As the shots rang out of the Sooner Shotgun, the ball went in the air for the 2022 Cheeze-It Bowl in Orlando, FL.
It was a game of the W’s for the 61,520 fans in attendance at Camping World Stadium: Wilson, Wilson, Ward, wins.
The last, courtesy of Ryan Fitzgerald (sometimes it’s good to be the kicker), who, along with quarterback Jordan Travis, helped lead the Florida State Seminoles to victory over the Oklahoma Sooners, 35-32.
It was the first bowl bid and victory for the Mike Norvell era and one for the record books — a walk-off field goal, and a sack by Dennis Briggs, Jr. and Jared Verse as the seconds dwindled to zero, to end a decades-long losing streak to the Sooners.
“This team will not be remembered by just a number; they will be remembered by how they played… I’m proud of every young man in that locker room,” Norvell said in his victory press conference.
The Seminole offense got off to a hot start, powered by Jordan Travis’ legs, and then finding wide receiver Johnny Wilson for a massive catch with his arm. Treshaun Ward drove them to first and goal, which ended in a well-executed open field tackle by OU’s Woodi Robinson.
The first points of the night were scored off of kicker Ryan Fitzgerald’s foot on a 23-yard field goal.
Singling out cornerback Renardo Green (six tackles, one TFL) seemed to be the way the Sooners decided to attack the Nole defense, targeting him three times in a row, and the defense struggled against the run in the first quarter.
Defensive end Patrick Payton and safety Jammie Robinson teamed up for the first sack of the night, but were unable to get off the field. The defense gave up its first score of the night that came off a 22-yard touchdown pass from Gabriel Gibbon to Jarill Farooq.
The absence of DT Fabien Lovett could be felt early on as the Sooners were able to get some momentum going on the ground. The Sooners finished the night with 256 rushing yards.
Defensive end Jared Verse made his presence felt early in the second quarter, and in a very key moment, came up with a sack that forced a missed field goal attempt giving the Noles their best starting field position of the night.
That in turn, led to a touchdown catch from Pokey Wilson and a two-point conversion by Brian Courtney, bringing the score within three points. The two-point conversion was thrown by tight end Wyatt Rector; both Rector and Courtney were quarterbacks in high school.
1️⃣3️⃣▶️8️⃣0️⃣ TD!— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) December 29, 2022
6 plays, 72yds in 2:29 #NoleFamily | #KeepCLIMBing pic.twitter.com/3gdHwfFtwy
The offensive line for Oklahoma started to show its weaknesses giving up five sacks total in the first half. Robinson and Green came up in big moments, and the defense as a whole finished with 36 tackles.
- Passing - Jordan Travis (10-14, 170 yards, 1 TD)
- Rushing - Jordan Travis (34 yards)
- Receiving - Johnny Wilson (4 receptions, 110 yards)
The physicality of the defense carried over after the halftime break, and the Noles were able to force a quick punt. Defensive back Azareye’h Thomas missed a near interception on third down but ended up with an impressive pass breakup.
Offensively coming out of the half, wide receiver Malik McClain was able to kickstart a scoring drive after a huge third down conversion, followed by catches by both Wilsons.
Travis surpassed the 3 thousand-yard passing mark on the season, and running back Treshaun Ward punched it in from the one-yard line giving the Noles their second lead of the night.
*Travis passed his game-high, taking him over 400 yards by the end of the night.
Great run by #NoleFamily | #KeepCLIMBing pic.twitter.com/6F9Mqgafv4— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) December 30, 2022
A critical fourth down showed up with three minutes left in the quarter, but Robinson and Kevin Knowles were able to swat down a pass intended for Drake Stoops.
The Sooners would return with an interception on a pass intended for Johnny Wilson. Travis’ interception was the fifth of his career and the first he’s thrown since their blowout win over the Miami Hurricanes, and Oklahoma would score on their following drive.
FSU would go on to tie the game on a massive 38-yard touchdown run that started off with a drive-saving catch by wide receiver Darion Williamson. Williamson made his first start after battling an injury for the second half of the season and finished the game with two catches for 28 yards.
The turnover battle continued in the fourth quarter after a fumble forced by Omarion Cooper that was recovered by Robinson.
A big reception by Benson and another explosive play by Markeston Douglas gave the Noles back their lead. J. Wilson broke the 200-yard mark on a 58-yard reception that would eventually lead to the game-winning score by Fitzgerald.
Biscuit baby! #NoleFamily | #KeepCLIMBing pic.twitter.com/atbkQa7nDf— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) December 30, 2022
The game ended almost in a fitting manner given the ups and downs of the season, as Fitzgerald kicked the game winner after being criticized for misses earlier in the season. Jared Verse and Dennis Briggs Jr. clamping down on the OU quarterback while the seconds dwindled. Travis broke the 400 yard mark and won MVP.
Coming from a team which only won three games a couple of seasons ago, hitting the ten win mark and a bowl victory speaks volumes for the work that they have put in.
End of Game Stats
- Passing - Jordan Travis (27-38, 418 yards, two touchdowns)
- Rushing - Treshaun Ward (81 yards, two touchdowns)
- Receiving - Johnny Wilson (Eight catches, 202 yards)
- Tackles - Jammie Robinson (13 total, 10 solo)