All season, the Florida State Seminoles relied on their offense to carry the 'Noles to victory. But with four offensive linemen already down for the season, a left tackle with two shoulders needing surgery unable to pass protect, and a three-year starter at quarterback down early in the game with elbow trouble, FSU leaned on its defense and special teams to beat the South Carolina Gamecocks, 26-17.
The biggest player of the night for the Seminoles was 5'8" sophomore cornerback Greg Reid. On the sixth play of the game, South Carolina flipped the ball to All-American Tailback Marcus Lattimore. It would be the last time Lattimore touched the ball all night as Reid crushed Lattimore, knocking him out and causing a fumble which would be recovered by FSU's Kendall Smith. The play set the tone for the night as the 'Noles would force five turnovers on the night, including four in the first half. Reid finished with four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and three excellent plays in the return game. And he did it in front of his father who hadn't seen him play since his freshman season due to a prison stint.
FSU's defense was determined to stop the big play, hoping to force South Carolina into impatient mistakes. It worked, as South Carolina failed to hit the big play for much of the night and was not sharp. The 'Noles repeatedly gave up short and intermediate gains, but those gains were usually met with big hits. A young and thin defensive line that had repeatedly worn down over the backstretch of the season clearly benefited from the time off and gave the 'Noles a chance to fight South Carolina's high-powered offense.
Florida State's offense couldn't do much on the night. Christian Ponder had reportedly looked great in practice leading up to the game but was quite ineffective and had to be pulled after just a few series. Backup EJ Manuel came in, and the offense still couldn't get much going. But one thing the 'Noles did not do was repeatedly turn the ball over. FSU eventually ran the ball with some effectiveness, had three tremendous punts of more than 45 net yards off the leg of Shuan Powell, and gave South Carolina poor field position for much of the night.
EJ Manuel was a safe and efficient 11-15 for 84 yards with a TD and no interceptions. With the inability to pass protect due to injury and inexperience on the offensive line, FSU rarely tested the Gamecocks deep. But he was quite special with his legs and his handoffs, scrambling for 46 of Florida State's 212 rushing yards. Only Auburn rushed for more against the Gamecocks.
Florida State won 10 games for the first time since 2003. For first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher, it was a storybook season and perhaps the start of something very special in Tallahassee as FSU is the odds-on favorite to land the top recruiting class in the entire country.