No. 13 Florida State Seminoles, playing in the program’s first bowl game since 2016, has seemingly found its identity after navigating a difficult stretch in head coach Mike Norvell’s first and second seasons. That identity, built on responding to adversity, was tested against an out-of-conference opponent in the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cheez-It Bowl.
It wasn’t an easy victory for the Noles, but they were able to escape Orlando with their 10th win of the season — the best for the program since 2016. Florida State defeated the Sooners 35-32 behind incredible performances from Jordan Travis and Johnny Wilson.
After the game, Norvell spoke on the team’s performance, what it meant as a reflection of the Seminoles’ season and what it means for Florida State going forward.
Below is a full transcript, along with video fro the press conference.
Mike Norvell Postgame Press Conference
COACH NORVELL: I mean, just to kick it off, so proud of our team. I mean, all that they have had to work through, all that they have been through, not only throughout the course of this season but for every young man that’s been a part of the journey, the ones that have chosen come be a part of this family, the ones that, you know, have kind of been through it all.
It was really special to be able to finish this year with our tenth win, even in the way that it had to happen tonight, guys that went down, it was a back-and-forth game. There were some good moments and really tough and challenging situations, but their heart, it’s what showed up. They continued to fight, continued to believe. You did everything necessary to be able to finish the game and securing that tenth win.
Like I told the team in that locker room, this team will not be remembered just because of a number, all right. It’s going to be remembered by the way that they played, by the passion, by the character, by just the love that they have for each other. It meant a lot for this team, and it meant a lot for our program.
Just so proud of every young man that’s in that locker room, for our staff, the work that they have put in, just in all ways, we’ve got a tremendous administration that there’s been a lot of investment in helping us build this program and to getting it back to where ultimately we all know that it needs to be.
Being able to support the players with those resources and their development and just, yeah, the way that they have worked in all ways, it’s just truly special. I think tonight capped it off and you see the joy, you see the excitement for what they have done and all the work they have put in. So just proud of our guys.
At the half, what did you tell the team? What was the message? And what did you think about how they came out and approached the second half?
COACH NORVELL: I told them to keep playing, continue to believe. Trust your eyes. Trust what you see. Go out there and execute with fundamentals and trust your training. Just because things don’t go the way that you want them to early doesn’t mean that you always have to scrap a plan or you don’t always have to make these huge adjustments. You just have to continue to believe in what you’re doing.
I thought our players went out there and executed at a very high level. We were able to get critical stops, creating a takeaway when we needed it.
Offensively, the drive, I think it was a 15-play drive, 94, 95 yards, that was special. That was a statement drive for how you respond. You have to give credit to OU. They played hard. They brought a lot of different pressures. They were able to attack in a variety of ways. We knew that was explosive offense especially with their skill position at wide receiver. The young back, he’s good. I know he’s good.
Yeah, the quarterback did a great job in what they were doing, but ultimately our guys just continued to fight. And when we had to take the field one more time our defense ended it the way it needed to be ended.
Just proud of this team. I want to give a shoutout to Ryan as well. Ryan went through some challenges throughout the course of this year. And whether it was confidence, whether it was things that he had to build back, he just continued to work day-in and day-out, and to be put on the stage in the moment, need to make a field goal to put us up to go win the game, he answered the call. Very proud of him as well.
I’m not sure how many starters went down with injuries during the game, but it seemed like a lot. And when Jazston went down at the end and the whole team came out to him, what was that moment like?
COACH NORVELL: Jaz is a young man that’s been with our team for a year and came in in the summer. But he’s a part of our family forever now. When you see — these guys know. They know the work and they know the investment. It’s one thing it to talk about investment when it comes to a football team, and everybody thinks about lifting weights, practice and all the things that go on on the field.
When it’s investment in who they are off the field, getting to know a teammate, building a relationship; when you see a guy that goes down, you know, it hurts. I want to try to go out and see every one of them because this is a game that unfortunately that happens.
Jaz played his last game as a Florida State Seminole, but he’ll forever be a Nole. To see our team embrace him, celebrate after the game with him, he’s sitting there on crutches, and celebrating with him, I mean, you know, I love the young man and I’m grateful that I got an opportunity to coach him. And I think you saw the impact that he had on this team, right, just in the way that they embraced a very tough situation.
We’ve seen the ups and downs with Johnny, but for him to have the game he did when the offense needed him tonight, what can you say about his performance?
COACH NORVELL: It was great. I think you see his growth. I think back to the last regular season game, he had some challenging moments in that game, but even on the last drive, he had a huge third down reception and showed that response. Tonight, to come out and play at such a high level — it wasn’t perfect, but it was — he made some plays that were spectacular.
One of the third downs, he used every bit of that 6’7” body to go make an incredible catch, and then that long pass there on the final drive, Jordan put it in a remarkable place, hand-fighting down the field and to be able to snag it was special.
He’s a special player. You need those players to rise up in those moments, and you see his growth as the seasons progressed, and just excited for what the future holds for him and for this football team.
We’ve seen this program go from 3 to 35 to now double-digits wins for the first time since 2016. Where would you say the state of the program is in playing for a National Championship?
COACH NORVELL: We’re getting better, and that’s our objective is every day we go out on that field or in the classroom or whatever we are doing, and we want improvement, right.
I will put no limits to what we can accomplish as a team. I was disappointed in some of the setbacks that we faced earlier in the season, but these guys never stopped working and never stopped believing. This is a special place. This is a remarkable program to be a part of, and it’s not just the things of even the history and the past; it’s the people.
When you get them around, the past players that have come around you and see their support, you see their excitement, you see their joy, we represent them. That fan base that was out, that was special tonight. You look, we played in a couple different places, going to New Orleans to kick off the season in a classic game, and the Nole family showed up. Tonight in a Bowl game, once again, the Nole family showed up. This is a remarkable program to be a part of.
But I get to coach guys like this, and I know that when I watch them work and what they poured into it, they are challenging themselves to be the best they can be.
For where we are going, I can promise you, there’s great days ahead in Tallahassee. The future is very bright for this program, but it’s because of the people that we have. It’s because of that constant push to get better and guys are just willing to fight the fight.
You kind of talked about it. I’m just wondering, do you allow yourself to savor what just happened tonight and what happened throughout this season after the struggles you went through the first two years? But then Jordan mentions there’s much more work to be done. How much do you savor this?
COACH NORVELL: Absolutely. Every experience is critical for our journey, the highs, the lows, the good and the bad. I’m proud of this team. I’m so very proud of them. We get to sit back and see what they have been able to accomplish when people didn’t believe that they could, but I knew because I’m with them every day. I watch them work. I watch how much they care.
This is a team that they truly are a family, and you know, just like with family, there’s days that, you know, you squabble together. There’s days that — the accountability part of it, it’s hard, and there’s a lot of other programs that you can go to that would probably be a lot easier.
But it’s what makes moments like this worth savoring, because it’s not just about the results of a game. Yes, we could look up at a scoreboard and be really excited, but you know what it took to get there. I got to watch these guys whenever maybe people doubted them or when maybe things weren’t going exactly like they had hoped. I know what we had to come through as a program. It was hard.
But we know what’s ahead, and it’s going to be work. Like Jordan says it, there’s no limits to what we can accomplish because I know how these guys are going to work and I know how we’re going to push them to make sure that we get to where ultimately I know where we can go.
When you were talking about Jared about coming to Florida State and continuing his career, how special of a season has it been for him and to see him covered in glitter? How does it feel? And Jared, how does it feel, the journey you’ve taken to get to this point?
COACH NORVELL: You want to go first or you want me?
JARED VERSE: I’ll go. It meant a lot to finally go out there, end the season the way we wanted it to. At the beginning of the season, we had a couple hard losses where we could have done this or that to be a little bit better.
Just the one thing I’m grateful for Coach Norvell. He has not lied to me once. Like I said, multiple times, he sat down with me and he told me he’d give me his best. He has not stopped since then. Like all today, all the first day since I got here he’s given me his best. And I’ve tried my hardest to give him the same in return. This is the best decision I’ve made in my life.
COACH NORVELL: When you get to coach a young man like this, you don’t have to search for his passion. It shows up. I remember in the recruiting process, it was a fast recruiting process, but from the first time that I talked to him on the phone till the official visit when I was there in person, I just knew that this was the right fit for Florida State, because he wants to be great in everything that he does.
Yes, it’s fun watching No. 5 go out there and sack the quarterback. I watch how he competes in the classroom, too. I watch how he competes in the weight room. I watch how pours in and challenges teammates and pushes guys to be better than what maybe even they think they can be at times.
When he made the decision to come to Florida State, I remember on that phone call, and I’m not too proud to say, I was emotional in that moment because it was real. There was no bullcrap about it. It was about somebody that really went through the process and just said, look, I need to find the best fit where I can grow and grow in every way.
You know, I think you see some of the things he’s capable of. And I’m telling you, he’s just scratching the surface for where he can go. This young man has a special future in front of him because the good Lord blessed him with great ability, but he’s got an unbelievable mind, and he’s got an unbelievable heart. It’s going to be fun to watch him continue to grow to what I know that potential is.
Pokey Wilson is a guy that’s been in this program for many, many years, and with all the transfer talent that came in this year, there was obviously some more competition. Can you talk about the development and work ethic of Pokey because he ended up having, I’m pretty sure statistically, his best season here at Florida State.
COACH NORVELL: He’s a wonderful player, somebody that’s very versatile in his skill set. He had as made so many big plays for us this year. You trust the process of growth. Competition, you’re either going to rise to it or you’ll let it pass you by.
Pokey, just his work ethic, the amount — he’s not the biggest guy in the world but when you look at how consistent he is of being at practice of working to get better, I mean, he will do — he will give everything that his body has to go out there and compete, and he’s a great competitor. I think you saw with a lot of really talented players that have come around him, he still defined his role because of that work ethic.
There’s a lot of guys that have been here since the beginning of this staff’s arrival, and you know, guys like Pokey, you sit there, Robert Cooper, that’s my heart right there. Just being able to hug him after the game and knowing all that he’s done, there’s just so many stories like that with players that have come in and guys that we recruited that are very talented. They have continued to push and they have continued to improve, and I’m excited about where their future is going to take them.
How nice was it to see Ryan Fitzgerald get out there and get that kick to win the game after everything he’s been through season?
COACH NORVELL: Like I mentioned earlier, it was a special moment. You talk about response, you talk about growth, you talk about continuing to try to be the best that you can be. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to go your way on the journey, but sometimes challenges are necessary.
You’ve got to know what you can go through to be able to prove what you can get through, and Ryan has done that. That was a big moment for him. That’s one that it was the difference in the game, and just proud of him, proud of this team, and you know, grateful for the opportunity that I have to be able to work side-by-side with him each day.
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