Tallahassee, FL- “My heart breaks for them, but it was impressive to watch them continue to fight,” said Mike Norvell after Florida State football’s 41-38 overtime loss to No. 9 Notre Dame. The Seminoles fell short of a comeback, overtime win, but walked off the field to a standing ovation from a packed Doak Campbell Stadium after the Seminoles battled for 60+ minutes of football. Despite the result, the ‘Noles displayed remarkable improvement from the season prior, not just in their skill, but also their response.
After trailing by 18 at the start of the fourth quarter, the ‘Noles stormed back to force overtime against a top ten team. Penalties, turnovers, and missed opportunities doomed the ‘Noles in the end. Despite the result, it was hard for FSU fans to leave without a glimmer of hope in their eye and a grin on their face due to the drastic improvement, the return of Doak Campbell’s atmosphere, and the McKenzie Milton magic.
Moments that mattered:
Mayer, Coan quiet Doak Campbell on opening drive
After Osceola planted the spear, the Doak Campbell crowd was ready to explode as FSU’s defense took the field but, Notre Dame’s Jack Coan and Michael Mayer had other plans. On the first play of the game, Coan found Mayer on a short out route. The tight end broke a couple tackles and took the pass for a 25-yard gain. The Seminoles’ defense recovered to force a fourth down near midfield, but were struck by the Coan-Mayer connection again. Mayer was left wide open on a busted coverage as the QB found him for a 41-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
Corbin’s explosiveness brings FSU’s offense, Doak Campbell atmosphere to life
Florida State’s first two drives didn’t give the FSU faithful much to cheer about. The Seminoles started their night with back-to-back three-and-outs. Going into their third drive, FSU had -9 yards. Jashaun Corbin flipped the switch for the offense. Offensive linemen Robert Scott Jr. and Dillan Gibbons pulled across the line to break open a lane for Corbin. Corbin used the lane to show off his explosiveness, as he exploded out of the lane for an 89-yard touchdown.
‘Noles flip field position, take first lead
After starting within their own twenty-yard line in their first three possessions, the Florida State defense and punter Alex Mastromanno helped FSU flip the field in their favor. After Mastrommano pinned the Irish within their own ten-yard line, the defense forced a three-and-out, leading to a starting field position on Notre Dame’s side of the field. Jordan Travis connected with Malik McClain over the middle of the field on the first play of the drive. The true freshman glided down the field for a 21-yard gain on his first career reception. Lawrance Toafili broke a run to the outside for 20 yards to move the ball to the 2-yard line. Travis faked out the whole stadium as he trotted into the end-zone on a perfectly-timed bootleg.
Irish capitalize on turnover for halftime lead
The Seminoles had an opportunity to extend their lead at the end of the second quarter, but a turnover led to a lead change. Up 14-10, Travis looked to extend a play and find a man down field, but was picked off by Kyle Hamilton. The Irish took advantage of good field position as they scored in just five plays. Joe Wilkins ripped a touchdown out of Travis Jay’s hands in the end-zone to take a 17-14 lead into the half.
FSU and ND trade long TD passes out of the half
Travis and Norvell came out with a shot play to surprise Notre Dame’s defense. The quarterback dropped a perfect pass in Ja’Khi Douglas’ bread basket. Douglas created a few steps of separation from a defensive back down the sideline and broke away for a 60-yard touchdown.
Coan responded with a TD strike of his own, as he unleashed a dime to Kevin Austin for a 37-yard TD. The touchdown put ND up 24-20.
ND opens game up with 14 points off interceptions
The Seminoles’ next drive resulted in a second Hamilton interception, eerily similar to the first. The safety ranged across the field and dragged his feet by FSU’s sideline to keep the momentum on the Irish’s side. FSU’s defense looked to have the Irish on the ropes after a tackle for loss and sack from Quashon Fuller forced a 3rd-and-17. Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller brought a heavy blitz, but Notre Dame countered with a screen that resulted in a 55-yard pickup by Kyren Williams. Williams broke a couple tackles to get to the corner pylon on 3rd and goal for a touchdown to end the drive.
Following the touchdown, the Seminoles’ offense seemed to go three-and-out, but Norvell decided to roll the dice by going for a 4th-and-two on his own 33. A breakdown and desperation heave led to another Travis interception. Notre Dame extended their lead to 18 just three plays later as Chris Tyree pushed into the end-zone from one yard out.
Seminoles show response through lengthy TD drive
Contrast to recent seasons, the Seminoles wouldn’t let the deficit define them and they responded. Travis led the offense on a 15-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a Andrew Parchment touchdown catch. Travis evaded pocket in the pressure and showed off his elusiveness, before finding Parchment in the end-zone from eight yards out on third-and-goal. After the game, Travis said, “I’m so proud of the boys. Last year, in that situation, I can’t say the result would’ve been the same. We played with a lot of grit. We fought back, but we just got to get better.”
Defensive end Jermaine Johnson, who had 1.5 sacks and 2.5 TFL in his FSU debut, echoed Travis’ sentiment after the game. On the team’s identity, Johnson said, “Not going to give up. So what, now what. We aren’t going to let anybody walk over us.”
A Keyshawn Helton two-point conversion cut the deficit to 10 with 13:47 remaining.
Milton magic, no other way to put it
The defense responded to the offense’s fight with grit of their own. Despite giving up a first down, the defense forced a punt as Sidney Williams brought down Coan for no gain on third and nine. The Seminoles’ offense started to find it’s groove with the ball back in their hands. Toafili picked up a first down on the first play of the drive before Travis scrambled for a twenty-yard gain. On the next play, Travis was pressured quickly. The pressure led to his helmet flying off, leading to McKenzie Milton’s introduction to the Florida State faithful and his first action in over two years. On the moment, Milton said, “You just got to be engaged and ready to go. I ran out there and thanked god but it was time to roll, didn’t have time to process any emotions. Job had to be done to give us a chance to win the game.”
And Milton got that job done. On his first play, Milton found Douglas near the sideline for a 22-yard gain.
WELCOME BACK, MCKENZIE MILTON— ESPN (@espn) September 6, 2021
After almost three years away from football because of a devastating leg injury, he passes for a first down in his first play and goes 4-for-4 in a TD drive. pic.twitter.com/G8A2ipCNd7
Later in the drive, Milton found Helton over the middle of the field on 3rd and 11 for a first down conversion, which pushed FSU inside the Notre Dame 10-yard line. Two plays later, Treshaun Ward dove into the end-zone for a two-yard TD, cutting the deficit to three.
Despite coming out of the game, Travis was happy to see Milton on the field leading the team down the field. He said, “That makes me so happy. I couldn’t get a smile off my face. Just seeing him run onto the field gave me chills. I’m so happy to see him on the field. I’m so blessed to have him on my team.”
Keir Thomas put the exclamation point on a Notre Dame three-and-out after the score with a sack to force a quick punt. FSU got the ball back on their 29-yard line with 4:15 remaining and down three points. Milton shoveled a pass to Darion Williamson on third down for a first down conversion which put FSU near midfield. Ward broke off back-to-back first down runs to move the ‘Noles deep into ND territory. A broken play due to a poor snap on third down led to a field goal. Ryan Fitzgerald nailed a 43-yard field goal with :38 seconds remaining to tie the game. A Travis Jay interception on a Hail Mary sent the game to overtime.
A tale of two kicks
The Seminoles got the ball first in overtime. A pair of Jashaun Corbin runs brought up 3rd and four. Milton was quickly pressured, but was able to throw the ball away to bring up a 37-yard field goal. This time, Fitzgerald didn’t have the same luck, as his kick went wide left. Needing just a field goal for the win, Notre Dame played it conservative with three straight runs. Jonathan Doerer drilled his field goal, from 41 yards, to end the Seminoles’ valiant comeback effort. After the game, Norvell said, “Our football team, they’re going to grow from this. I hate coming up short, but I think they showed their identity, their fight and heart.”
Corbin: 15 rushes, 144 yards, 9.6 AVG, 1 TD
Ward: 11 rushes, 76 yards, 6.9 AVG, 1 TD
Travis: 9-19, 130 yards, 3 total TD, 3 INT
Milton: 5-7, 48 yards
Douglas: 3 rec, 80 yards, 1 TD
Helton: 4 rec, 53 yards
Johsnon: 7 tot tkl, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks
Kalen Deloach: 8 tot tkl, 0.5 TFL
Thomas: 4 tot tkl, 1 sack, 1 TFL
Fuller: 1.5 TFL, 1 sack
Up next: Florida State will be back at home next week to face Jacksonville State at 8:00 PM on Saturday. The game will be televised on ACC Network. JSU lost 31-0 in their season opener to UAB.