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5 questions, 5 answers: FSU shakes slow start, blows out North Alabama on Senior Night

Big win for the Seminoles, but a major loss in Jordan Travis

Florida State beat North Alabama in hits home finale on Saturday night, rallying from a two-touchdown deficit to reel off the next 58 points (including a blocked field goal and touchdown return as time ran down) for a 58-13 win.

The Seminoles’ slow start turned to a full nightmare after quarterback Jordan Travis was carted off the field with a horrific leg injury, forcing Tate Rodemaker into relief action where he went 13 of 23 for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

Four different running backs — Trey Benson, Lawrance Toafili, Caziah Holmes and CJ Cambell Jr. — scored for the Seminoles, with Holmes putting up a pair of touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) and Campbell Jr. reeling off a 70-yarder.

Freshman quarterback Brock Glenn also added on a rushing touchdown late — his first at Florida State and the Seminoles’ final offensive touchdown before returning a field goal for a score after the Lions called timeout with nine seconds left.

The Seminoles now head into Week 13 with a matchup vs. the Florida Gators in Gainesville on the schedule, followed by a matchup with the Louisville Cardinals in the ACC Championship.

The Tomahawk Nation staff breaks down Florida State’s 17th win in a row with five answers to five questions below.

The biggest question looming over the win — what does the loss of Jordan Travis mean for Florida State moving forward?

Evenflow58: It’s not good, that’s for sure. Tate has certainly improved since his disastrous start 2020 but he’s almost assuredly not ready to take the reins but it looks like he’ll have to. He’s shown decent pocket awareness but holds onto the ball too long. Thankfully UF doesn’t have a great defense but I would expect both them and Louisville to blitz him a ton. With an offensive line that is terrible at consistent run blocking and you’ve got a recipe for either disaster or the start of a new QB era at FSU.

NoleThruandThru: I think it solidifies that FSU won’t be able to win a playoff game, but I think the Seminoles can still run the table prior to that stage behind Rodemaker. The mental hangover is the most concerning thing, but having Travis on the sideline should provide plenty of inspiration for FSU. Hopefully it also galvanizes the offensive playcalling toward Tate’s strengths.

Jon Loesche: Even assuming FSU pulls out wins against UF and Louisville, any puncher’s chance FSU had in the playoffs is effectively gone. But clearly what was looking like the best season since 2014 could end up crashing and burning to end the year.

Perry Kostidakis: It means everything, even if Tate Rodemaker can hold steady in relief of the potential Heisman Trophy finalist. There were nitpicks to be had about Travis’ production this season after his dynamite 2022 run, but he has been the heart and soul of this team over the course of its resurgence and his loss noticeably shook the Seminoles’ on the sideline. It’s devastating for a player who so selflessly gave himself to the program to end his time in such heartbreaking fashion, but what he did at Florida State won’t be overshadowed by that injury.

How did Tate Rodemaker’s performance in relief affect your confidence in him taking the reigns of the offense?

Evenflow58: He was fine. It was against a FCS team. I didn’t really learn a ton but it was nice for him to get some tape they can talk about this week. I’m nervous about the next two weeks and I don’t think there was much that Tate could have done this game to change that.

NoleThruandThru: Tate’s internal clock needs to speed up, without a doubt, unless he wants the Shedeur Sanders treatment behind FSU’s offensive line the next two weeks. I think some of that was due to the reasoning behind why he was in the game, but it could also be due to the lack of meaningful reps he’s been given this season. I think with a week full of reps with the first team and some confidence from tonight, he’ll be okay moving forward.

Jon Loesche: It was fine for what it was but he held onto the ball far too long even against a FCS team. Just make peace with the fact he’s going to take some very ugly and unnecessary sacks the next few weeks.

Perry: It wasn’t a lights-out performance, but considering where Rodemaker was confidence-wise prior to his game against Louisville last season, it showed that he’s retained that confidence in the system and can run things effectively. He’ll have a nice test in his first start since 2020 against a Gators defense that’s been pretty porous as of late.

Scale of 1-10, how concerned are you with FSU’s offensive line?

NoleThruandThru: With Tate behind them, probably a 5. I don’t take a whole lot from tonight. It seems like Maurice Smith has never been fully healthy at FSU after being pressed into duty way too early in his career. I hope Darius Washington will play significant snaps. FSU needs to utilize the quick slant (please!!) next week to get the ball out quickly.

Evenflow58: 1? They suck at run blocking. They are pretty good at pass blocking. This has been the same all year and I don’t think any of that changed this game. Everybody knows what they are and that consistency can be game planned around, thankfully.

Jon Loesche: Concerned isn’t the right word. Frustrated, disappointed, etc are more appropriate. Not being able to get a 3rd and short on the ground against a FCS team is the cherry on top of unit’s struggles with run blocking this year.

Perry: I’ll go Price is Right rules and say 4.9, just because Rodemaker’s game might play to the strengths of the unit — namely, pass blocking. Florida State will have to lean on the run game to make sure not to put too much on his plate, so that aspect of it has me a little concerned for what we’ll see over the next two (and if all goes well, three) weeks.

Was Jarrian Jones or the Florida State run game more impressive tonight?

Evenflow58: Jones. Just a year or two ago fans were, rightfully, cursing his name. Now he’s a stalwart leader of that defense. That’s crazy and the last two games he’s really played up to that mantle. Really great job by Jones.

NoleThruandThru: Jones. Wonderful to see him have such a big game. But major shout out to Pat Payton, he was outstanding tonight.

Jon Loesche: Jones. It was nice to see someone have some feel good moments on Senior Night.

Perry: Should I say run game just to be different? No, and not because of peer pressure — Jones really was that good tonight, and following it up with his performance against Miami last week has really shown as both player and leader for FSU.

Heading into Florida week, how are you feeling?

Evenflow58: Nervcited, which is about the same I feel for every rivalry game. UF is not a good team and FSU is but without Travis maybe the scales balance a bit. I’m normally against the idea that one player means so much to a team but so much of the offense is predicated on Travis being behind center that it has me worried. I’ll still take FSU in the game next week but I don’t feel as strongly about it.

NoleThruandThru: Less confident, but still expecting FSU to find a way to win. The run defense will be the key to finding success against the Gators, and FSU’s defense has really turned a corner the past month. As long as the defense shows up strong and Ryan Fitzgerald continues his excellent play, I think the offense should be able to do enough to pull out the win.

Jon Loesche: Certainly not as confident about having another year of bragging rights over my fiance as I was this morning. Biggest thing that makes me still feel confident is the team responded as well as you could ask for considering the nightmare start tonight.

Perry: I have the benefit of writing this after watching Florida lose on a last-minute drive and field goal against Missouri, but considering how bad the Gators’ defense has been through 11 games this year and the fact that Florida is looking like they’ll also be down a starting quarterback, I’m feeling a lot better than I did after Travis went down and FSU was losing 13-0. While Travis is a major, major reason why the Seminoles are 11-0 and on the verge of an undefeated regular season, Florida State still has the talent and depth to accomplish that 12-0 mark, take home an ACC title and appear in the College Football Playoff.