It did not take long for Florida State fans to realize this would be a long night.
On Samford’s first offensive play of the game, quarterback Devlin Hodges connected with star receiver Kelvin McKnight on a 54-yard touchdown pass over Stanford Samuels.
One play, eight seconds, 54-yards.
Samford’s coaching staff realized early on that the only way they could upset Florida State would be on the arm of Hodges. One of the top overall players in the FCS division, Hodges racked up 475 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air against FSU’s secondary. McKnight was a one-man wrecking crew at receiver, catching 14 passes for 215 yards and two scores.
As such, the Bulldogs relied extensively on the quick passing game. Florida State’s defensive line was not able to get pressure on Hodges with the ball leaving his hands so quickly.
As expected of a great college quarterback, Hodges was able to move in the pocket and extend plays at times. He is not a true dual-threat quarterback, but was able to buy time for his receivers to get open throughout the game. There were times when Brian Burns was perhaps a split second away from a sack, but Hodges would step up and find a receiver downfield.
The ’Noles did not pick up a tackle for loss until the third quarter and did not get a sack on Hodges the entire game.
Hodges’ passing yards accounted for 90 percent of Samford’s total offense. The times when the Bulldogs ran the ball were few and far between. Samford only handed the ball off 19 times for 50 yards during the game (2.6 per rush).
Overall, the Bulldogs finished with 6.6 yards per play.
Florida State played quite a few young players in this game, especially in the secondary. True freshmen Asante Samuel Jr., Isaiah Bolden and AJ Lytton each saw extensive playing time.
A pair of safeties in Hamsah Nasirildeen and Stanford Samuels led the team in tackles, which is unsurprising given how much the Bulldogs threw the ball.
To their credit, FSU’s defense responded well as the game wore on.
Hodges threw four interceptions in the game, most of which came in the second half. A.J. Westbrook dropped an easy interception early in the game, but responded with a pick later on. Kyle Meyers grabbed two interceptions as well, both of which came when Samford was driving down the field.
The ’Noles held Samford to 184 total yards and 4.7 yards per play in the second half. Of the eight drives that Samford ran in the second half, three ended with punts and four ended with turnovers.
In the end, Levonta Taylor came up with a critical pick-six as the game was winding down. His 63-yard interception return iced the game to give Florida State the victory.
Coming off of a very impressive performance against Virginia Tech, it was concerning to see Hodges and the Samford offense drive down the field with ease at times. The ’Noles have more defensive talent than most teams in the country, but struggled mightily in this game.
Syracuse, FSU’s next opponent, should provide one last opportunity for a tune-up on both sides of the ball before Florida State gets into the heart of its ACC schedule.