Ball Hawk: Florida State’s McFadden leads nation in INTs

Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden possesses the most important thing successful cornerbacks must have — a short memory.

In a game earlier this season against North Carolina, McFadden was called for pass interference, allowing the Tar Heels to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired. Since that Oct. 1 loss, McFadden is the first Seminoles’ player in nine years to record an interception in three straight games and leads the nation with six picks.

“It’s not always easy when things don’t go your way. I think it’s just natural to go in the tank a little bit but you’ve just got to play the next play,” said McFadden as the 19th-ranked Seminoles (5-3, 2-3 ACC) travel to North Carolina State on Saturday. “Things are going to happen, you’ve just got to know how to bounce back.”

McFadden’s six interceptions are the most by an FSU player since Patrick Robinson also had six in 2007. The previous high for a player during Jimbo Fisher’s tenure was four in 2010. Robinson also was the last player to have an interception in three or more straight games (he had picks in five straight the same season).

When it comes to the single-season school record though, McFadden is only halfway there. Terrell Buckley had 12 in 1991. After getting just nine interceptions all of last season, Florida State already has 11 and has forced a turnover in all eight games.

McFadden has started every game this season, taking over the spot that Jalen Ramsey occupied last season before he was drafted fifth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. McFadden was tested often by opposing quarterbacks early in the season and allowed five touchdowns the first six games.

Fisher and teammates though have lauded McFadden’s consistency as of late. Defensive end Demarcus Walker has also noted that McFadden is learning how to prepare like a top-flight corner.

“When I was a sophomore I thought I could come to the game ready,” Walker said. “But you have to study your opponent, prepare and practice. It comes with maturity.”

Most of McFadden’s interceptions have come against highly rated quarterbacks. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson remains the consensus favorite for the Heisman while Deshaun Watson (Clemson), Chad Kelly (Mississippi) and Brad Kaaya (Miami) are regarded near the top of quarterback draft prospects for next year’s NFL Draft.

Two of the interceptions have come in the end zone, including one on Oct. 8 against Miami where the Seminoles converted that into a go-ahead touchdown.

McFadden is part of a Florida State secondary that has been beset by injuries. Safety Derwin James suffered a knee injury in the Sept. 10 win over Charleston Southern and Nate Andrews is out for the rest of the season after a torn pectoral muscle at Miami. Ermon Lane, who was playing receiver at the start of the season, has moved over to safety.

That secondary will be tested by a North Carolina State passing attack that has done a better job generating big plays. The Wolfpack (4-4, 1-3) are fourth in the ACC with 15 pass plays of 30 yards or more after having 17 all of last season.

Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren said he expects Florida State to use a lot of man and press coverage.

Fisher is hoping that McFadden’s development can continue over the final four games of the regular season.

“He’s rebounded and played very well,” Fisher said. “He still has a ways to go. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think he’s developing and has a chance to be a really good player.”

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