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“A good team win:” Norvell, FSU players offer insight into Syracuse win

No. 4 Florida State (6-0, 4-0 ACC) continues best start to a season since 2015

Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

No. 4 Florida State (6-0, 4-0 ACC) continued its best start to a season since 2015 on Saturday, taking down the Syracuse Orange (4-3, 0-3 ACC) 41-3 at home.

FSU has now scored 30 points in 12 straight games — also the length of its win streak dating back to last season.

After the win, head coach Mike Norvell, wide receiver Keon Coleman, defensive back Shyheim Brown, defensive lineman Joshua Farmer and running back Lawrance Toafili all took the podium to discuss the Seminoles’ dominant win over the Orange — you can find those interviews below, with a full transcript from each.

Head coach Mike Norvell

MIKE NORVELL: First off, just really proud of our football team. Come out, early start today. To be able to play 60 minutes... Start talking about our defense, that was a great performance. I thought they battled throughout, made the plays that were necessary, were able to create some takeaways. Just really played at a high level. That was an offense that had a lot of variations to what they could do. I thought we were able to contain the run game, did good things in third down situations. I really thought our guys played hard and physical. That’s something we’ve been challenging them with, is to put together that complete game. Defensively I thought we were able to do that. A couple plays here and there that we’ll be able to improve upon. That was big. I thought our special teams unit really did respond well. Obviously the punt returns by Keon, all 10 guys were there around him, did a wonderful job. I thought our guys in our coverage units being able to flip the field, all those different things, I was proud of about how those guys did. Offensively there were some moments we weren’t as efficient as we needed to. Great in the red zone this year, had a couple opportunities. I’ve got to be better. I told the offense, it’s on me. We’ll be better when we’re in there because we’ve done a great job throughout the course of the season. There can’t be a time we get down there and don’t score. Offensively on the ball, right? Didn’t have a turnover. That was one of the big keys to today. That was the defense that created 12 of ‘em. We knew if we could come out on the positive end of the turnover margin, we’d put ourselves in a good position. The offense kept playing, hammering away at it. I thought they did a nice job in their response. Got the chance to play a lot of different players. It was good seeing guys get in there and make the most of their opportunities. All in all, it was a good team win. For us to be able to continue to take positive steps for ultimately where we’re trying to get to, just that continued improvement. I do want to say, great for a 12:00 kickoff. Our fan base, back-to-back sellout for this week. Three straight home games. For everybody coming in, obviously the energy, the excitement, something that our team really fuels off of, from this morning at the Legacy Walk. I thought the Marching Chiefs were awesome. Want to thank everybody for coming out and really appreciate the support.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Keon has had really good performances since he’s been here. Did you get a chance that he took his game to another level today?

MIKE NORVELL: I mean, it’s how he prepares. You never know what it’s always going to look like. But you have to be ready for your opportunity. I thought he did a really nice job with that. Special teams obviously, offensively, had some big plays, some great catches. I told him he had a couple of missed opportunities where it could have possibly even been better. I love the way he works, man. He really is a very unselfish player. Today the ball got to him, he tried to capitalize on that. Guys around him doing a good job. It will never be okay just to show up because somebody else is doing it. It’s always about us. It’s about going out there and being the best we can be. Obviously I thought that Keon played at an extremely high level today. But you watch him work in practice, I thought he had a great week in practice, how he attacked each rep.

Q. With your team now 6-0 at the halfway point of the season, how do you keep them focused week to week?

MIKE NORVELL: I mean, I want us to be better. I am grateful to be 6-0. I am so proud of this team for doing the things that were necessary to get to this point because you get one shot at it. One shot at each game. One shot at each play. Ultimately there have been plenty of moments in games where things haven’t gone exactly how we wanted to. We get a chance to showcase our response. You have to learn from it. We can’t make the same mistakes over and over and over again. Those are the things, it’s not about the teams we’re playing. All due respect to who we play. That was a talented team. Obviously got into some tough situations. Our guys, it’s about us, about how we continue to push, to improve, making sure that that needs to be our ultimate focus. Next week we’ll have a another very talented team that is going to present all the challenges that they bring. For us, it’s about making sure that our details, our fundamentals, our communication, making the most of the opportunity when the play comes to you. That is our focus. So it’s not just about what the record says. Ultimately, I mean, I want to be better than what that record says with how we play.

Q. Keon’s catch in the first quarter, highlight reel play of the season. Does it surprise you any more? Are you saying anything to yourself when he catches it or on to the next play? Do you watch the replay?

MIKE NORVELL: I say, Wow. Then I call the next play quickly (smiling). No, I mean, we’ve got a lot of great play-makers. When you see them put themselves in good positions. That was as good of a catch as you’re going to see. He goes to the next play. I’m sure when you get a break, look back at it, probably see it a few times. Ultimately that’s what makes great players great, is they expect to make the great plays when opportunities present themselves. Yeah, no, I definitely appreciated it.

Q. With Jordan, there were times on the field where he seems visibly frustrated. I assume you like that, you want him to be invested, it’s a positive. Seems like he’s been more visibly frustrated than he has. Is that because he knows this offense can be better?

MIKE NORVELL: Yeah, I mean, he’s the ultimate competitor. He expects perfection out of himself. There’s some guys that get frustrated that can be bad for your team. There’s some guys, if it’s not directed... For him, like he wants to be everything to the elite level, which it should be. That’s how it should be for another great football player. To hear him on the sideline, to hear the ownership. I told him, I didn’t like some of the things I did. I didn’t like some of the calls I made. You know what, get better. I’ll yell at myself. That’s part of it, right? He can continue to bring that energy because even though you see maybe a visibly upset guy, it’s encouraging to our team when a guy comes over, if it’s him or something that he sees, he’s taking ownership of it. Hey, we’ll be better in this. I’ll do this. There’s times you see players get visibly upset. If it becomes a negative, it can definitely pull down your team. He is an unbelievable leader for our guys. I’m glad that he wants to be perfect. I’m going to continue to push him to be his best. But it still comes down to the response. A couple times he got hit today. That defense, you’re going to see a lot of pressure, a lot of different looks, different things that can challenge an offense. The touchdown pass to Keon was pretty remarkable. To be able to stand in there, he took a good shot on that one. He’s a complete quarterback. He’s continuing to get better. Did good things with his legs when he needed to today. There’s still plenty of plays we’ll all be able to get better from.

Q. You mentioned that Syracuse presents so many different looks offensively, different formations. How do you think the defense faired in communication today

MIKE NORVELL: I thought it was much better today. We’ve really been putting a lot of time and emphasis in our communication, trusting our eyes. There’s still a couple plays, we can clean it up even to another level. I thought our guys did an outstanding job. Really did a good job of trying to keep everything in front, force them to have to earn it.

Q. Having the ‘93 team back today, what do they mean to this program?

MIKE NORVELL: I mean, there’s so many great players that have come through this program, so many great teams. For that one, they broke through. They were the first national championship team, what they did, how they did it. What I love about that group, I was a fan. I remember that 1993 national championship license plate was up on my wall. I get to represent these guys that were here last night, be around our team. It’s such a great responsibility. It’s not just the jersey numbers they wore. When you get to understand the men, when you see them together and the relationships, you see how much they care, that is what is special about being a Florida State Seminole. Those guys, they were here, they were part of our walk last night. Just to see them embrace each other, it’s special. I’m forever grateful for that group. Really close with a bunch of ‘em. They’re always welcome back. As I told ‘em last night, they did something that is forever remembered and celebrated because they were able to break through and bring that first national championship here to Florida State. Who they are off the field, it tells you why they were able to accomplish it on the field.

Q. The defense limited Garrett Shrader to negative 10 yards today. Did it help that you guys had experience against players in this game?

MIKE NORVELL: I mean, it’s been crazy just how many duel threat running quarterbacks we’ve played. It’s good to see us getting better in that. But, yeah, I’ve got so much respect for Garrett Shrader. I think he’s tough. He runs physical. We knew we had to disrupt him. I’ve seen it work both ways. I mean, if he gets in a rhythm, he gets going, he can really make you pay. I told him after the game, I mean, he’s one of those quarterbacks when I watch, I see a real guy. Wish him the best all the rest of the season. I was proud of our defense how they responded, were able to execute the plan we had in place. I thought our safeties came up and did a good job in our run fits. Two guys broke the rock today. I thought absolutely needed a defensive representative, and Shyheim had a great game in just what he did, how he played. Obviously Keon (smiling). Speaks for itself.

Q. The touchdown that Hykeem Williams had, for him to get rewarded, how important is it to see that freshman kind of buy in?

MIKE NORVELL: Man, he is absolutely ascending. He’s had to go through it. One of the benefits. He got here in January, whether it’s tour duty, spring practice, he learned quickly the shape that’s necessary, some of the commitments and sacrifices of what it takes. That’s one of the best young men, like the character of him, who he is. His smile, his approach, the joy that he has for teammates. You see that selflessness as a blocker. I was excited because you got to see him with the ball in his hands in open spaces. Took it to a whole new gear, which I was exciting for us to see. The last month you’ve seen some positive strides from him. He’s building in his confidence. As a true freshman, helping us in special teams, obviously continuing to prepare for his opportunities. I thought that was a great, great play. Great plays even when he didn’t have the ball in his hands.

Q. Going back to the 1993 team being in the stadium, do you think there was added pressure to perform? What was the mindset behind that?

MIKE NORVELL: I mean, you got to come perform every day. Like, I’m grateful for everybody that we represent. To have that team here, we want to play well every day. Pressure is going to be what you make of it. There are expectations here. There’s expectations that we have as a program that we want to play our best every time we step on that field, expectations that we improve, we get better. If it’s only about who is there with you, in front of you, it’s not real. We respect every player that’s ever come through this program. We respect obviously who and what we represent in our fan base, this wonderful university. If you’re going to say there’s pressure, it’s every day. If you don’t like that, don’t come to Florida State because this is truly a special place.

Q. It seemed like a few times earlier this season when other teams got sustained drives, the defense had a hard time stopping it. Today it seemed like they did a better job.

MIKE NORVELL: They absolutely responded throughout the course of today. It was really just play the next play. Nobody wants to give up a play. Nobody wants something bad to happen. But you go to the next play, trust your technique, your fundamentals. One of the things we talk about is every play is its own play. You have to learn lessons from experience. When you get in that moment, it’s time for best, going out there and being able to execute. I thought they did a great job with that today. One of our better performances. I was really proud of them.

Q. We talked about Keon as a receiver. What makes him special as a returner?

MIKE NORVELL: He’s a play-maker. Not something he’s done before he got here. You say play-making ability. He’s got confidence, he believes in what he can do. That was a big I’d say question mark coming into the season of who is going to assume that role. He’s embraced that. You saw last weekend a 30-yard return, this weekend a 70-yard return. Find his way into the end zone, it was really close. He is such a special young man. He’s continuing to work to be better in that. The confidence is growing throughout the course of the season. Real weapon for us. Proud of him for the work he’s doing there.

Wide receiver Keon Coleman

Q. Was it a coincidence you had the P-Dub shirt on? Had you been familiar with him before you got here?

KEON COLEMAN: Growing up, I didn’t know he went to Florida State. I thought he went to Boston College. I know he had burgundy. Before coming here, I definitely knew who he was. Last week, I kind of let him down. He returned one at Virginia Tech in one of those big games. It was like, Show me something. I got tackled. I was trying to pay my tribute to him today.

Q. When a guy like Johnny isn’t available, is it something you take upon yourself? Is it something the team talks about, needing more out of you to step up?

KEON COLEMAN: I wouldn’t even say step up. We have type of games like this when we both on the field. It was just making sure I go even harder because he’s not here, make the other team feel his half. Pretty much that.

Q. Looking around the NFL, when you’re studying receivers, who do you study the most? What do you try to emulate from their game?

KEON COLEMAN: I think I use a plethora of guys. I think OBJ forever. That my dog. A lot of his game. Kelvin Benjamin. Julio and Randy Moss.

Q. Calvin?

KEON COLEMAN: Calvin Johnson. He can go up get the ball. He can do a lot of things. I want people to kind of feel me. We get inside the 20, put two people there.

Q. Can you walk us through the catch on the opening drive. Did you realize in that moment it’s a pretty special play you just made?

KEON COLEMAN: I ain’t going to lie, yeah. Really from the look that the defense gave, I kind of knew I had a shot at really being the first read on that. Really taking what he gave me. He opened his hips early for the fly fade, I just broke across. Put a good ball out there, I just went up to get it.

Q. You had I don’t know how many total yards with the punt returns and receiving. Lawrance goes for a lot. You’re a versatile offense. How important is that in the game plan every week?

KEON COLEMAN: Really just a lot of one on ones. You going to either play a lot of zone or man. You’re not going to be able to double in the body because we have so many different weapons at different positions.

Q. It’s been 45 minutes since the game ended. How many times have you seen that catch? Have you seen it on your phone? Have you still not seen a replay on it?

KEON COLEMAN: I put my phone on DND until I get home. I have to embrace my family first.

Q. The touchdown, great route, you get open, but the protection that Jordan got, takes a hit, just how everything has to work for a play like that to happen?

KEON COLEMAN: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a special thing of football. You got 11 guys trying to achieve one goal of making sure they do they jobs so the perfect play can happen. I feel like that’s a result of that. Even though we still did it right, he still took a shot. That was the play of the game, man. He made a great throw. Caught the ball. The crowd started going crazy. A lot of fun really.

Q. How much do you like returning punts?

KEON COLEMAN: I like it. Everybody think I’m tripping, but I rather do that over kickoff return. Punt return, you really control how hard you going to get hit, if you going to get hit. If you scared, fair catch it. You know what I’m saying? If you scared to catch it, let it go. You have full control back there. Like being a quarterback in a sense, you have full control of what’s about to happen. That one play, you really can change the momentum of a game. Especially if you back there, it’s like they really have faith in you to put the ball in your hands in that position, trust your play-making ability to do what you need to do. On top of that, I give credit to the guys blocking. I be on everybody all week. I be having fun (indiscernible). But just staying on guys, making sure they’re not slipping up on every single rep. Just do what you have to do. If you end up being wrong, I’m going to try to make you right. 11 guys have to participate on this unit for us to get touchdowns. I fell short of that for them this week. Yeah, I fell twice.

Q. How have you and Jordan Travis been trying to work chemistry?

KEON COLEMAN: Just repetition, really understanding what we both looking at. If we both looking at the same thing, thinking the same thing when it’s happening, the ball is going to be there regardless. He’s great. He’s going to put a good ball over there. He trusts me to go out there and make the play. Knowing where you’re going, where he would like you to be, making sure you’re both seeing the same things.

Q. Did you return punts the Michigan State?

KEON COLEMAN: You see what we have back there? We had one of the best returners in the country. That wasn’t my job. I did it in practice. We had a great punter, too. Returned a lot of punts in practice in the last two years. When I got here, they didn’t really know I could return punts. I’m like, Let me do it. I trust myself with the ball, so let me go back there. Now we here.

Q. Did you lobby Norvell to return here then?

KEON COLEMAN: Huh-uh. I think it was a random practice in the summer. You do OTAs. Kicking it, we was just returning them. I didn’t drop any. It looked good, so...

Q. You played basketball and football at Michigan State. Charlie Ward was here, part of the 1993 team. What goes through your mind for a guy to play both sports, play at a Heisman Trophy level, NBA draft pick on the other side?

KEON COLEMAN: I mean, he was special. Unheard of to be that good in both of those. It’s kind of like you just get to, Hmm, I want to play basketball, I want to go play football. He get to pick whichever one. That’s very unique. That’s kind of once-in-a-lifetime type thing. I don’t think anyone is going to have that influence on both sides, basketball, football, ever again, to be honest with you.

Q. When the offense comes up short on a drive, sometimes Jordan gets frustrated, you guys get frustrated. When the fans and media watch it, we wonder is everything okay. What is it like during that moment? How do you handle not getting negative?

KEON COLEMAN: I mean, that’s part of football. When something don’t go your way, of course you going to get like that immediate reaction because it’s not the instant gratification you wanted. You going to get mad and frustrated. It’s one play at a time. There’s a lot of people in the stands. They all might see it from a different angle. From our perspective, we frustrated because we want to be perfect. We strive for perfection. We don’t want to not score, not complete a pass. It’s that instant frustration between us. But we don’t be frustrated at each other, we be frustrated at the fact that we all seeing what should have happened. We just got to get to this next play and make sure it happen then. I don’t think it’s anything y’all need to worry about. We be good. Just showing emotion.

Defensive back Shyheim Brown, defensive lineman Joshua Farmer

Q. Getting after Shrader, bothering him, talk about the effort of the defense against him specifically.

SHYHEIM BROWN: Really we just be out there following the game plan. It’s our job to go out there and execute. The play you’ve seen us have success on, that was all of us doing our job, DBs, D-linemen. That’s the rush and pass working together. That’s all I got to say about that. Q. Josh, can you talk about the strip sack. Did you think you guys were going to score there? How well the defensive line played today.

JOSHUA FARMER: I thought we played really good. Before the game we said we didn’t want to do nothing special, we wanted to play hard and run to the ball. The strip, I didn’t know I stripped it. When I turned around, I saw he got tackled. I didn’t do nothing special, I just did what I was coached to do by Coach Higgins.

Q. Shyheim, you’ve had a few really nice games in a row now. Are you getting more comfortable? What’s happening in your play getting better each week?

SHYHEIM BROWN: Like I said before, we just trusting in the guys I’m on the field with, not trying to overdo my job. Like Josh said, just doing what I’m coached to do, run to the ball. If you give effort in football, the plays going to find you. That’s really what happened right there.

Q. Coach Norvell said you did a better job today of when the other team made a play or got a drive going, you didn’t let them cash in. Why do you think you were able to do that?

JOSHUA FARMER: This week, like, we had a word, it was called ‘fight’. I know in the D-line when we say every inch counts. We didn’t want them in our end zone. That’s what happened, so...

SHYHEIM BROWN: I can piggyback off that. Coach Norvell and Fuller, they put a big emphasis on us that the defense hasn’t played a whole complete 60 minutes yet. Like he said, the focus today was fight: fight for what we want, fight for what we know we can be. That’s what happened today.

Q. Shyheim, Coach Norvell mentioned the different looks today. How did you feel the communication went?

SHYHEIM BROWN: It was an elite level of communication today. You seen it. There was no hesitation out on the field. There wasn’t no execution, no arguments. When we communicate, as you seen today, can’t nobody really mess with us, so...

Q. Talk about the mobile quarterback today in Shrader. You guys have gone against mobile quarterbacks before. You go up against Jordan in practice. Did you feel you were prepared for the mobile threat?

JOSHUA FARMER: I felt like we was more than prepared. Just like you said, we practice with Jordan Travis every day. He was pretty easy to contain. He was not special. Just did our job.

SHYHEIM BROWN: D-line did their job. DBs did their job. We were able to touch him a couple times.

Q. Halfway through the season, you guys are 6-0. Do you feel like you guys are getting closer to how good you can be?

JOSHUA FARMER: Yeah, I feel like that was our best game defensively. Yeah, so I know we going to get better, we going to get a lot better as the season goes. I know the D-line is getting better as the season goes. You’re starting to see more plays in the backfield. We’re rolling and I think it’s going to continue.

Q. (No microphone.)

SHYHEIM BROWN: It’s always good. I’m in there with my brothers, who I’m with every day. Just having fun. That’s one thing coach tell us. That was just a fun moment right there. Me and my brothers, we work Monday through Friday. Just to take that deep breath, enjoy each other, that’s a great feeling.

Q. Josh and Shyheim, in this day and age, this sport is set up for the offense to be able to score. You lock down Power Five teams, does this display and show what you’re capable of if you do put 60 minutes together at some point?

JOSHUA FARMER: I think it will be crazy when we do, not if. I just feel like as long as we lock in, stay focused, keep our head down, keep working, it’s going to happen.

Q. Coach mentioned that you got to break the rock with Keon today. What did it feel like for two people to be able to do it?

SHYHEIM BROWN: Well, like I said, Keon, he had a great game. I don’t know how many yards he did. He got a lot of all-purpose yards. The punt returns and stuff. That’s just two highlights, two guys that just gave great effort tonight. It was more than us. Let me tell it, the whole team could have broke the rock. It’s just normal. You just got to enjoy it. That’s it.

Running back Lawrance Toafili

Q. LT, can you break down the touchdown run for us, the block.

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: Oh, man, I mean, anybody could have been running that ball, you know what I’m saying. The perimeter was blocked. Receivers blocking downfield. The O-line started off, got after it. It was just wide open, you know what I’m saying. Just had to get it in there.

Q. Lawrance, you guys have been flawless in the red zone all year. Two opportunities come up short. Still you score 41 points. What does it say about a football team that’s still able to overcome that?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: Things not always going to go your way, you know what I’m saying. You just got to be able to respond to those situations. I feel like that’s what we showcased today. We had a couple times where we should have got it in there. Got to make them plays. We showed our response, showed that we’re ready to get after it, make it happen.

Q. Did you see Keon’s first catch over the middle?


Q. Does it surprise you any more what he does?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: He does it all the time in practice and things like that. It was just a great catch, you know what I’m saying. Just the situation. That was definitely a big-time catch.

Q. You guys didn’t have Johnny available today. How did you feel like the offense did not having one of your top players?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: It’s always an adjustment. I mean, get the young guys going, get the other guys going. We still got some guys out there. I mean, I feel like we just giving everybody else an opportunity to showcase what they can do. Rough starts, things like that. We just got to make those plays, though. Everybody showed what they can do.

Q. This was the 12th straight win, 12th straight time scoring 30 points. What does it mean for the offense to be at this consist of a level, 30 points, you know you’re going to get there every week?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: I mean, I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s definitely a switch. I mean, we’re just working hard. I guess it’s just showing that it’s paying off. Everybody’s going hard. All the running backs, man, everybody’s pushing each other. It’s just paying off, you know what I mean.

Q. Keon had a couple of impressive punt returns as well today. For someone that big to be able to move that well, what makes him so impressive and explosive?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: I mean, I would say his mentality. He’s ready to attack, you know what I mean. If you have one little missed block or somebody not covering down the right way, he’s definitely going to take it.

Q. How fun is it for you to be able to compete in this offense with such versatility, know that anybody has a chance to make a big play?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: That’s the highlight of the day, you know what I’m saying. This is what we work on all week. Like all the play-makers being able to go out there and contribute. I feel like today was one of those days where a good amount of people were just contributing for the team. It makes me happy. It’s great, for sure

Q. Coach Norvell talked a few times about how far he’s seen Hykeem Williams come since January. What have you seen from him? How have you seen him adapt, show up on the field?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: He’s been working so hard. I’m just so happy to see it finally pay off, pan. He’s a guy who keeps going. I feel like he’s adapted pretty well. He’s going to be a great player, for sure.

Q. What has the mood been like in the running back room the past two games?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: We’re always supporting each other. Even if things aren’t going our way, we’re keeping a positive mindset, being ready. Whenever our number is called, ready to contribute.

Q. When you guys were not scoring a couple times there, Jordan wants to score every time, he gets frustrated, how do you handle that?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: I mean, I feel like we handle it if a good way. I feel like it’s just our hunger. Everybody wants to score. Everybody wants to make that play. We know you got to have a short-term memory. Not everything is going to go our way. Next play mentality. When that play comes, be ready to attack.

Q. Which running back style of play do you admire the most? Are you just trying to be Lawrance Toafili?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: It’s hard. I feel like it’s hard to kind of compare myself. If I would have to say, I would probably go way back, Amp Lee, just my style of running. I would definitely say that. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to compare to really anybody else that I’ve seen. Just really try to be myself.

Q. You guys got to spend some time with the 1993 national championship team. What was that like? Any messages they shared?

LAWRANCE TOAFILI: It was surreal. They’re talking about their brotherhood. I feel like that’s kind of what we’re creating right now. We’re trying to create that brotherhood so it can last a lifetime, just like they have. Definitely a great experience.