No. 4 Florida State takes pride in second-half defensive performances

Florida State has scored 30 or more points in 13 straight games. The Seminoles’ defense has also built an impressive run in October.

The last second-half touchdown Florida State’s defense allowed came more than a month ago, on Sept. 23 at Clemson. And in three October games, the Seminoles’ defense has allowed just 8.66 points per game.

“We’re going to scratch, claw, bleed, whatever we got to do for you to not get in,” safety Jarrian Jones said. “It just comes down to heart.”

Florida State (7-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) has allowed just nine touchdowns in 23 red-zone trips in 2023, a 39.1 TD percentage that ranks ninth in the FBS. But in the second halves of games, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Duke couldn’t get a field goal let alone an offensive touchdown (the Hokies did generate a kickoff return for a TD). In last week’s 38-20 win over Duke, the Seminoles recorded a pair of fourth-down stops — including one near the goal line.

The Seminoles’ defense has bent, allowing 350 yards per game (52nd in the FBS). But how Florida State has played in the red zone and in second halves has been a source of pride — not bending but instead breaking the will of opponents.

“I think we played 21 players significant snaps (against Duke),” FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. “When you’re playing that many players, you’re bound to be fresh. So when is that going to show up? It’s going to show up late in the game, it’s going to show up late in the season. So I think that has something to do with it.

“But I do think we have smart players. Just as the game goes on, I think those things start to pick up a little bit more.”

The Demon Deacons (4-3, 1-3) go into Saturday’s matchup with Florida State having stopped a three-game skid with a comeback win against Pittsburgh on a touchdown in the final minute. Still, the offensive production has been tough to produce: Wake Forest ranks last in the ACC, averaging 23.1 points per game and 10th in the 14-team league in total offense (363.4).

“I think the lesson for our players is if you play hard to the final whistle, you give yourself a chance to have good things happen,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “I’m not going to get up here and pound my chest. Clearly we were very fortunate with a lot of different things.”

Here are a few things to watch when Florida State takes on Wake Forest:


The Demon Deacons have leaned on their ground game in multiple games.

Demond Claiborne ran 14 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the Pittsburgh win and has reached the end zone in three other games. There is also Justice Ellison, who has had some heavy workloads with three games of least 16 carries. The highlight was an 18-carry, 137-yard day against Georgia Tech, while he is coming off a 20-carry, 60-yard day in last week’s close win against Pittsburgh.


Things have been bumpy at quarterback for the Demon Deacons since Sam Hartman’s transfer to Notre Dame.

Mitch Griffis opened the year as the starter, but he had struggled with taking sacks and consistently moving the chains. Clawson then benched him during the Virginia Tech loss to play Michael Kern in search of a spark, though last week injuries forced the Demon Deacons to turn to reserve Santino Marucci.

Marucci responded by delivering a 15-yard TD pass to Cameron Hite with 33 seconds left.

“He did great. He was the winning quarterback,” Clawson said. “The job of the quarterback is to win the game. We were limited. We had to scale (down) the offense, not because he’s not capable of doing more. He just didn’t have the accumulation of reps.”

Griffis is atop the depth chart for this week.


The Seminoles have scored 30 or more points in 13 straight games, while the Demon Deacons have allowed a season-high 30 points twice this season (both losses to Georgia Tech and at Virginia Tech).

10,000 VISION

Jordan Travis has 9,548 offensive yards, the most in program history, and is in line to become the 16th player in ACC history to surpass the 10,000-yard mark. Travis also has 1,910 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns, the most by a Florida State quarterback.


Florida State holds a 30-9-1 lead in the series with Wake Forest. But the Demon Deacons have won the last three games. Wake Forest scored 29.3 points per game in the wins.


AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed to this story.


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