Louisiana-Monroe at Florida State

Sports Xchange

September 06, 2017 at 5:37 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
TV: ACC Network
SERIES: Florida State leads 1-0. FSU won the only meeting 34-0 in 2011.
RANKINGS: Florida State No. 10

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Seminoles

–RB Cam Akers, a freshman, left Seminoles fans feeling excited, despite the loss. The speedy Akers, a former five-star recruit, got the bulk of the action against Alabama, rushing for 30 yards on 10 carries — several of those featuring ankle-breaking moves against Alabama defenders.

–TE Ryan Izzo finished second in receiving against Alabama with three catches for 46 yards, and he was tough to bring down every time he ran with the ball. With Florida State’s receiving corps still feeling their way into their roles, look for Fisher to lean heavily on the experienced Izzo.

–DB Tavarus McFadden led the nation for part of the season last year in interceptions and finished tied for the FBS lead with eight. Last week against Alabama’s big corps of receivers, McFadden was thrown at very little. He recorded five tackles.

–P Logan Tyler needs to step up his game after averaging just 31.5 yards per attempt against Alabama. One of his kicks also was blocked.

Warhawks

–QB Garrett Smith came off the bench and ended up leading the Warhawks in rushing in their loss to Memphis. He had a net 48 yards on 12 carries and also passed for 171 yards.

–WR Markis McCray had a 46-yard reception for ULM’s biggest pass play of the night. He ended up with three catches for 69 yards.

–DT Tyler Johnson had five tackles, including a sack that resulted in a 6-yard loss.

–S Luke Hedrick was ULM’s leading tackler with six stops.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

With sophomore and potential Heisman candidate Deondre Francois out for the season with a knee injury sustained in the opener against Alabama, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher will be looking at breaking in a true freshman at quarterback when the 10th-ranked Seminoles host Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

Kickoff at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee was moved up to noon because of the impending threat of Hurricane Irma over the weekend.

James Blackmon from Belle Glade, Fla., will move into the spot Francois vacated.

“He is very easy, very strong-willed, very independent and confident — not arrogant, but confident,” Fisher said. “Has a great presence to him.”

Blackman was the No. 7-rated pro-style quarterback in the nation in last year’s high school class and apparently has the confidence of his teammates.

“He’s going up against the best defense in the country in practice,” star defensive back Derwin James said. “So I feel like he’ll be ready for the game.”

Fisher said Blackman showed him early in spring practice that — if ever called on — he would be ready for this moment. His knowledge of the game has been his biggest improvement in practice, Fisher said.

“And his ability to want to learn,” Fisher added. “He studies the game and works at it.”

Louisiana-Monroe coach Matt Viator doesn’t anticipate much of a change in the Florida State offense even with a new quarterback.

“We think they’re going to do what they do,” he said. “They’ll come into the game with their offense and run the stuff that they’ve been running. That’s kind of how we’re going to approach it.

“We’ve watched the kids, and obviously they’re pretty talented football players. And they’ve got talented players around him. We think that they’ll do pretty much what they’ve been doing.”

Like the Seminoles, who lost to Alabama 24-7, Viator’s Warhawks are coming off a loss in the opener. A late comeback effort fell short in a 37-29 setback at Memphis.

“We can’t turn it over like we did,” Viator said. “Some key critical moments we turned the ball over. First-and-goal at the 3, we turned it over. We have to clean that up.”

Even a turnover-free game, however, likely will not be enough for the Warhawks to pull off what would be a stunning upset. Even with the loss of Francois, the Seminoles look to be able to run the ball behind junior running back Jacques Patrick and company. The Warhawks gave up 319 yards rushing in their loss to Memphis. Backup running backs Cam Akers, Amir Rasul and Ryan Green all likely will see significant time for the Seminoles.

If they struggled against the run, the Warhawks did have some success defending the pass in their opener. Their secondary limited Tigers starting quarterback Riley Ferguson to 97 yards passing on 10 completions in 25 attempts.

Offensively the Warhawks played two quarterbacks at Memphis, with starter Caleb Evans completing 11 of 20 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown; veteran Garrett Smith was 10 of 17 for 171 yards. Smith also led the team in rushing with 48 yards.

“We were just going to keep playing them,” Viator said after the game. Caleb had a great drive there at the end of the game. He took us down and scored as well.

“We’ll evaluate the film and if we have to make a change we will. To be honest, I can’t remember who did what to tell you the truth. They were both playing, and they both had some moments, so we will have to see how it goes from there.”

He could, he said, play both for considerable stretches again.

Fisher, meanwhile, will be prepping Blackmon for his first collegiate start. Asked what advice Fisher has given Blackman ahead of Saturday’s start, Fisher said it was similar advice he’s given all his quarterbacks over the years.

“Prepare. Put your time in. Play one play at a time. Trust your eyes. Process the information. Make great decisions,” Fisher said. “You get a chance to be accurate with the ball, make it.

“If you make a check (down), make a check and believe in what you’re doing. Do it with conviction.”