The story of Monday’s loss to Florida State was the complete shift in performance and emotion from the Rebels in the second half, and the offensive line play fits into that narrative. The offensive line seemed to be comfortable and gelling nicely in the first half, but as the second half wore on, Florida State was able to generate more and more pressure on quarterback Chad Kelly.
“I think some of it was, in the end, there we were in some obvious passing situations and they were able to get some four defensive end (sets) in the game and pin their ears back,” Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke said of the line’s struggles. “In the first half, we had our tempo going and there was a semblance of balance where they couldn’t just pin their ears back and come, but obviously that helps when you’re a lineman.”
“The toughest situation for a lineman to be in is when everybody knows you’re throwing and they’re rushing, that’s tough,” Luke added. “And it wasn’t a scheme issue; they just, in a couple of situations, their guy beat our guy one-on-one, and when you’re playing a good defense, that happens some.”
With star left tackle Laremy Tunsil now in the NFL, the Rebels are still trying to find the new protector of quarterback Chad Kelly’s blindside. On Monday, they alternated between junior Rod Taylor and true freshman Greg Little. Head Coach Hugh Freeze said Taylor, a converted guard, and Little, a former five-star recruit, both played well.
“(Taylor) got beat on one sack underneath, but again those guys have a lot of seniors over there that are expected to be in the playoffs,” Freeze said. “They are going to win their share, but early in the game, again, when we had the appearance of being balanced, I didn’t see any issues.”
Luke also liked what he saw of Taylor and Little, along with redshirt freshman Alex Givens, who saw time at right tackle.
“Greg, for his first snaps, him and Alex Givens both held up well against good players,” Luke said. “They didn’t look I guess nervous or starstruck or anything, they both went out there and performed well. Rod, for his first time on the edge, he got beat one time and it hurt us, but for the most part he handled it really well.”
Freeze said he thought the offensive line played very well overall, but the Seminoles’ strong personnel and pass rushing sets were able to trouble the group later on.
Luke said he felt that in order for the line to avoid another performance like the second half against the Seminoles, more attention needed to be paid to the run game when possible.
“We just have to stay with it. The problem was, the passes were working and so I think in the second half I think we could have called a few more (runs), but that’s hindsight,” Luke said. “What we were doing was working. The good thing is when we were calling runs we were getting yards, so that’s a positive.”
Despite suffering such a heartbreaking loss, Luke had an optimistic lesson he wanted to impart on his position group.
“We’re a dang good offense, and we have a chance to be really special if we execute and we don’t turn the ball over,” Luke said.