The Florida State Seminoles continued their climb last night with a 35-31 victory over the Louisville Cardinals. The game was another step forward in Coach Mike Norvell’s team mentality to keep climbing. Thanks to Tomahawk Nation leadership, I received the amazing opportunity to cover the game in-person.
These are my cobbled-together thoughts from the experience.
- Credit to the University of Louisville fanbase, they came hungry for a win. The Scott Satterfield era has not been highly received up here in Kentucky, but the fanbase has supported the team. Last night was no exception. At the start of the game, the crowd was not a factor, as most were still tailgating, but by the start of the second quarter— Cardinal Stadium was rocking and in the ear of the FSU players.
- Maybe it was the lack of a distracting crowd, maybe it was just the continued growth of Jordan Travis, but the redshirt junior had a perfect first quarter. He completed every pass, tossed two touchdowns, and showed incredible poise behind early offensive line protection issues. The below play captured his perfect quarter:
- I was there in 2016 for the Lamar Jackson game. The Heisman Trophy winner was on another level against FSU athletes that week. Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham is not Lamar Jackson, especially in the passing department. But Cunningham is an excellent college player. His elusiveness and speed are on another level than a majority of his competition. Despite his start of the season slump, Cunningham still has the ability to take a game over and lead his team to victory. The 6th year Cardinal almost pulled that off tonight with his legs and timely dimes in the air. Credit to Florida State’s defense and coaching staff that limited the damage and made the key plays when it mattered most.
- Johnny Wilson was unbelievable in the game. The Arizona State transfer was met with mixed opinions when he announced for Florida State. Various outlets questioned his inconsistent play and drops in limited opportunities for the Sun Devils. When a drop showed up in game one of the season, many felt validated. On Friday night, it was Wilson who was validated. In his post-game interview, Wilson referenced his personal growth and Norvell’s challenge to “do your job” along with praising his teammates.
- Florida State’s trips to Louisville are never easy. They’re often close-fought games with heartbreak or at least palpitations. When FSU comes to town I like to say, “nothing good ever happens at Louisville”— and last night was no exception when it comes to the health of the Seminoles. FSU started the game without Fabien Lovett and ended the game without Malcom Ray, Jared Verse, Robert Scott, and most importantly Jordan Travis. The future of the season could have an entirely new outcome-based off one night in Louisville.
- When Travis went down in the second quarter and Tate Rodemaker entered the game, there was an assumed groan among FSU beat writers in the press box. The saying often goes that the favorite player on a team is often the backup quarterback, that had not been the case in Rodemaker’s young career at Florida State. After starting the game with an intentional grounding and an interception, many were already starting the Mike Norvell FSU tenure obituary column.
When the third quarter started with Norvell sticking with the redshirt sophomore, many fans accepted the predetermined fate that the Seminoles would not be leaving the Bluegrass State undefeated. But Norvell, as he referenced in his post-game, knew that Rodemaker could make the throws, knew he had the ability, and stuck with his gut. Rodemaker rewarded his faith and led FSU to three second-half scores and multiple clutch plays. His tightrope walking first down run to set up a Lawrance Toafili touchdown run will be glossed over by many, but one that helped to win the game.
- Norvell and his staff have received their fair share of criticism over their tenures. The inability to adapt or change the game plan has been called out in the past. With injuries stacked against them and Louisville finding success, both sides of the ball made adjustments that helped alter the outcome of the game. Norvell and Atkins brought in both tight ends more to beef up the offensive line and reset the line of scrimmage. The successful running game in the second half opened up passing lanes for Rodemaker and Wilson.
- The defensive line found lanes to apply pressure and speed up Cunningham’s decisions. In the third quarter, up until the final play (a Cunningham 40-yard scramble), the defense had held Louisville to less than 30 yards of total offense. Players were inserted to find the right pieces and players stepped up in the moments that mattered.
- Mike Norvell “loves this team,” he said those words in the presser and showed it his actions and his inflections. He lives and dies with these players and their success and personal growth is most important to him. His belief is reflected by his team’s play. There is noticeable growth and the entire team is a family, another mentality that Norvell has preached.
- Finally, as hungry as the UL fans were for their teams for the win, the FSU fanbase surpassed their enthusiasm. The Warchant was heard multiple times and their energy was relentless. Seminole fans have been a tortured group the last few years — this win was needed and hopefully, many more are on the way.