The Florida State Seminoles kicked off ACC play on Friday night against the Louisville Cardinals on the road. Heading into the matchup, FSU was 2-0 for the first time since 2016, and winning close is a welcomed albeit nerve-wracking attribute this team is starting to acquire. Up against adversity, the Seminoles persevered and we were able to see grit in a team that will not be defeated despite everything thrown at them.
Linebacker Kalen Deloach and company started their first drive off with Deloach spying Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham and forcing an incompletion. Safety Renardo Green was able to stop the Cardinal's drive and force the punt to start the Seminole offense
On offense, it only took one play to move the team into scoring position after a 41-yard pass to tight end Camren McDonald and another 3rd and long completion to wide receiver Johnny Wilson set up the Noles’ first score of the night with a touchdown pass to tight end Preston Daniel.
Louisville went on the attack soon after, with Cunningham completing passes to Dee Wiggins along with big runs by Jordan Jawhar. Louisville’s first score of the game came from a rushing touchdown by Malik.
After a modest but effective showing against LSU in their win earlier this month, Johnny Wilson seemed sure-handed for FSU’s return fire. Ontaria Wilson and McDonald were able to move the chains but a missed field goal by kicker Ryan Fitzgerald ended the Noles’ attempt. The Cardinals' scored soon after off a screen pass to Trevion Cooley for 17-yards.
Florida State answered quickly churning how huge chunk plays with Treshaun Ward getting 45-yards followed by a great pitch and catch from Travis to Malik McClain for the score.
Playing mostly zone coverages, the FSU defense couldn't find an answer to the Cardinals’ offense. Penalties, missed tackles, and blown coverages backed up the Seminoles up to their own 9-yard line but valiant efforts by Deloach and Greedy Vance put the offense on its heels. Defensive end Derrick McLendon was able to capitalize on a bad handoff and recover a Cunningham fumble in what looked to be a drive that was almost certainly ending in points.
In the back-and-forth nature of the night, Jordan Travis threw his first interception of the season ending his near-perfect mark of 11-12 passes for 148 yards on a pass intended for McDonald. The defense held strong with great coverage by Renardo Green.
*Travis matched former quarterback Jameis Winston’s opening performance against Pitt completing 11 of his first 11 passes.
By the half, some major injuries started to take their toll on the Seminoles. Jordan Travis and Jared Verse both took extensive time off the field. Travis ended his night going 13 of 17 for 157 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
With the offense in backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker’s hands, the ground game became a much bigger factor. Throwing slants off of play action seemed to be the way the offense initially wanted to go and Rodemaker was able to showcase his mobility on a few drive-saving runs. Ultimately, the backup signal caller did enough to get the Noles in the end zone off a 15-yard touchdown run by Lawrence Toafili to tie the game at 21-21.
Starting the fourth quarter, Cunningham led the Cardinals on a 63-yard scoring drive giving them the lead 28-21. Florida State sustained more injuries on their line losing offensive tackle Robert Scott Jr. Rodemaker opened up his game after a few blunders earlier and delivered two bombs to Johnny Wilson with one ending in a score.
In what seems to be a trend this season, the Seminoles found a way to win against all odds and left Kentucky with their heads held high. The running back room paired with standout performances on both sides of the ball showed a team that is learning how to win and learning how to keep winning as the defense provided another thrilling ending. This is the second game of the season that relied on a very late last stand to seal the victory.
Offensive MVP - WR Johnny Wilson (7-8, 149-yards, 2 touchdowns) RB Treshaun Ward (10 attempts 146-yards 12.6 YPC)
Defensive MVP - LB Kalen Deloach, DB Renardo Green, DB Jammie Robinson, DB Kevin Knowles (game-ending interception)
*Rodemaker showed amazing poise and really looked to have turned a corner in game-time situations finishing the night 6-10 for 109 yards and two touchdowns along with one interception.
FSU 35, Louisville 31