Although the end result on the scoreboard was not what the Florida State Seminoles football team envisioned in Saturday’s season opener against Georgia Tech, the Seminoles led for over 50 minutes of the game on the shoulders of defensive back Asante Samuel Jr.
The rising junior’s timely 2 interceptions gave FSU every opportunity to win in a rain-delayed, bizarre 16-13 defeat.
Both of Samuel’s picks erased Georgia Tech drives deep into Florida State territory. With eight minutes before halftime and nursing a 10-0 lead, the cornerback wisely stepped in front of Tech freshman quarterback Jeff Sims’ quick dump-off, racing down the right sideline with his second pick and bringing it back to midfield. Samuel’s first interception came on the Yellow Jacket’s opening drive, as Sims’ underthrown ball was returned 38 yards to redeem a poor opening series by the defense and set up the Seminoles offense for their first touchdown drive of 2020.
“I’ll say it’s just film study and the determination to win,” said Samuel. “I’ve been watching those same plays on film, and when I saw it, I just had to react and make a play.”
The Sunrise, Fla. product had 2 more pass breakups, 5 total tackles, and nearly intercepted a third pass later in the game. Senior defensive tackle Marvin Wilson called the game Samuel had “tremendous”.
“Asante Samuel is a ballhawk, he is a leader off the field when we were in the huddle. He did a great job tonight,” said Wilson. “He came ready to play today.”
Last time a defensive back snagged two picks in a game was September 2018, when Kyle Meyers had 2 interceptions against Samford. The feat has been accomplished sixteen times since the year 2000.
Recent names with two turnovers through the air for the Noles in a single game include Jacob Pugh’s game-clincher against Notre Dame in 2014, or Tony Carter’s double-up in a rain-soaked Orange Bowl versus Miami in 2008. Standouts Greg Reid and Levonta Taylor picked off Florida twice in 2011 and 2017, respectively.
Every person watching Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday knows Samuel had a superb game.
The former St. Thomas Aquinas standout said he was more concerned with his position group and the defense as a whole.
“We could have done better as the defensive back room. It’s really not the offense or the coaches, we just have to do better, make tackles and make more plays on the ball,” said Samuel.
“I feel like we prepared for every moment that was brought up to us. We just have to execute the play and the situation,” he said. “We just gotta come out victorious.”
Even after Saturday’s loss, Samuel is still optimistic for the 2020 Seminoles. The budding star cornerback plainly stated that the team knows the mistakes they made, and “they just need to correct them”.
“We just gotta respond, every game is not gonna be perfect. We just have to push through, that’s what good teams do, push through the adversity.”
“We lost the game, but I feel like we are in a good place as a team,” Samuel continued. “We came a long way since January, and we just gotta keep climbing. We’re just gonna keep responding, and keep working.”