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“A good test for us and proud of our guys:” Norvell, FSU players talk Seminoles’ win over Virginia Tech

No. 5 Florida State (5-0, 3-0 ACC) took advantage of a 22-point first quarter to secure a 39-17 win over Virginia Tech.

Peyton Baker/Tomahawk Nation

No. 5 Florida State (5-0, 3-0 ACC) took advantage of a 22-point first quarter to secure a 39-17 win over Virginia Tech.

It’s the first time under Mike Norvell, and first overall since 2015, the Seminoles are 5-0.

The game showcased both the explosive potential that Florida State wields and the issues that have popped up from time-to-time over the course of the 2023 season.

“They came out 22-nothing, lead in the first quarter. Second quarter, you had some adversity that you struck in a couple different ways,” Norvell said after the game. “I was really proud of our guys for their response and being able to finish. And what an incredible crowd, a sellout crowd. It was awesome being back at home.”

Below, you can find Norvell’s full post-game availability as well as interviews with Jordan Travis, Trey Benson, Patrick Payton and Jared Verse.

Head coach Mike Norvell

MIKE NORVELL: Start off, first off, proud of our players. They came out 22-nothing, lead in the first quarter. Second quarter, you had some adversity that you struck in a couple different ways. You know, had some drives extended due to penalties, had a few drives stall out there offensively. We talk all the time about our response. Coming out in the second half we wanted to — talked about finishing strong and obviously the opening kickoff of the second half did not go the way we wanted, but you saw the tremendous response from our football team. Two plays later, big run by Trey. Obviously just the guys, the determination, the belief, defense doesn’t give up a point in the second half. I was really proud of them for that. It’s a team coming in off their best game. You could seat identity of what they’re trying to do. Present some challenge with their quarterback. You know, I thought our guys did a really good job there in the second half. We were better in our third down, fourth down situations. Still really good in the red zone situations, you know, forcing the field goal there early. You know, offensively I think we scored every time we had the ball down there, something we need to continue. There were some negative plays, things we’ll have to get better at, but I was really proud of our guys for their response and being able to finish. And what an incredible crowd, a sellout crowd. It was awesome being back at home. Hopeful we can continue that again for next week with another sellout. I know there is very limited tickets, so hopefully we can put together a streak when it comes to that. But really excited about our just our fan base, being at home, letting our guys go out there and play at a high level. You know, just like I said, proud of our players. Trey had a big day. You know, it was good to get him rolling. Obviously we didn’t have a ton of offensive snaps. I think 61 snaps. That’s going to happen when you have the explosive runs. But I did think we played with better tempo throughout, and definitely excited about the continued steps that I’m seeing from this team.

Q. Obviously Trey gave you a great day, but in general, the running attack, Jordan also getting involved in it, just how pleased were you coming out of the bye?

MIKE NORVELL: It was good. We talked about wanting to be able to establish the ground game. We take what teams give us, and there were some opportunities that were created. I thought our backs ran really hard. I thought the O-line created some good seams for them to run through. I tell you, there were some unbelievable blacks. Keon Coleman had a couple great touchdown springing blocks on that. It’s one thing to see a great player, which he is, and just talk about what he does, catching the ball, but that block that he had on the long touchdown was just awesome. So proud of him for that. But being able to play without the ball, and I think we had a lot of guys that were really doing a good job there. It takes all 11. Jordan, you know, got an opportunity to pull the ball. He had some space there. I thought he did a great job managing the game and the things we asked him to do. Didn’t turn the ball over offensively. That’s something that we really harp on and know the importance of that. Our guys have been doing a nice job with it and something we’re going to have to continue.

Q. Trey, it’s taken him a while to get going. How did he handle that the last few weeks? The way the run game wasn’t performing, did he get frustrated?

MIKE NORVELL: No, Trey is incredible. I mean, in all things. Even in the Clemson game we didn’t have the success in the run game, but he impacted that game and he did it as a pass receiver. He had three big plays in the game catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s going to do whatever is necessary to help this team win. We’ve got a lot of guys that are like that. So he maintains focus on improvement. I loved it. He trusted his speed. He saw a couple seams and he hit it. When he gets in the open field it’s a lot of speed and power running down the field. Proud of him for that. Great player and just a great teammate and young man.

Q. Coach, what is it about Trey that makes him so special?

MIKE NORVELL: He’s got the combination of all the things you want. He’s big, he’s powerful. Obviously he’ll run tough in between the tackles, but also has homerun hitting speed out when he gets out there on the edge. I think he’s improved his game as a pass receiver, which we’ve seen already this season, in his willingness to the dirty work as a blocker, too. Talk about a total back, I mean, there are a lot of guys situational. He can really do it all. He embraces that in his work ethic and the things he does. And he’s unselfish, which when you have a humble and unselfish player, he’s there when another back is in there, whether it’s Rodney, LT, whoever it is, he’s the one that’s there cheering them on louder than anybody. He’s just what we want our program to be built like and he’s a great leader for that.

Q. Two questions about Johnny. First off, him getting in the end zone twice, two big catches to get the ball rolling. How is he after that? Do we know at all?

MIKE NORVELL: No. We’ll see. Obviously wasn’t able to come back. We’ll see what that looks like as we move forward to this week. Man, what a great start to the game. Johnny has been really good for us this year. Coming into the game I think he was over 300 yards receiving. Being able to see him do that was big, but made a couple really good plays. It was good to see Destyn catch a big ball there that we needed. We had a couple missed opportunities, things we have to continue to get better at, but I thought Jordan really did a nice job of operating, and even some of the times when might have got a little bit of pressure, he stayed patient and didn’t try to force things. You know, I think that was a great response from him, which helped push our offense.

Q. Coach, talk a little bit about the offensive line rotation.

MIKE NORVELL: Yeah, well, a little bit shorthanded. Bless Harris was not able to play today, but you saw Darius Washington getting the start at tackle. We knew rob Scott would be in practice this week. Probably wasn’t ready for whatever it would be, 60, 80 plays, but we know we wanted to get him in. It was good to see him get in there and get some productive work. Obviously Meech and K.J. being able to get work there at the guard spot, I like the growth with our offensive line. Going to be great when we get all eight of them going, but good seeing some young guys get in there and some good plays there late. Got a really good group and guys that are growing, being developing, working hard in practice, but it’s good to see the depth that has been developed and created, and I think we’re seeing that across the board. Good to see them get back out. Be able to work a little bit of rotation there at safety. Conrad Hussey made some really big plays, true freshman. Blake Nichelson got in there as a true freshman. I was really proud of those guys coming off the guy week, being able to make a positive impact for us. You know, thought it was a good game for that.

Q. You mentioned a couple players that were out. You got Ja’Khi Douglas and Kentron back. What kind of impact do they make being back today?

MIKE NORVELL: I mean, just continue to add to the playmaking ability of what we have. Obviously those guys, it’s been a challenging first month of the season for them. Getting them back in it and just building that confidence of all the things they can do, I think it’s going to continue to grow with time. I love the depth that we have there at that position. I think we have some great playmakers, guys that just like today when Johhny went down, obviously you saw Kentron, Hykeem Williams, really those guys stepping up. I don’t know if it showed up in pass receptions, but it’s going to. Those guys are going to be great players and continue to work and develop.

Q. You talked about the adversity of the second quarter. Seemed like there was some frustration from defensive players, particularly saw some from you. How do you think they handled... MIKE NORVELL: My frustration?

Q. How do you think...

MIKE NORVELL: Because I was frustrated.

Q. How do you think they handled the adversity of how things played out and how big was halftime for recentering?

MIKE NORVELL: I’ve got to do a better job in some of those situations. I was frustrated and there is some — obviously we’ll go back and watch film and learn and teach. Some of the things that showed up, I mean, I want an explanation, and so I voiced an opinion. I got to do a better job of making sure even in voicing that opinion that as a leader of this football team, I have to make sure our guys are staying focused on things they can control. There are times that I’m going to voice my opinion. I’m going to state exactly what I believe and what I saw. You know, we’ll see what it says come Monday on some of those thoughts. You know, it’s all part of it. Our guys, they always talk about having each other’s back. We got to have our players’ back and they have to have mine sometimes. We can all continue to grow and be better. I love coaching this team. I love their response. I know you all hear me say that a million times that’s what it was today. That’s what I was proud of. We talk about wanting to start fast. We’ve not been as good as we needed to be. That first quarter was a great fast start. Now, second quarter wasn’t as good as it needed to be. Provides opportunity for continued growth, but to see the defense pitch a shutout and have some big plays there offensively in the second half, that was a heck of a way to finish. A lot of good things to be able to build upon. This is coming off a team that just played their best game in Virginia Tech. They’ve got some good players. They got guys on the defensive front. It was good. It was a good test for us, and proud of our guys.

Q. In that second quarter, you guys could not have been more dominant in the first quarter, did you sense any of what you saw at BC in the second quarter, or...

MIKE NORVELL: There were some penalties that extended drives with the interception that was overturned that would’ve been a huge play in the game. We had couple other things that showed up. We had — one of our drives offensively we had a penalty that negated what would’ve been a conversion. Obviously all things that we can be better at, we can continue. But I didn’t feel like — our guys were playing with an edge. It wasn’t some of the things we saw earlier early in the season, you know, there wasn’t a comfort level. They were playing hard. They were playing fast. We had the pick there, 22-nothing. It’s about to go a whole other way. But he landed on him, so something we have to continue to teach the best way we can teach and go from there.

Q. This wasn’t the question I was going to ask, but was the explanation that he landed on him? Was that the penalty?

MIKE NORVELL: (Smiling.)

Q. Okay. Here is the question I was going to ask. Getting that kind of production out of Jared, obviously been very good all year. Two monster plays.

MIKE NORVELL: Absolutely.

Q. What’s it like it see him do that and impact the game like that?

MIKE NORVELL: Jared has been probably in the last two games coming into this one probably been as good as he’s been since he’s been here. It’s one thing you get caught up on — you know, stats sometimes will lie to you and sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re not as good. But I thought he played these last two games as good as he’s played. Today, you know, just continuing to build upon that and the production showed up, two sacks. Obviously huge plays in the game. Great energy for our defense. Big plays, big situations, so very proud of him for staying the course. There are things from today’s game he’ll still grow and learn and get better from a because that’s the mindset he brings. I think we’ve seen that from a lot of guys. Our defensive front is doing a lot of great things, and you see the depth. Josh Farmer is playing at a high level. Fabien, you see him getting back into form. Dennis Briggs is out there making good plays. Braden Fiske, Malcolm Ray, Gilber Edmond flashed a couple times today. You know, really kind of challenging him to take that next step. I thought he did. Obviously Byron and then Pat has been coming off this Boston College game, I think he responded. Clemson played great, and I saw him do some really good things here today. Just shoutout to our defensive line for the work they’re putting in, obviously the production they’re having.

Q. I know that the time you spend on special teams, I guess what was the issue or what VT did or didn’t do on the kickoff return?

MIKE NORVELL: Obviously some mistakes on our end. We had bad leverage, didn’t set the edge where we wanted to. They’re on it and ran a field return. It’s something that we practice for and actually expected, but couple guys took wrong leverage angles and got pinned and just created too much space. So we spend a lot of time, take a lot of pride in our coverage units. For that to happen, we will get it fixed. But that obviously was a huge play, and I’m grateful for all the — all players in helping bounce back and have that kickoff team’s back and being able to finish that game.

Q. You are mentioned earlier that the young guys getting in there. I think Coach Fuller said during the week they wanted to force Blake and Conrad in the game. Is that kind of within the mindset of like what maybe they can do for you towards the end of the season?

MIKE NORVELL: More what they can do for us now. We think — we’re not going to put somebody on the field if we don’t think they can help us win football games today. This is not a feel-good, oh — no, you got to go earn it. We got really good players that are growing and developing that have yet to get on the field but are going to have incredible careers here. Those guys have shown, whether in practice, whether continued growth, opportunities they’re getting out there on the field that they are deserving, and as they continue to produce and grow they’ll get more. But I’m excited about this class that we just brought in. Really excited about that group. Got a lot of great players. Like I said, some of them that are not even playing very much right now or at all, but have incredible futures. That’s all part of that growth. Some are put in a position to help us right now, so they’re playing more.

Quarterback Jordan Travis, defensive end Patrick Payton

Q. Congratulations on the win. Jordan, did you sense you guys would come out the way you did today? I know you wanted to start faster, but that first quarter was pretty incredible.

JORDAN TRAVIS: Yeah, we started really fast today. I think we had one drive in the second half other than — in the second quarter other than the two-minute drill, so we were efficient with that. I think we were, what was it, three for four, including the two-minute drill? We came out fast. We just got to stay consistent. I feel like that’s our main problem right now, not consistent with everything. Protection, me throwing the ball, receivers running the right route, all little things like that. The running backs did a great job today, so kudos to them. It’s been a tough year for them. They haven’t broke out yet like this did today. So proud of Trey, LT, all them, little Rod. Yeah, got to get more consistent.

Q. Late in the game Destyn Hill had a pretty big catch. For him to continue after everything he’s been through, stay the course, how big that was for his confidence to get that catch?

JORDAN TRAVIS: Yeah, that was real big. Destyn is a great teammate, great player. He works so hard all the time. Him making a big play like that at a time like that, because we need that had play right there, was a big time play for him, for his confidence. So happy for him. We are going to keep working. We got to get the ball in his hands more because he’s a really talented player when the ball is in his hands, so got to work on that.

Q. Jordan, you talked about wanting to be a little bit more consistent out there and that was a big focus for guys, and you want to play complete game as well. Talk about the first quarter. What kind of position did that put you guys in for opening up to play complete game, and going forward I guess, how good did that first quarter look for accomplishing that?

JORDAN TRAVIS: Yeah, it was almost perfect for us. Obviously couple throws, runs, couple protections we wish we could have back, but we scored all three drives. Just your goal as an offense is to score on every drive you have, and we did that. Put the ball in the end zone. Yeah, we have to start fast and finish fast. I mean, that’s what it comes down to. Today feel like we could have finished better than we did. We can keep talking about it, but we got to start doing it.

Q. Patrick, two parts. First, talk about your play the last couple weeks, taking it to a new level and also defensively starting fast.

PATRICK PAYTON: I feel like my play has been okay. Like getting better every week. That’s what my main thing is, just trying to take the parts from the last game that we played and try to better it in this game, and every game after that. Just trying to get better every week really. Just when it comes to defense, I feel like we had a pretty solid day. Gave up a touchdown, but we had a pretty solid day. I feel like we got to come out and we got to finish faster and better, because we tend to get up on people and kind of take the foot off the gas. But we have to get better at that.

Q. Jordan, there were two design runs for you I think on the scripted first drive today. Using your legs a bit more than the last two games. Is that something you wanted to be part of the game plan? Or just you got to take what the defense gives you? How does that break down?

JORDAN TRAVIS: Yeah, whatever Coach Norvell calls I run it. No matter what, I trust him. Yeah, there were two good plays. I had an option on both of them, to either pitch the ball or keep the ball. I played man, so I kept the ball. Yeah, I got to use my legs a little bit more, I know that. Just trying to play that complete game for myself, make the throws, plays with my feet. I feel like I did a better job today with my feet. Just got to be more consistent throwing the ball.

Q. Patrick, Coach Norvell always talks about response. After they returned that kick and it became a game again, obviously the offense scored on the second play and you guys shut them out the rest of the way. Is that the Florida State you guys want to showcase moving forward, like basically finishing off the game like that?

PATRICK PAYTON: Well, we have intent, like we play better when we feel like our back is against the wall or we feel like we have to get a stop or we have to get this. That is what we really have to just eliminate, just going in and just finishing people like full through. Not if we up — if we up 30 zip or we down by 7, we got to play the same. That’s what I feel like we have to improve on.

Q. Jordan, thinking about your ability as a rushing quarterback, which past or present player, whether from FSU or elsewhere, would you say your game most closely resembles, or do you think you’re setting a new standard for rushing quarterbacks?

JORDAN TRAVIS: I would say, I mean, Jalen Hurts maybe. I feel like he does a really good job in the system of owning the ball first of all. That’s what it comes down to. You have to own the ball as a quarterback. Yeah, uses his feet when he has to and makes throws when he needs to. I would say Jalen Hurts.

Q. For both of you, obviously they scored ten straight points in the first half, got that kickoff return, then Johnny’s injury. How much did that Trey Benson 62-yard run pump up the sideline? Davis gave the stat he’s the first runner since Dalvin Cook to go for 200 yards at Florida State. What kind of performance does that mean for the team?

JORDAN TRAVIS: I feel like it means a lot. Gives you confidence obviously. When your run game is going like that, I mean, you feel like everything is just rolling; opens up the passing game. The run game has been slow all year so this is the first game we really broke out like that. Just seeing a smile on Trey’s face means a lot to me. Makes me happy, man, because I know how hard he works. No matter what he always has a smile in his face and he is always confident and just works hard. So happy for him, happy for LT. He had a big run today too. Little Rod got in there and made plays when he had to. Also starts up front with the offensive line. You can’t have a 200-yard rushing game without the boys up front blocking. I’m proud of them, proud of the receivers blocking the perimeter. Special game for Trey.

Q. Patrick, really tough running team. How do you think you guys fared in the rushing aspect of it?

PATRICK PAYTON: I feel like every week, first mindset with every team we play, no matter who we play, is first thing we do is stop the run. Don’t let a team come in our house and just run the ball. We try to make a team very one dimensional. Just make them have to pass the ball. We have some — we really have the best D-line in the nation. We got a good rotation. I feel like that’s just our main goal every time we play. We never let somebody just run the ball on us.

Q. For either one of you, Florida State is 5-0, first time since 2015. I know you all try and live in the moment, one game at a time, but does that mean anything? Been a while since Florida State has had a start like this.

JORDAN TRAVIS: Yeah, when you’re winning football games everyone is happy. At the end of the day, our goal is to go 1-0 every week. We take everything day by day. Just win the day. We been doing that as a football team. Obviously we have so much room for improvement as a football team. Yeah, when you can say you’re 5-0 in college football you have to be proud of yourself, pat yourself on the back. At the end of the day we’re not done yet. We come back tomorrow, celebrate tonight, come back tomorrow, we’re getting ready to work. We have Syracuse next week, which is a really good team. Have to get better at the end of the day. They’re a really special team. We know who we are as a football team. We just have to play a complete game.

Q. Jordan, the bye week probably couldn’t have come at a better time to get some rest. How is the shoulder? Seemed like you were moving pretty well out there with a little bit more confidence. Back to 100% and feel good?

JORDAN TRAVIS: Yeah, I feel amazing. Got hit today and didn’t feel too good, but I feel good right now.

Running back Trey Benson, defensive lineman Jared Verse

Video courtesy Noles247

Q. Trey, first and foremost, busting that first big run, how nice was that for you after a tough start to the year, and just in general putting 200 up on the day and you guys getting a ground attack going as a team?

TREY BENSON: Meant a lot. Just thanking the offensive line, the receivers who were blocking downfield, because this whole bye week that’s what we emphasized, the run. It showed out on the field today.

Q. Jared, you’ve been playing hard all year. Finally got the first two sacks. Was that like a monkey off your back? How did it feel to get those sacks?

JARED VERSE: Definitely felt good. I tried to hide my excitement. I didn’t do too well. I been kind of falling into my role of being a civil servant, taking the tension for the rest of my D-line. They’re doing a lot of max protect this year, getting a lot of double teams as a D-line, as a unit, but it felt good to finally get my plays, make some. I’m okay with my role, whatever it takes, whatever it is.

Q. For Jared, Coach Norvell talked about some adversity, response to that in the second quarter specifically. What kind of frustration was there in the second quarter? How do you feel like the defense responded in that moment? And then I guess coming out in the second half, the response to that response?

JARED VERSE: I think the biggest frustration was with ourselves. We knew it was nothing they did that messed us up, because it was game planning, that’s all it takes. It was our internal self I think with the offense scoring as quickly as they did, putting the big lead. We got comfortable. We kept saying, let’s not get comfortable, but you could tell people were just by the demeanor of everybody. So that definitely got to us, but I think once we kind of got it under control it was okay. Then coming out the third quarter, that first kickoff, that is something that gets under your skin. We were like, no, that’s all they get. No more points the rest of the day. Everyone was harping on it. No matter what it takes, they’re not getting anything else.

Q. Trey was there something special in the water for you today to come out and have this breakout game? Did you wake up feeling special? Anything special that contributed to this day?

TREY BENSON: Yeah, my mom birthday was yesterday. I told her I was going to give it my all today. That’s what it was.

JARED VERSE: Roommate, too.

TREY BENSON: My roommate, too.

JARED VERSE: I’m the roommate.

Q. Trey, I thought the guy had the angle on you or he thought he had the angle on you; did you see him? Did you ever think he had an angle on you? TREY BENSON: All right, so I’m going to walk you through it, okay? I had the ball and I just seen (indiscernible) I said, hold on, somebody coming. So I look out the corner of my eye and I seen him coming and I was like, oh, no, let me kick into an extra gear real quick. I was going up field but I felt him coming, so I just swirl in a little bit and — I wonder how many miles per hour they was though.

Q. Jared, what was it like? I know you guys are so close and I know you haven’t had the production you want. He also hasn’t had a ton of production yet. How much fun was watching Trey run today? JARED VERSE: Oh, my God. I’m running down the field. I had to stop myself from running on the field and not get another penalty. That means so much. I know how hard Trey works. We spent the whole summer together working, all fall, spring. Every time we get a chance we’re working out together. To finally see all the hard work pay off, and not like barely did he smile after a big play. He’s like, all right, onto the next one. Let me get the next one. You see that look in his eyes. Like it gets you hyped up. That meant so much to me. It’s almost like his success is my success. That’s what made me smile. I love it.

Q. For Trey, you had a dominant night on the ground, but LT had a string night. Rodney had a strong night. What was it like to see them play a part in the rushing effort exploding for you guys? TREY BENSON: You know, first couple games been tough. We just been hearing that the run game ain’t been working good. This game we really emphasized the run. Like in the running back room we’re like, we got to get it going today. We’re not taking no for an answer. So that’s really what it was today. We just stayed positive throughout the whole thing. It worked out well today.

Q. Derrick (phonetic) mentioned first 200 yard rushing game since Dalvin Cook. What does that mean to be in the same breath as him, at Florida State obviously? TREY BENSON: I actually saw Dalvin Cook two weeks ago. I actually just checked my phone and he texted me today to tell me he’s proud of me. Told me it was going to come. Our conversation was about basically like he’s seen us in the run game, but he told me to keep going, that it’s going to hit. He knows it’s frustrating, but next couple games we’re going to get it together. It means a lot because he’s elite.

Q. Trey, when you played at Boston College and got that lead, Coach Norvell felt you guys got comfortable and maybe lost your edge. This team made a little bit of a comeback. He felt like he didn’t see the same thing. Did you feel like you guys a lot any edge?

TREY BENSON: Oh, yeah, we actually said that on the sideline. Okay, we can’t get comfortable. We know what happened last time we got comfortable. We made sure that that wasn’t a choice today.

Q. For either one of you, Florida State is 5-0 for the first time since 2015. I know that doesn’t mean anything per se if you don’t build on it. What does it mean for the program was helping build it back to closer to where it has been historically? JARED VERSE: I think I can speak for everybody as a Florida State fan, player, community, when I say it means the world. Florida State belongs on top. We’re not some team that belongs in the middle of the country. We belong at the top echelon. We belong in the National Championship. We belong in the playoffs. We belong at the top. 5-0 is no surprise to us. Might be a surprise to other people. If you’re a part of this community it’s not a surprise for you. It means a lot, especially for the guys like Fabo and D-lo, these guys that went through the tough time of not being in the position they’re in now. You see the smile on their face after every win and I’m like, this means the world to them. Knowing Trey, the problems he had in his past, injury and everything like that, me being a lower-level school, it means the world for us that brought in this collection of people and we are doing everything we can. Every week we’re getting better and better and just challenging each other and ourselves every week to get better.