Date: December 30, 2016
Location: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL
Opponent: No. 6 Michigan
Every season of Florida State football is unique in its own way. Expectations are set for the season, and the team either meets, exceeds, or falls short of those goals. Depending at what point you were evaluating the Seminoles in 2016, the team could have actually fallen into all three of the aforementioned categories. There were moments throughout the season where the team was either performing at, below, or above where people expected it to be.
2016 started off as planned, with the ’Noles heading into their game against Louisville with a record of 2-0. The Seminoles came into that contest with the nation’s #2 ranking and a real shot to compete for a national title. Florida State fans know what happened next. FSU got stomped by Lamar Jackson and limped to a 3-2 record before a matchup against the University of Miami. The ’Noles went from a team that was largely meeting preseason expectations to a disappointment in a matter of weeks. Things looked bleak, but, as it so often happens in college football, things were about to change.
Florida State beat Miami in a highly emotional affair. After that game, FSU continued to right the ship and finished the regular season with a record of 9-3. Not as good of a record as the experts predicted at the beginning of the season, but very good considering the lackluster start. The ’Noles were rewarded with an Orange Bowl berth against the 6th-ranked Michigan Wolverines. Expectations for the Seminoles were low, as the Wolverines were a 7-point favorite. But, as FSU fans saw throughout that year, those were the types of situations in which their team thrived.
Throughout much of the contest, Florida State was the better side. However, some costly FSU mistakes helped Michigan secure a 30-27 lead in the waning moments of the 4th quarter. With the game on the line, the Seminoles found themselves with a 3rd and 9 on the Wolverine 12-yard line. A lot of fans in garnet and gold were hoping to avoid the turnover and play for a field goal. Deondre Francois and Nyqwan Murray didn’t share their sentiments.
With 42 seconds left to play, Francois took the snap out of the shotgun formation and immediately looked to his left. Murray, most commonly referred to as “Noonie,” was the target of Francois’ gaze. The FSU QB lofted a beautiful pass to his receiver, who was blanketed by Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Lewis’ coverage was good, but Noonie’s catch was even better. The play resulted in a touchdown, and ultimately, an Orange Bowl victory for the Seminoles.
Expectations are fascinating things. They can be effective motivators or troublesome burdens. For the 2016 Florida State football team, they ended up being a little bit of both. Not many people thought the ’Noles had a good chance against Michigan. Two people that did were Deondre Francois and Noonie Murray. They not only thought the Seminoles would win the Orange Bowl, they expected it.