Written by Erik Slaby
Tallahassee, FL – On a sunny, hot afternoon at Doak Campbell Stadium, the Florida State Seminoles took a step towards righting the ship with their 37-19 win over the Northern Illinois Huskies. This was the Seminoles first win over an FBS opponent this season.
From the start, it was apparent that the Seminoles were ready for this game and looking to quiet all of their detractors. On their first offensive drive, the Seminoles put together a methodical 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a touchdown pass from quarterback Deondre Francois to running back Jacques Patrick. There was some luck involved on that drive though as there were two tipped passes that could have made things bad for the Seminoles. One pass fell incomplete, while the other was deflected off of wide receiver Keith Gavin in the end zone but caught by Patrick for the touchdown.
The Seminole defense followed up the good performance of the offense with one of their own, forcing the Huskies to a quick three-and-out. The Seminole offense followed up their solid first drive with another solid possession. This time, Florida State went on an eight play, 75-yard drive that ended in a seven-yard touchdown run from running back Cam Akers. With these two drives, the Seminoles took a 14-0 lead before the first quarter was over. The argument could be made that these were the best two offensive possessions the Seminoles have had all season. Florida State head coach Willie Taggart spoke after the game about these first two offensive possessions and the effect they had on the team.
“It gave them a lot of confidence,” said Taggart. “You see the enthusiasm those guys had, just moving around there and going our first couple of drives. And like I said, it was something that needed to happen so our guys can get confident. I shouldn’t say realized, but knowing that they can actually get it done. For them to go out and execute it like they did was impressive. Now we need them to execute like that for four quarters.”
Though the Seminoles started off hot, some of the self-inflicted mistakes they’ve had all season came back to bite them. In the second quarter, the Seminoles went for it on 4th and inches, deep in Northern Illinois territory and they managed to convert the first down attempt but Patrick fumbled the ball and the Huskies recovered it. Thankfully, the Florida State defense was fresh and forced a quick three-and-out, preventing that miscues from hurting the Seminoles.
A couple of drives later, deep in Florida State territory, Francois completed a pass to wide receiver Tre’ McKitty for an 11-yard gain but he fumbled the ball and it was recovered on the Florida State 19-yard line by Northern Illinois outside linebacker Antonio Jones-Davis. This drive gave the Huskies fantastic field possession and they took advantage of it. Three plays later, Huskies quarterback Marcus Childers completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jauan Wesley. That brought the score to 14-7.
The Seminoles were able to respond defensively though, holding Northern Illinois scoreless for the rest of the half. Additionally, embattled Florida State kicker Ricky Aguayo was able to drain 42 and 50-yard field goals to give the Seminoles a 20-7 lead heading into halftime.
In the second half, Aguayo again came in clutch as he came in and drained another 42-yard field goal after a drive stalled out. Northern Illinois responded with a four play, 75-yard drive that ended with a shot pass across the middle from Childers to wide receiver D.J. Brown, that he took 66-yards down the field for a touchdown. Northern Illinois went for two but the conversion failed so the Seminoles had a 23-13 lead at that point.
After that, those miscues that have haunted the Seminoles came back to haunt them again. One drive was halted after a false start penalty by offensive lineman Jauan Williams put them in a third and long situation, eventually forcing them to punt. Penalties have been a problem for the Seminoles this season and that didn’t change today as the team finished with nine penalties. Taggart spoke about the penalties after the game.
“We talked about it all week playing winning football, and we have been killing ourselves with penalties,” Taggart said. “We talked about it at half. We only had one at the half, and then you come out and you get a couple, line up offsides on defense. Again, that’s selfish.” He added, “all those things our correctable, and our guys understand that. If we’re going to be the team that we need to be, we’ve got to cut that down, and against a good football team, it’ll kill us.”
On their next offensive possession. Right tackle Brady Scott was beaten clean off the edge by Huskies defensive end Sutton Smith, who sacked Francois for an 11-yard loss and to make matter worse, forced a fumble and defensive end Quintin Wynne recovered the ball. The Huskies now had the ball on the Florida State 28-yard line.
The Florida State defense was able to prevent Northern Illinois from scoring points on that drive but there was a bit of luck involved. On a third down play, it had appeared that Northern Illinois had scored but then replay showed that the receiver had stepped out of bounds. Kicker Andrew Gantz then came on to attempt a 33-yard field goal and he somehow missed that kick, wide right.
On the next offensive possession for the Seminoles, they put the dagger in the game when Francois completed a beautiful pass deep down the middle of the field to wide receiver Tamorrian Terry, who sprinted down the field for a 78-yard touchdown. This was the longest touchdown catch by a Florida State freshman since 1993 when running back Warrick Dunn did it. Though both teams traded a score each after this touchdown, this was clinching score of the game as it gave Florida State a 30-13 lead.
Offensively, Florida State was led by Francois who completed 23 of 31 passes for 352 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Akers led the team in rushing with 22 carries for 64 yards and one touchdown. Gavin led the team in receiving with six catches for 93 yards. Though the Seminoles performed well offensively, there is still lot of improvement that needs to be made. The team had five fumbles, losing three of them and also had the interception. Thereby gifting Northern Illinois, the ball four times. Taggart addressed the turnovers after the game and stated that they cannot make the mistakes they did today and win.
“We can’t turn the ball over like we did,” said Taggart. “We had it on the ground too often, and we threw an interception that shouldn’t have happened. So, we’ve got to take care of the football better and play a cleaner ballgame or you’re not going to win playing the way we did today.”
Florida State will have a bit of a short week to correct their mistakes as they will be getting back into Atlantic Coast Conference play and go on the road to face off against the Louisville Cardinals. Louisville is coming off of a 27-3 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers so they will be motivated to improve and perform better. The game will be played at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium at 3:30PM EST.