No. 4 Florida State (11-0, 8-0 ACC) will head into next week’s rivalry showdown against the Florida Gators with a chance to cap off an undefeated regular season after beating North Alabama 58-13.
The matchup, which served as Senior Night and the Seminoles’ home finale, saw Florida State go down 13-0 early then lose quarterback Jordan Travis to a horrific leg injury. Tate Rodemaker entered the game in relief and helped spur an FSU run that saw Florida State score 58-unanswered points to secure the win.
“You know, faced adversity on the field early, had a punt fake that hit us,” head coach Mike Norvell, who is now 29-16 overall as coach of the Seminoles. “They did a good job of running a variety of different plays and formations and were able to get out to an early lead. You know, offensively obviously didn’t start how we wanted, missed some opportunities.
“When Jordan went down, that was something that nobody ever wants to see a player go down. I don’t have any updates on it tonight, so just so everybody is aware, but I was proud of the way our guys responded throughout the course of the game.”
As you sit there and watch a football team come together, I thought our guys did that at a very high level. We knew all three phases we had to continue to rise up. I thought our defense was great basically throughout the rest of the game.”
After the game, Norvell as well as defensive back Jarrian Jones, defensive lineman Dennis Briggs and running backs Lawrance Toafili and Caziah Holmes offered insight into the Seminoles’ win.
Head coach Mike Norvell
MIKE NORVELL: First off, proud of our guys and just the way that they responded tonight. I’ll say again, the game didn’t start off how we wanted.
You know, faced adversity on the field early, had a punt fake that hit us. They did a good job of running a variety of different plays and formations and were able to get out to an early lead. You know, offensively obviously didn’t start how we wanted, missed some opportunities.
When Jordan went down, that was something that nobody ever wants to see a player go down. I don’t have any updates on it tonight, so just so everybody is aware, but I was proud of the way our guys responded throughout the course of the game.
As you sit there and watch a football team come together, I thought our guys did that at a very high level. We knew all three phases we had to continue to rise up. I thought our defense was great basically throughout the rest of the game.
Offensively we were able to get into a little bit of a rhythm, hit some big plays, had a couple of big runs. A variety of guys offensively were asked to contribute. We had some other guys that had some bumps and bruises. We had really in all phases some guys that went down. So really had to and got to play a lot of guys that got some significant action.
Wasn’t the cleanest game. Like I said, we had too many drops, too many missed opportunities. I thought Tate did a great job coming in, other than a few mistakes here and there. Was really, really good tonight.
What he did where he located the ball, he made a couple of great decisions just in progressions and read. He showed all the work he has been putting in. He was ready for his moment when his number was called.
As we come out of tonight, you sit there, and you finish up the regular season undefeated here at Doak Campbell Stadium, and that’s something that we’re so very proud of.
For the five straight sell-outs to send the season, our crowd was remarkable. Just great atmosphere. To be able to honor the seniors, to be able to honor the guys that played their last game in our stadium, it was special.
I thought defense being able to create some take-aways. Jarrian Jones I thought was remarkable. Had a couple of huge plays, with the sack fumble, and then obviously the interception there later in the game. He’s been so good for us this year, and he’s continuing to grow, continuing to push. It was definitely a great performance on his part.
He broke the rock there for us after the game, but I thought it was a great showcase of the heart and the character that our guys have because sometimes those games, they bring more anxiety. If you find yourself in a situation that’s tough — I was just talking to the team about this.
Nobody pictures being down in that game early, but it was the circumstance we found ourselves in. There’s a lot of reasons why, a lot of things that we can correct, but in the moment it’s all about what you could with the next play. It’s all about what your belief is. It’s all about are you going to be willing to block out the anxiety and the pressure that you feel and just go play one?
We’ve been through a lot. We’ve been through a lot of adversity. We’ve been through a lot of challenges as a team and as a program, but I am very proud of our guys for just the way that they do all things that they do. We’re going to continue to push and going to continue to get better. We have a huge game this next week.
Obviously having to go on the road with an opportunity to try to finish the regular season undefeated. Our guys have put us in this position, so everything we have is going to go into our preparation to being our best come next Saturday.
Q. In the moments after Jordan’s injury a lot of guys obviously were struggling and needed to be consoled. What kind of messages were you and the other coaches giving them, and how did you guys kind of snap them out of that?
MIKE NORVELL: It’s hard any time you see any player go down, but obviously Jordan is so important to this team.
Not just as the quarterback, but just who he is and what he stands for.
When you see a player get hurt and not really knowing what that’s going to be, but obviously it was something that it was emotional, and it was emotional for everybody.
So just trying to help them work to being prepared for what was needed in the moment because one of your brothers go down, well, there’s another one that’s there that has to step up and has to stand up, and you’ve got to be there to support them and encourage them.
I’m not just talking about a quarterback, but all of us because anybody that — when you care about a teammate, when you care about a team and just the way that this program is built, man, a lot goes into it. But ultimately I thought our guys were able to kind of gather themselves and just continue to play. I thought a lot of guys played at a very high level and were there in support of what was needed.
Q. Following up on that, Mike, what does it say about this team’s maturity to be able to be resilient and to keep playing hard throughout the night given the circumstances of Jordan’s injury?
MIKE NORVELL: I mean, that’s who they are. They’ve been through it. What I love is even the older guys, how they are mentoring, how they’re encouraging, how they’re pushing the younger guys to work to hits the standard of how we want to operate.
I mean, when you have that type of leadership, when you have guys that have seen it all, and we’ve got a bunk of guys and a bunch of seniors that have been through it all, it’s so encouraging to see the investment that they’re willing to make on others, but it also speaks to the character and the heart that they have as a football team.
So it’s a challenge. We push our guys every single day. You can see in their response just how confident they are even in those uncomfortable situations.
Q. You talked about the team’s response and the players’ response, their emotions. What are your emotions? You have such a long history with that kid, and he’s done so much for your offense and your program in general. What were your emotions now, and what were they at the moment, and how did you block it out?
MIKE NORVELL: I hate to say you block it out. You don’t. Coming in we knew this was Jordan Travis’s last game at Doak Campbell Stadium. I wanted to see him have a special game, special experience.
Any time somebody gets hurt, it hurt. It’s painful to see. It’s painful to have to go through. You just want so bad for that kid because he does everything right. He really is just a special, special young man.
I can’t say that I did block it out. You go and you coach and you do everything, just like I said earlier, for the players that are out there on the field. I went to them too, but it doesn’t lessen anything of the impact of when you have any players that goes down.
I mean, it’s hard because this is a game that these guys, they put so much into. Like I always tell you, you’ve got to be for others what they need, and really our players, the way that they competed, the way that they fought, the way that they were responding was a lot of what I even needed at times because you see their desire to go out there and to do all they can to make sure that we finished as good as we could be. They showed it in their response, and we have the responsibility as coaches to do the same.
Q. You probably didn’t see it. Jordan before the end of the game, he posted on Instagram a shouting out Brock for his first career touchdown. I guess what’s it say about him that the night he had that that’s where his head is at, and he wants to be showing that love with what he’s been through?
MIKE NORVELL: That’s who he is. A lot of people talk about caring. He lives it. He lives it every day. His investment in this team, his investment in his teammates, this program in general, I mean, he’s special.
It’s obviously not the way that he wanted to go out of this game, but it doesn’t shock me. I didn’t know that he put anything out, but that doesn’t shock me.
Q. After such an emotional game tonight when you guys have Florida on the horizon, what do you expect from them this practice? What kind of intensity do you want to see?
MIKE NORVELL: They’re going to respond. We’re going to prepare to be better than what we’ve been. I believe in this team. I believe in what they’re made of. I know how they’re trained, and I know what they’re asked to do.
We have a game next Saturday night on the road, and we’re going to have everything that we can do to prepare ourselves to be the best that we can possibly be. I’ve got a lot of confidence in this team because I live with them. I see them every day, and I see the way that they pour into each other.
They’re going to have each other’s back, and we’re going to go attack this week. We’re going to have the best week of preparation that we’ve had and put ourselves to go put our stamp on how we want to end the regular season.
Q. You mentioned some players stepped up. Who kind of gave a good pep talk or got the team rallied around to keep going and playing after the injury?
MIKE NORVELL: It’s not necessarily about a pep talk. There’s plenty of people that can stand up. It’s about your actions. It’s about how you go out there and what you do, how you perform, the encouragement of others.
I’ve talked about it all throughout the course of the season. Whether it’s defensive guys come in and just encouraging offensive guys, it doesn’t — you don’t have to stop and go to one person. When you get your opportunity, when you can make a positive impact, go give all that you have. That is the encouragement.
I think our coaches, players, everybody fed off that tonight. Our guys did what was necessary in being able to respond and finish the game the way that they did.
Q. I’m sure Tate was expecting to play in this game, but not like that, not so suddenly and not with the mood of the stadium like that. How do you think he responded? That’s such a tough moment for a kid to go into. How do you think he responded immediately and then over the course of the game as he got more and more confident?
MIKE NORVELL: I thought he was great. There was a few mistakes, a few things that you could tell everything was rolling for him, but he has been preparing all season.
You talk about it. A few weeks ago in my office we had a one-on-one just talking about being prepared in case the moment ever calls for you. Tate does a great job in his preparation. He’s a wonderful teammate.
Our guys have a lot of confidence in Tate because they watch him practice every day. They know the talent. They know the ability.
I think that was something that was really impressive to me because he never seemed rattled in the moment. He knew he was prepared and ready, and that’s what you have to do at every position, but obviously, the quarterback position gets magnified to the elite level.
I thought he did a wonderful job. He went out there, and I thought played really well.
Q. For Tate do you think the key is to keep doing what he’s been doing, keep being who he has been or for him to kind of understand that this thing is so close to the finish line, and the opportunity he has to help this team pass it?
MIKE NORVELL: He just needs to be him. Just because you’re not a starter, which Tate obviously has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been pushing and leading and doing everything that he could to show his teammates that if his number was called, that he was going to be ready.
We’ve got to do a better job at helping him out. I think we had too many dropped balls. He threw a couple of unbelievable passes. We need to support him the best way that we can, but he needs to just go be himself. If he does that, I have a lot of confidence in how he’ll play and obviously how guys around him will be there for him in those moments.
Q. Obviously an emotional day. Can you talk about the emotions pregame with the senior day ceremony, what that meant to you, and what that meant for your players?
MIKE NORVELL: Just a great group of seniors. These guys, they poured so much into the program all for different amounts of time. Guys like Kalen DeLoach, and obviously he didn’t play today. He was unavailable.
Just when we were celebrating them in pregame, just thinking through the journey, thinking through all the things that these guys have worked through and just to see the confidence that they have, to see how they represent this program.
Obviously we talked about Jarrian. Jordan, he was awesome there before the game. You just get a sense of these wonderful young men that have really invested and put all that they could into being a Florida State Seminole. They will forever be.
This is a team that — I told them in the locker room. This team is going to be remembered. We get an opportunity to go take another step here this next week, but this is a special group, and it’s led by that senior class.
It was a great night and great experience to be able to see them get celebrated and hearing our fan base, the applause that they had and obviously just what these guys mean to our wonderful fan base.
Q. Quindarrius Jones had that blocked punt at the end — or returned it for a touchdown. He got his opportunity, like you mentioned, and he took advantage of it at the end of the game and didn’t quit. What did that say about him and the team?
MIKE NORVELL: It was great. Obviously they lined up for a field goal there late, and I thought we got great push by our defensive front. KJ Sampson, Liam, those guys did a wonderful job pushing everything back.
We were able to get the block. When I saw the ball bouncing, I saw Quindarrius. He was a high school receiver. He’s a guy that’s really athletic and has a great future in front of him.
When I saw him scoop it, I knew he probably wasn’t going to let the kicker tackle him. It was impressive to see him finish it off the way that he did.
What I love, too, it’s the last play of the game. Finished the game. You see the team’s reaction. I don’t know if there was a player that wasn’t in the end zone celebrating with him, and those are the things —
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here. Q has been here since January. You see the love. You saw the appreciation. You saw how much those guys care. Those are wonderful moments to be a part of.
Q. A multi-layered. You mentioned is Jarrian Jones, the play he had, and Braden Fiske had some plays. It seemed like the defense — when the offense needed a little bit help, the defense really stepped up. Then the other part was, did you see the reaction from the 2013 team when L.T. scored?
MIKE NORVELL: Oh, yeah. That was pretty special. I thought the defense — like I said, barring the first couple of series where we got hit on a few things, they were flat dominant in all ways.
The defensive front was great. I thought guys flew around. It was definitely what we needed. As we kind of collected ourselves offensively and continued to go to work through some of the early challenges, I thought the defense was awesome and created a short field.
Obviously we were able to score some points. The second quarter was really good for us. Those guys were consistent throughout.
On L.T.’s touchdown, seeing the 2013 team, I mean, what a special group. They were here with us last night.
Majority of them. Some of them came in today, but majority of them were here last night just for our team walk.
Seeing the gratitude for the place but also understanding how much that they’re appreciated for who they were, for who they are now as guys that are in their professional careers. That’s a team that will be celebrated forever.
Seeing them in that end zone, just the energy in the stadium and being able to have that moment, I thought that was one of the cooler experiences of the game.
Defensive back Jarrian Jones, defensive lineman Dennis Briggs
Q. The response from the team when Jordan was hurt, what does he mean to you guys? How difficult was it to see that transpire the way it did?
JARRIAN JONES: I wouldn’t say it was difficult to respond, but that’s our leader. That’s our guy. That’s my brother. I don’t know how to — that’s Trav, man. Ain’t nothing in the world we won’t do for him.
To see him go through that and while he was on the ground just saying, I’m good, I’m good, like, that’s him. That’s J. Trav. We just had to come back and finish it for J. Trav. I knew what J. Trav would have wanted us to do. I know how he would have felt in the moment. That’s really all I have to say about that.
DENNIS BRIGGS: Just to go off what he said, J. Trav is our guy. We have his back, and that’s really just the message in the locker room. We’re forever going to have his back.
Q. Jarrian, for yourself, last game in Doak, you create two take-aways. Create a touchdown off that first take-away you have. What did it mean for you to go out and play that best game that you put on paper in that stadium?
JARRIAN JONES: It was hard being out there. With it being my last one, Florida State really made me a man. I feel like I went through my hardest trials and tribulations here. It was just a blessing to be out there to have a packed crowd on senior night. That was big. I’m forever indebted to Florida State and forever will be a Nole.
Q. You mentioned Jordan Travis told you on the field he was good, he was good, but did you guys have to say — do you have a message for him, or did you have a message for Tate to get him going after that?
JARRIAN JONES: I don’t really want to talk about J. Trav no more. I don’t really want to talk about that for real. There was no message to Tate. We don’t need you to go be J. Trav. We need you to go be Tate.
Q. Can you talk about the way the defense kind of rallied when the offense needed a little bit help early in the game? I guess you guys have done that all season, but how did you feel like the defense played early in the game?
DENNIS BRIGGS: I just feel like we came together. We always have our rough patches, but we’re a brotherhood at the end of the day. As a brotherhood, we love each other, and we just continue to love each other and continue to fight and continue to fight for our offense no matter what happens.
As we go out on the field, we play for one another and just continue to attack.
Q. For both of you again, the response for Quindarrius’s touchdown, to see the joy of the team at the end of that, what does that say about where you are at culturally, and for the true freshman to fight and make the play at the end of the game, what did that mean?
JARRIAN JONES: Just seeing Q make the play because I’m in the DB room with Q, so I see how hard he works, and I also see the struggles.
I know how bad he wants it, so just to see him be able to make that play and just see some success, I feel like that’s going to be able to build on his confidence for the rest of what he has in store.
That was big. Like I said, that’s our brother. Q is our brother, so to see him make a play in that moment, that was just big for us.
Q. For both of you guys, early on in the game they were showing weird formations, weird looks. What kind of adjustments did you guys have to make to counteract that?
JARRIAN JONES: I mean, we just have to stick to our rules. We just have to make plays. That’s really what it is.
If your eyes are in the right spot, you play your keys, I mean, no trick play is going to get you. In the beginning, I mean, we were kind of all over the place in a sense. Once we settled down and just read our keys and stuff, that was kind of what it was.
DENNIS BRIGGS: That’s the biggest thing, just settling down and just making sure we’re aware of everything that’s going on the field, keying off of things, and just making sure we’re in the right spot.
Q. For both of y’all, how does it feel playing in front of that 2013 National Champion team, especially with how elite that defense was?
DENNIS BRIGGS: It’s surreal because growing up I watched that game, the National Championship Game with my dad that night. Just seeing how dominant that team was and being able to come here to Florida State and put on this uniform, to put on this logo, it means so much. To have them be able to be present and to watch us definitely means a lot.
JARRIAN JONES: I didn’t really watch Florida State, for real (smiling). I just didn’t really watch. Since I’ve been here and read the history on it and went back and seen that defense, now, that’s how you play defense. That 2013 team, that’s how you play defense. Just being able to play in front of some legends, that’s big. That was big.
Q. You guys both have dealt with injuries throughout your careers. Tonight, aside from Jordan, you guys had some other guys not be able to play or deal with injuries. What’s the mindset of this team in terms of how they rallied when you weren’t available and how you guys were going to rally now if other guys aren’t available?
JARRIAN JONES: I mean, it’s just the culture. What we believe in is responding to adversity. Regardless of what happens, we have to respond. Regardless if this guy can’t go, this guy can’t go, this guy can’t go, we just have to respond.
That just goes to show like it’s the brotherhood that we have. Anybody gets hurt, we believe that the next guy can go in and get the job done, so that’s kind of what that is.
DENNIS BRIGGS: Again, just to go off what he said, that’s our culture here. One man goes down; the next man up.
It’s always been like that no matter what it is. Your opportunity is always waiting for you.
Q. Jarrian, I remember after the Florida game last year, your passion about I mean let me talk about the type of playmaker you knew you were and your confidence in that. I’m sure you never lost that confidence but showing the type of playmaker you can be on this defense?
JARRIAN JONES: I know about me. I know what’s up with me. So I didn’t need nobody else to believe in anything else I had going on. With the highs or lows, I didn’t need nobody to be there for me because I know what I got in me and I know what it is with me. That’s kind of what it is.
I really didn’t need no motivation speeches or nothing. I know what’s up with me. Anybody feel different about it, they just get up with me.
Running backs Lawrance Toafili and Caziah Holmes
Q. When Jordan goes down and Tate is thrown into the action, the running backs scored I think three straight touchdowns late in the first half. How important was it for you guys to pick up the offense?
CAZIAH HOLMES: Very important. The coach was telling it’s on us. We take pride in that. With each opportunity we get, we try to make the most of it, and God put us in a position to do that, and we did what we had to do to help the team.
Q. Lawrance, you saw Caziah go through the practices and do everything during practice, and game week comes and he has, what, five touches, two touchdowns. How gratifying is it to see his hard work paid off in that running room from everything you’ve seen?
LAWRANCE TOAFILI: It makes me so happy. I’m glad to see the hard work paying off, you know what I’m saying? Definitely coming in learning a new offense it was kind of difficult at first for him, but, you know, it kind of always is, but he got it down pat. He is ready, and it shows. So I’m happy about that.
Q. Lawrance, on your touchdown run you were swarmed by the 2013 Championship team. What was that moment like for you?
LAWRANCE TOAFILI: I mean, it was a great moment. It was a blessing. I kind of didn’t know what to do, and they just kind of decided for me, but I appreciate that. I’m thankful for that.
Q. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve been here since the beginning with Jordan. Just how did you guys handle that, just the emotions of seeing him go down?
LAWRANCE TOAFILI: I mean, I would rather not even talk about that right now, so...
Q. To ask the same question I asked Caziah earlier about the running game. How do you feel like you guys did? It was a slow start for the offense, but did you feel like you guys kind of asserted yourself as the game went on?
LAWRANCE TOAFILI: Yeah, I’m glad that everybody got to showcase their abilities and be able to be in position to make plays. We always talk about it at practice and have these things going on at practice. I’m glad that we got to show some people what we can do, what the room can do.
Q. You guys have always shown confidence in Tate. What did he do out there today to — did you have to say anything to him, or is that just a let him be him moment?
LAWRANCE TOAFILI: Tate has been here for four years. He came in with me. He has been prepping for this. I know he is ready. He is ready to step up to the plate.
Q. Staying on Tate, it’s a big one coming up next week for him on the road there. How much does tonight give you guys confidence in him, or is it more like you said, what you see every day in practice? Or even going back to the Louisville game of last year. What gives all the confidence you have in him?
LAWRANCE TOAFILI: He is a worker. He goes to work every day, and he’s always preparing and never knowing what can happen. I just know when it’s time, he is going to be ready.
Q. First Lawrance and then Caziah, please. I know it’s tough to process everything that happened tonight, but the fact that you are 11-0 and so close to the finish line, is that going to help you guys push harder here these next two weeks to finish the way you need to despite what’s happened?
LAWRANCE TOAFILI: I mean, of course, but we try to take the field in everything we do as if it was the last time we could do it, and we just try to go our hardest. I feel like that’s just how we attack every situation, so that’s kind of how I feel about it.
CAZIAH HOLMES: Just like L.T. said, I think it’s added motivation for us and the team, and we’re just going to give it everything we’ve got one day at a time, one practice at a time, one rep at a time.
Q. If you guys could, I assume you were in the group that went down after Quindarrius scored at the end of the game. What was that like? It’s such an emotional night and to end it that way, what was that moment like for you guys?
CAZIAH HOLMES: Definitely excited feeling. I was running down the whole sideline cheering him on, but just seeing those guys being able to get in, make the most of their opportunities at the moment, that was just big.
LAWRANCE TOAFILI: We always talk about our pride unit, our field goal block, and them boys really just attacked that today as well. I was really happy to see that we could make a play on that unit. It was big. It was big for me for sure.