When Florida State dropped a 63-20 decision to Louisville in Week 3, the perception was “maybe the Cardinals are better than we thought.”
Last week’s 55-35 victory over USF brought optimism for the Noles’ offense and still some skepticism for their defense.
What do we make of FSU falling on the short end of a 37-35 upset at home against North Carolina?
In the days leading up to Saturday’s game, I claimed that UNC was better than its season-opening loss indicated. FSU didn’t lose to a bad team, merely one that had rallied from a disappointing start to win three consecutive games. Nick Weiler made a career-long 54-yard field goal as time expired to cap a thrilling back-and-forth fourth quarter in UNC’s favor.
That won’t do the Noles any favors. This was a team many expected to not only contend for the ACC championship, but also a College Football Playoff spot.
FSU’s current defense was expected to be one of its best entering the season, but the Seminoles have struggled mightily in Derwin James’ absence.
Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns on 31 of 38 passing. The Tar Heels scored five touchdowns and a game-winning 54-yard field goal on what has been a disappointing unit.
This game shouldn’t have come down to the final field goal — from a UNC perspective. The Noles dug themselves a 21-0 hole in the first quarter and needed to play their way back into the game.
Dalvin Cook delivered an outstanding performance for the second consecutive week. The junior rushed for 140 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. Despite not throwing a single touchdown pass, Deondre Francois also played well, producing 372 yards on 20 of 32 passing.
Having to climb back from a sizable deficit is the reason FSU is now out of playoff contention. The Noles almost pulled off a 21-point comeback, but that’s the thing about 21-point comebacks: Everything has to go right. Florida State got only 97 percent right. North Carolina did just enough to survive.
Florida State — a slow starter against Ole Miss and USF, not just Louisville and UNC — paid a price for its unchecked bad habit. The Noles’ leader is well aware of that.
“We can’t look for any other answers,” said head coach Jimbo Fisher said after the loss. “There ain’t nothing magical going to happen. We have to coach better and play better.”