TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — No. 12 Florida State has had dominating stretches of defense in wins over No. 16 Mississippi and South Florida.
But the Seminoles have been defined more in the first four games by their lack of consistency and points allowed.
Florida State (3-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) has allowed 30 or more points in three games after being the only team in the country last season to not allow 25 or more in a regular-season game.
Going into Saturday’s game against North Carolina, the Seminoles are allowing 35 points per game. That puts them 108th out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring defense.
Coach Jimbo Fisher was happy with the unit’s improvement in last Saturday’s 55-35 win over South Florida.
But with the next seven games in conference, including two against ranked opponents, Fisher needs his group to mature fast.
“It’s really on us to make those plays,” cornerback Marquez White said. “You can go back and look at the film and see guys loafing or missing tackles or busting coverages, letting guys run free.”
When USF’s Quinton Flowers connected with Rodney Adams on an 84-yard touchdown pass on the game’s first play, Fisher said cornerback Tavarus McFadden was in position and didn’t make a play on the ball.
McFadden leads the ACC in interceptions with three and is tied for third in passes defensed with five. But he has also given up his share of big passes.
“They’re going to throw at him every game,” White said. “He’s getting better every week. He’s becoming more confident. He’s grown up a lot.”
Florida State has also allowed 14 plays of 30 yards or more, which is tied for third most in the country. No. 21 TCU (12) and top-ranked Alabama (10) are the only other ranked teams that have allowed 10 or more.
The Seminoles have come out of the gates slowly and have trailed in all three games against FBS teams.
In 11 first-quarter drives by No. 16 Mississippi, No. 3 Louisville and South Florida, the Seminoles have allowed five touchdowns with three coming on the first drive.
Safety Marcus Lewis is hoping that last Saturday’s stretch against USF, where Florida State forced eight three-and-outs in nine drives, carries over to the rest of the season.
“When we got those nine straight stops, everybody just did their job. It’s that simple. We just feed off each other. Somebody makes play, next play somebody else makes a play,” he said. “Our biggest thing is winning first down. We win first down, that’s huge for us.”
Florida State is among the national leaders in forcing 16 three-and-out series against FBS teams. A concern is on the 23 series where it has allowed a first down, the opponent has scored a touchdown on 18 of them.
“I feel like stats can be portrayed any way people want to make them,” White said. “But a lot of the plays, the big plays that’s been given up, the plays are there. We just have to make the tackle, make those plays.”
While North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky is not a dual-threat quarterback and is the first conventional drop-back passer FSU has faced this season, he might be the most accurate they have faced. He is second in the conference in passing efficiency and tied for third in touchdowns with 10.
After dropping their opener against Georgia, the Tar Heels have won three straight and are 1-0 in conference play.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said the Seminoles run a similar defensive scheme to what they saw in the opener.
“After knowing what worked and what didn’t in the Georgia game that will help us in our game plan,” he said. “They do have a lot of big guys that can run.”
Online: The AP’s college football page: http://collegfootball.ap.org