The clock ticked right past the 7:20 p.m. scheduled kickoff time and the two teams had yet to step on the field to begin their pregame stretches, drills, and rituals. Lightning and rain in the surrounding Tallahassee area once again foreshadowed an evening that was soon to be full of frustration for the second time this week. Around 7:30 p.m., a new kickoff time of 8:45 p.m. was announced to the unsuspecting crowd of 72,239; who collectively mustered up resounding boos and sighs of frustration in response to the unfavorable delay.
Florida State elected to receive the ball and was quickly forced to punt away their first possession. The Samford Bulldogs opened their drive with a one play 54-yard touchdown pass that left the whole stadium shocked, stunned, and silenced. The ‘Noles caught a break when Samford fumbled the snap on the ensuing extra point and failed to convert.
With 12:19 still left in the first quarter, Florida State’s Khalan Laborn was set to return the kickoff for Florida State. His 21-yard return ended in tragedy when he was brought down with what appeared to be a nasty left leg injury. Doak Campbell Stadium went eerily silent as Florida State fans held their breath in response to Laborn being carted off the field sporting an air cast. The Seminoles trudged forward with an uninspired drive and had to punt the ball away once again.
Samford’s next drive consisted of significant penalties committed by the Florida State defense that ultimately made the ’Noles pay. Demarcus Christmas finally made a huge play for a TFL, only to have it negated seconds later with a face mask, resulting in the chains to be moved to the Seminoles 15-yard line. Stanford Samuels added to Florida State’s penalty woes two plays later with a pass interference call that brought Samford right to the Seminoles 2-yard line. The very next play resulted in a Samford touchdown and a good extra point by the Bulldogs, causing Florida State to trail 13-0 with 7:49 left in the first quarter.
Florida State’s following drive looked to finally head in a positive direction. A huge 24-yard grab by wide receiver Keith Gavin appeared to bring Florida State into Bulldog territory, but the play was challenged and resulted in a reverse in the ruling; the pass was incomplete. The Florida State offensive line continued to get destroyed by the Samford defense and the ’Noles were forced to punt.
The big question of the night: Who would finally spark some spirit into the FSU offense? George. Campbell. That’s who. The former 5-star recruit whose past three seasons have ended in injury received back-to-back 10-yard and 26-yard passes that brought the ’Noles right inside Samford territory. The drive ended with an outstanding 27-yard one-handed grab by redshirt Freshman Tamorrion Terry and gave the Seminoles their first touchdown of the season shortening their deficit 13-7.
Feeding off of the offense’s energy, the Florida State defense was able to make some important stops for the first time of the night, forcing Samford to settle for a field goal attempt. The attempt was good and for the second time of the game, Samford led the Seminoles by two scores, 16-7.
At the start of the second quarter, Florida State’s next drive ended with a correct rush read option to the right by Deondre Francois that allowed him to easily walk into the end zone without a single Samford defender in sight. A good extra point kicked by Aguayo allowed Florida State to close the gap a bit more, 16-14.
Florida State’s A.J. Westbrook almost caught an interception that was thrown directly to him, but he couldn’t hang on. He redeemed himself five plays later and caught a pass tipped by Asante Samuel Jr and returned it for 33 yards to the Samford 48-yard line. In response, the ’Noles on the sideline toted out a Gucci backpack to place on Westbrook’s back in celebration of his interception. It was later explained that this was the defense’s way of saying the Seminoles were “putting it in their bag.” Florida State failed to capitalize on the turnover however and soon punted the ball away.
Samford’s star quarterback Devlin Hodges continued to wreak havoc on the FSU secondary with his deep ball accuracy and beautiful floaters. The Bulldogs scored once again to put them ahead of Florida State 23-14 with 8:29 left to go in the second quarter.
The FSU special teams continued to struggle when Aguayo missed a 40-yard FG attempt. Seconds later, Florida State’s Marvin Wilson forced the Bulldogs to fumble allowing Cyrus Fagan to recover and gave the ’Noles one more shot at ending the half on a high note. 2 plays, 25-yards and 25 second later, Francois connected with Tamorrion Terry for his second touchdown of the night, a 17-yard pass that ended the half with Francois scampering off to the sideline while clutching his wrist. He appeared to be fine shortly after as Florida State hit the locker room.
Further chaos stormed down on to the field as the second half commenced and costly mistakes trickled down on both teams. A pair of turnovers were traded when RB Cam Akers fumbled on the FSU 35, and the Bulldogs recovered. Florida State CB Kyle Meyers made up for the turnover and intercepted Hodge’s pass three plays later. Errors continued to shower down as penalties when Deondre Francois’s sideline pass to Tamorrion Terry for 8 yards to the 50-yard line was negated after the FSU offense was called for holding and Samford’s Gooden was ejected for targeting. Francois’s deep 32-yard pass to Tre’ McKitty was ruled ineligible and followed by a missed opportunity for a huge gain by WR George Campbell.
The Bulldogs appeared to spoil a comeback attempt by Florida State as the fourth quarter difficulties continued during an aggressive Samford drive. Kyle Meyers came in clutch once again with his second interception of the night right inside Samford’s own end zone.
The interception attempted to revive Florida State and give them a fresh start from their own 25-yard line, but the Seminoles drove the ball down the field only to have Aguayo miss his second 42-yard field goal attempt of the night. FSU trailed the Bulldogs 23-21 with 9:59 left to go and the Florida State defense was able to hold Samford to another field goal. The Bulldogs extended their lead, 26-21, with 7:58 left in contention.
The Seminoles began to stage their comeback and a 25-yard run by Akers recharged the Florida State offense. A pass interference call against the Bulldogs put Florida State on the Samford 19-yard line and was followed by another Akers 9-yard gain that ended with a Samford player “injured.” The unknown injury led to an unhappy response from the crowd that felt it was part of a scheme employed to damper the Seminoles new-found momentum.
3rd and 5
It didn’t work for the Bulldogs and Francois connected with TE Tre’ McKitty in the end zone to give Florida State their first lead of the season, 27-26.
The 2-Point Conversion
Francois’s pass to Noonie Murray was complete, and pushed Florida State ahead of the Bulldogs, 29-26. The successful 2-point conversion would be the first one for the Seminoles since November 2012.
The Bulldogs attempt to pull off an upset of the ages
Samford’s final drive is way too close for comfort after Hodges completed a 17-yard pass to Chris Shelling and put the Bulldogs in great field position on the FSU 33-yard line.
FSU’s Levonta Taylor ended Samford’s fairy tale night a few seconds later when he intercepted a deep ball and returned it 63-yards for a Florida State touchdown.
The final score
The Florida State Seminoles held on mightily and finally put the game to rest, 36-26.