), they’ve turned it over twice and allowed the Syracuse Orange some quality field position. Between the turnovers (a pick and a fumble, both forced by Christopher Frederick) and shoddy punt return coverage, the Orange have had opportunities. They simply can’t move the ball, though — at least until that final, hurried drive.

Zack Mahoney, starting for the second straight game for the injured Eric Dungey, is just 9-for-20 for 138 yards, plus a TD and two interceptions. One of those was a very poorly thrown ball in the end zone that squandered Syracuse’s first scoring opportunity of the half. Despite missing on throws to leading receiver Amba Etta-Tawo all afternoon, he did manage to get him a very well-placed, 46-yard jump ball to close the half. That touchdown is the lone highlight for an offense that had pretty much stalled on every possession until that point.

The Orange defense is far from perfect in this one, as they have allowed 337 yards of offense to the ‘Noles. But as mentioned, they’ve found their spots and made stops. Daivon Ellison has had another strong game, while SU’s line has picked up on Florida State passing on first and second down, leading to more blitzes. Those were starting to become more effective in the second quarter, disrupting Deondre Francois’s progressions and getting some hits on the freshman QB.

Florida State has been able to pressure Mahoney at will (I counted at least five sacks — but there may have been more), and also shut down the run game (12 yards so far). The patchwork offensive line is struggling to stop FSU’s blitz, and basic pressure is yielding results for the Seminoles, especially with Mahoney holding the ball a little to long.

Brisly Estime also provided his own additions his glowing career resume as a return man. He has two punt returns for 64 yards, and on the first (for 42), he was one block away from breaking it for a touchdown.

***

Without keeping all of the focus on what this team would be able to do with Dungey today (quite a bit more), perhaps we take some positives from the final drive. When Mahoney puts emphasis on quick screens, the bread and butter of this attack, you see a different offense entirely. Hopefully it’s a sign of him better understanding what’s needed of him in the second half, and will at least lead to a more watchable final 30 minutes of football.

FSU gets the ball to start the half. This is your place for conversation about the third and fourth quarters. Let’s cross our fingers for some sort of miracle...