Florida State football scored its first touchdown of the 2016 season in the second quarter of Monday night’s opener against Ole Miss. The play netted FSU six points, but really made just as many points about where the ‘Noles are, on so many levels.
Point One: Appropriately enough, Travis Rudolph, the feel-good story of the week across college football, sports, and, you know, earth, hauled in the 16-yard pass from Deondre Francois, helping the ‘Noles take their first slice out of the 22-point deficit they would ultimately erase against the Rebels. With just 28 seconds remaining before halftime and the Seminoles having already settled for field goals on two prior red-zone drives, this strike was massive, as it cut the Ole Miss lead to 28-13, after the extra point. These six points were the first of 33 straight that FSU would hang on the Rebs.
Point Two: Florida State gained momentum going into the locker room at halftime. After finishing a two-minute drill exactly as you’re supposed to, the ‘Noles left Ole Miss with little choice but to head to the half without threatening again. That’s even bigger when you consider that the Seminoles would get the ball back to dictate terms in the third quarter, in which they outscored the Rebels by a score of 23-0. Regardless of the score at the half, they had the taste of success in their respective mouths, while Ole Miss had just sampled its first bite of adversity, which would only prove to sour.
Point Three: Much has been made of Francois’ patience on the play, and for good reason. He hung in the pocket, knowing he would take a shot, while nevertheless delivering the scoring toss to Rudolph and being belted. Young quarterbacks — especially those making their first starts — typically need two things: to be hit and get back up, and to experience success, for the sake of their own confidence. Getting both on the same play can bring everything together for an inexperienced QB.
Point Four: While Francois was announced as the starter well before the Ole Miss game, partially due to the injury to Sean Maguire, there’s simply no way that any QB in a competition for the spot, especially against a fifth-year senior, has the entirety of the locker room at his back. Maguire, though injured, has been around for a long time and built relationships with numerous teammates. He’s sat behind James Winston and Everett Golson, waiting his turn patiently. Francois, by standing in the pocket the way he did, and taking the shot he absorbed for his team, could have, prospectively, gone a long way toward winning over any doubters he may have had on the roster.
Point Five: After the game, I asked Rudolph about the touchdown, and he confirmed my suspicion that it was, indeed, a WR-option route on which the wideout and QB have to simultaneously read the defenders to determine where the ball should go. We all saw Francois’ arm strength and running ability— but it’s paramount that he and his receivers are on the same page, and 12 and 15 were precisely that in a crucial moment on Monday night. This also probably went a long way with regard to the leeway coaches gave Francois to throw downfield, and convert, on a huge third-and-long in the fourth quarter, not surprisingly, to Rudolph.
Point Six: All of the above, which took place in a play that spanned mere seconds, coalesce to form an incredibly important aspect to any potent offensive attack: trust. Trust from an offensive lineman, who knows his field general will make the right decision. From wide receivers, who know the ball is where it should be when they head across the middle. And of equal importance, from coaches, who believe in a young man enough to cut him lose to make his own mistakes but also put a team on his back to deliver when it matters most.