Saturday in Tallahassee was all about familiar ground. Several Seminole seniors said so long to Doak Campbell Stadium, a place that has become a second home to them over their Florida State careers. The ’Noles also returned to their familiar place in the postseason after earning their sixth win of the season. And they did so by blowing out an inferior opponent, a familiar result across the years for FSU football. The Seminoles thumped the Alabama State Hornets 49-12.
The Hornets hung tough in the first half, getting off to a quick start after a 44-yard kickoff return and a laughable personal foul quickly had them in Florida State’s red zone. But on 4th and 1 from the ’Nole 2, ASU coach Donald Hill-Eley (and his Ph.D.) thought opting for a field goal was the smart choice. And hey, it let the Hornets say they were winning at Florida State.
But not for long. James Blackman put FSU up for good on the Seminoles’ first play from scrimmage, finding Tammorion Terry on a 69-yard sideline route. 7-3, ’Noles. A direct-snap four-yard rushing TD from Khalon Laborn (who got the start with Cam Akers injured) made the Florida State lead 14-3 after its next possession, with Dennis Briggs Jr. leading the defensive effort by collecting two tackles for loss on the Hornets’ first two possessions.
The Seminoles allowed just seven rushing yards in the first half, but Alabama State receivers authored several impressive catches, which helped the Hornets gain the FGSU red zone on three of their first five possessions. And while they missed a pair of field goals, this helped them play keep away from FSU and limit the ’Noles to just six possessions before the half.
FSU’s Tre’Shaun Harrison was on the receiving end of Blackman’s second TD toss in the second quarter, using a slick move and great effort to find pay dirt and give the Seminoles a 21-3 lead before ASU ended the first-half scoring with a FG to make it 21-6 at the break.
The ’Noles got the ball to open the third quarter, and gave it right back to Alabama State three plays later on a Blackman interception. A defensive miscommunication let the Hornets find the end zone for the first time and trim the FSU lead to 21-12 after a 34-yard scoring pass and a missed two-point conversion attempt.
But then the rout was on. Blackman made his second big run of the day when he perfectly executed a zone-read and kept for 35 yards. That led to Laborn taking another direct snap to the house, this time for a one-yard score. Hamsah Nasirildeen then returned an interception 80 yards for a pick-six on a play that may still be happening. It was 35-12, FSU, heading into the fourth quarter.
Redshirt-frosh QB Jordan Travis got some more series running the show behind center and had another big run, of 61 yards. That setup Blackman’s third TD pass, this one to D.J. Matthews from 12 yards out. 42-12, Seminoles, in the fourth. Deonte Sheffield added a two-yard rushing TD in the game’s final minute to close out the scoring. The only real loss FSU took in this one was when Brendan Gant was ejected for targeting in the second half, which means he’ll remain sidelined for the the first half of the UF game.
Fans may complain about the final result not being more lopsided, but the Seminoles aren’t playing for style points to impress the playoff committee. FSU was favored by 41 and won by 37— close enough. Regardless, the objectives here were clear: (1) get the win to secure bowl eligibility and (2) remain healthy for Florida and the 15 extra practices you get prior to the bowl game by resting starters and getting young guys some run. And with a week off before the trip to Gainesville, FSU checked both of those boxes.