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Game story: Florida State’s self-inflicted wounds continue in loss at Wake Forest

FSU starts season 0-3 for first time since 1976.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Wake Forest Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State football is 0-3 for the first time since 1976, Bobby Bowden’s first season as head coach, after a 35-14 loss at Wake Forest. The Seminoles fell in a quick hole and never truly got back into the game due to self-inflicted wounds. FSU had six turnovers, seven penalties for 65 yards, and just one third down conversion. The Florida State defense was on the field for 89 plays and 39 minutes, as they allowed seven third down conversions.

Moments that mattered

‘Noles and Deacs trade turnovers, WF opens scoring with 49-yard TD

Within the first six plays of the game, each team had a turnover. Wake Forest received the opening kick and gained a first down after two plays, but the drive didn’t last much longer. Two plays later, Sidney Williams dove to snag a deflected pass for his first career interception. McKenzie Milton, making his second straight start, connected with Malik McClain for a six-yard gain on the Seminoles’ first play. However, on the next play, Jashaun Corbin lost control of the football, and Wake Forest’s Caelen Carson picked it up for a fumble recovery.

Christian Beal-Smith immediately moved the Demon Deacons into FSU territory on a 13-yard rush, before Sam Hartman found AT Perry on the next play for an easy 49-yard touchdown as he beat Jarrian Jones in coverage down the sideline.

Wake’s running game ignited by personal foul

The Seminoles’ offense sandwiched a fumble recovery with two three-and-outs. FSU’s defense responded with a three-and-out, but the drive was extended on a questionable personal foul call. Darion Williamson was called for roughing the kicker after ran into Wake’s punter. The Demon Deacons’ running game sprang to life after the penalty. Hartman ripped off runs of 7 and 24, before Christian Turner picked up 15 on the ground to put WF inside FSU’s 10. Beal-Smith finished the drive with a seven-yard TD rush to open a 14-0 lead.

Ward and Travis respond, lead 75-yard TD

Florida State needed a response in a big way, and they got it from Jordan Travis and Treshaun Ward. Travis got the ball moving with a 10-yard completion to Williamson. Ward scampered for a 22-yard gain, and when the defense grabbed his face-mask, it set up first-and-goal. Travis then connected with Ward on a screen, who did the rest of the work to find the end-zone and cut the deficit in half.

Deja vu, another FSU personal foul leads to a WF touchdown

The Seminoles seemed to have the momentum shifting, but another personal foul put a stop to that. On 3rd and 14, the Seminoles got a stop on a seven-yard completion, but Jones was called for a late hit out-of-bounds, granting the Demon Deacons a new set of downs (another questionable call, although the defensive back should’ve just left well enough alone). Three plays later, Hartman scrambled to find Donald Stewart in the end-zone for an 11-yard touchdown connection.

Travis connects with Wilson for quick-strike TD

Wake Forest extended the lead to 17 with a 42-yard field goal with 3:25 remaining in the half. Travis did his best to keep the Seminoles in the game. On the first play of the proceeding drive, the quarterback found a wide-open Ontaria Wilson for a 65-yard touchdown.

The Seminoles headed to the locker-room down 13 after a Wake 22-yard field goal.

A tale of two opening drives out of the locker-room

Florida State had a chance to get itself back into the game after receiving the ball to start the second half. After a kick out of bounds, Ward quickly moved the Seminoles into Wake territory with gains of seven and 10 on the ground. However, on third and two, Travis was dragged down and sacked for a 10-yard loss, leading to an Alex Mastromanno punt. It was Travis’ last play of the game, as he was in visible pain holding his throwing shoulder.

Wake Forest then put together a 14-play, 90-yard touchdown drive. On the drive, Williams was ejected for targeting as WF moved into FSU’s red-zone. The drive was capped by a Justice Ellison one-yard rushing TD. Hartman dove into the end-zone for a two-point conversion to extend the lead to 21.

FSU’s mistakes, missed opportunities pile up over last two quarters

After Wake’s touchdown on their opening drive of the half, the Demon Deacons didn’t score again. But that didn’t matter, as Florida State’s offense repeatedly shot itself in the foot. FSU had two turnover-ending drives in the red-zone, while another two drives ended on first-play turnovers. Either way, it was painful to watch.

On the second drive of the half, the Seminoles moved down the field with ease with Milton back at QB. Four completions pushed FSU into the Wake red-zone, but two straight runs brought up fourth and two. Milton tried to pick up the first on a designed QB keeper, but was taken down behind the line of scrimmage.

Milton led the ‘Noles down the field again on their following drive. FSU’s only third down conversion of the game came on 3rd and four, as Milton connected with Wilson for an 11-yard gain. The 11-yard gain moved the ball to the one-yard line. On first and goal, Milton attempted a quick QB sneak, but lost control of the ball, allowing Wake to recover for a touchback.

On the next FSU drive, Milton looked deep to Keyshawn Helton, but was picked off. The following drive (and FSU’s next play), the quarterback was crushed and lost control of the ball, leading to another Wake Forest fumble recovery. In fact, FSU’s final three offensive plays were turnovers. In their last two games, the Seminoles have scored three second half points. For a program that emphasizes the ability to ‘finish,’ they’re doing anything but that.

FSU notables

Wilson: 3 rec, 91 yards, TD

Ward: 6 rush, 48 yards, 3 rec, 34 yards, TD

Travis: 5-6, 107 yards, 2 TD

Milton: 11-16, 119 yards, 2 INT, 2 fumbles

Jermaine Johnson: 10 total tackles, 0.5 sacks, 0.5 TFL

Amari Gainer: 8 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack

Derrick McLendon: 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 TFL

Up next: Florida State will be back home next weekend against the Louisville Cardinals. Louisville is 2-1 and coming off a last-second victory over the UCF Knights. The Cardinals defeated FSU 48-16 last season. The Seminoles are 16-5 all-time against the Cards and 10-2 in Doak Campbell Stadium. Kickoff is at 3:30 PM for the second straight week—this time, it’ll be televised on ESPN2.