Florida State football looking to improve red zone woes against NC State

The Florida State offense has been clicking this season.

The Seminoles have posted a 90.0 Pro Football Focus grade, which ranks No. 4 in the FBS. However, there is one aspect of the offense that has been a struggle for the Seminoles: the red zone.

FSU ranked 15th, tied with UTSA, in red zone efficiency last season, converting more 90% of its opportunities into points.

This season, the Seminoles have fallen to 111th, scoring on just 74% (20 of 27) opportunities.

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"You look back at the year, we've had some missed opportunities," FSU head coach Mike Norvell said. "We've had some things that haven't done very well in opportunities to score points.

"We've had a couple of misses, we had a turnover and just things you can't have when you're done there. We've had some opportunities where we've dropped balls. It's just been a combination all around. We have to play clean football."

Florida State will need address the issue, especially with ranked games against No. 14 NC State and No. 5 Clemson coming up.

The Seminoles (4-1, 2-1 ACC) travel to take on the Wolfpack (4-1, 0-1) at 8 p.m. Saturday (TV: ACC Network).

"We need to make sure, especially this week, every opportunity we get down in the red zone, we have to capitalize on."

Last season the Seminoles scored 38 times in the red zone on 42 attempts, converting 16 rushing TDs, 15 passing and connecting on seven field goals.

This season, they have 10 rushing touchdowns, six passing and four field goals.

The seven red zone miscues for FSU: fumble at the goal line and turnover on downs against LSU, two missed field goals and an interception against Louisville, turnover on downs against Boston College and a missed field goal against Wake Forest.

"We've had really good red zone play here, especially last year," Norvell said. "We just need to get back to making sure we're finishing drives. Last game, we had three-to-four drives to the red zone which were touchdowns, which is what we want. That's the benchmark we want on everyone. We had a missed opportunity. I think it was a positive step for us."

On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles have also faced regression in the red zone. Last season, FSU limited opponents to scoring on 24-of-34 (71%) of their trips last season.

This season, teams have scored on 15-of-18 (83%) of their red zone trips against the Seminoles. Teams have scored six passing and six rushing touchdowns, while hitting on six field goals.

The three red zone stops for FSU: a blocked field goal by defensive end Jared Verse vs. LSU, a fumble by Louisville quarterback Malik Cunninham and a missed field goal by Wake Forest.

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Markeston Douglas' impact

A potential game-changer for the Seminoles in the red zone is the 6-foot-4 tight end.

Douglas played a season-high 24 snaps against Wake Forest, catching two passes for 22 yards and also added a two-point conversion reception.

The redshirt sophomore struggled with weight early on in his career. He's been working on reshaping his body and has earned more playing time with his progress.

"When I first got back I was 290," Douglas said about the difference between his body this year and last. "I had to work hard during the summer. During the summer time, fall camp I was 270. Now I am 260, 262."

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Injury updates

Norvell provided injury updates for several players following Wednesday's practice.

Defensive end Jared Verse (left knee) is expected to be a full-go against NC State after being limited against Wake Forest and missing the Boston College game.

"Barring any setback, I fully expect to get more out of him," Norvell said.

Starting left guard Robert Scott (lower right leg) missed last week's game and could return this week, depending how the rest of the week goes according to Norvell. He has been practicing this week.

"He has gotten work in the last two days," Norvell said. "We'll have to see where it is come game time."

Linebacker Amari Gainer, who suffered a lower-leg injury in the opener against Duquesne, is expected back this week.

"He's going to be ready to go," Norvell said. "But probably will be on a snap count."

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Johnny Wilson doubled

Wilson, who caught six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown, tied Mycah Pittman for the team-lead in receiving yards against Wake Forest. Wilson broke out against Louisville with seven catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

He leads the team with 19 receptions, 357 yards and three scores. The Arizona State transfer is beginning to see a shift in how defenses are guarding him, including some double teams. He is just 43 yards away from being FSU's first 400-yard receiver since Tamorrion Terry (1,188 yards) in 2019.

"They try to limit what I do sometimes," Wilson said. "But I feel like we have so many weapons. You try to limit one guy, then another guys comes up. They can try, but I think we are loaded and it's going to be hard to stop us all."

Receiver Ontaria Wilson is second on the team in receiving yards, turning his 14 catches into 241 yards and two touchdowns. Pittman ranks third on the team in receiving, catching 17 passes for 226 yards and two scores.

Tight end Camren McDonald and receiver Darion Williamson also both have more than 100 yards.

Five different players have at least tied for the team lead in receiving yards in the first five games.

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GAME INFORMATION

Who: FSU (4-1, 2-1 ACC) vs. No. 14 NC State (4-1, 0-1)

When/where: Saturday, 8 p.m.; Carter-Finley Stadium

TV/Radio: ACC Network/94.9 FM

Live game updates: www.Tallahassee.com; @CarterKarels on Twitter; @Ehsan_Kassim on Twitter; @JimHenryTALLY on Twitter

Reach Ehsan Kassim at ekassim@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State football looking to improve red zone woes vs. NC State