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Dramatic FSU comeback edges Boston College, keeps bowl hopes alive

Take a breath. And a shot.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

This Florida State football team doesn’t seem to do anything the easy way— but some times that can just make things more exciting. Case in point: Saturday night’s 22-21 win over the No. 20 Boston College Eagles, in which neither team ever lead by more than a score and every last minute of the game was needed for the Seminoles to claim victory.

The first half saw the Seminole offense refuse success time and again, while the FSU defense provided numerous opportunities in a terrific bounce-back performance. The ’Noles seemed to be off to a promising start, taking the opening kickoff deep into Boston College territory on a drive ignited by a 25-yard Deondre Francois strike to Keyshawn Helton. That drive made it all the way down to the BC 21 before Florida State started going backward and ultimately missed the chance to get on the board first when the line simply caved in and allowed a 45-yard Ricky Aguayo field goal attempt to be blocked. Still, Helton’s contribution on the game’s first play served as apt foreshadowing, at least through halftime: he finished the half with six catches on six targets for 73 yards. It’s rather confounding that he was not targeted for the rest of the game.

The defense played hard and disciplined, especially early, and a nod has to go to Dontavious Jackson, as D-Jax had the D jacked, finishing with a game-high 14 tackles. Hamsah Nasirildeen ended the second BC drive with a nice sideline interception, but Francois gave it right back with a terribly thrown interception on a post route that was open, sending the defense back out on basically no rest. A pair of designed runs for Francois were interesting wrinkles in the first quarter, but he got off to a rotten start through the air: 4-12 for 38 yards and a pick.

Still, the defense continued to keep Boston College off the scoreboard until Aguayo gave the Seminoles a 3-0 on a 35-yard second-quarter field goal. The Eagles then gave FSU another shot to establish itself by tossing another bad interception, this one to Stanford Samuels III. But Francois again reciprocated, throwing his second pick to give the ball back and kill a drive that had reached field-goal range.

After BC put together a scoring drive shortly before halftime, finding tight ends repeatedly to move down the field quickly, FSU added another field goal, from 25 yards out, to make the halftime deficit 7-6, Eagles. Florida State was the better side through 30 minutes, but settling for attempts at 3 just often doesn’t work when the other team can find pay dirt.

And while FSU didn’t have any tackles for loss in the first half, it did a great job of holding BC to just 150 yards, only 67 of which came on the gourd, and the majority of the passing yards occurring on Boston College’s lone TD drive. Limiting the Eagles on first down allowed FSU to get them in obvious passing downs, and the Seminoles surrendered just 2-8 third-down conversions up until intermission.

The Florida State defense stifled the vaunted BC rushing attack throughout this one, allowing a sack-adjusted average of just 2.9 yards per carry. Thus, Boston College turned to the air in the second half, and while QB Anthony Brown is more a liability than an asset, he hit some big throws when he needed them, several on third down situations, when the Eagles improved and converted on 5-11 chances.

FSU, which has been one of the worst rushing teams in the FBS, actually outgained BC on the ground, 156-125, and Cam Akers led the way with 110 yards on 14 carries (7.9 YPC) and a touchdown. His TD opened up the second half scoring and gave FSU a 13-7 advantage, but momentum swung firmly back to BC when it found the end zone on back-to-back possessions to end the third quarter and begin the fourth.

Down 21-13 and reeling, it looked like a slow death for the Seminoles and their bowl streak. But Akers’ longest run of the day returned some energy to the FSU sideline when he galloped 55 yards while breaking tackles. Still, it felt like a win for BC when they held Florida State to a field goal and maintained a 21-16 edge.

After exchanging punts, the ’Noles found themselves with the ball at their own 13 and 2:45 remaining on the clock. One drive for nearly four decades of bowl games. The offense needed to execute. It needed to block. And it needed some late heroics from Francois. And because it got all three, it didn’t have to play for very long. On the drive’s third play, Francois threw a perfect deep strike to Tamorrion Terry, who got separation from his defender and then just ran away for a 74-yard touchdown. FSU went for two and didn’t convert, but it didn’t matter when the defense turned BC over on downs on four plays and the Seminoles celebrated a 22-21 win.

So now it’s just down to this: next Saturday. High noon. Against the Florida Gators. Win and it’s bowling season for FSU.