CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Florida State’s defense was the catalyst for success on Saturday night against Louisville in the ACC Championship Game. In a game of attrition and punts, lots of them, the Noles pulled out a 16-6 win over the Cardinals.
Here’s how it all went down at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday night.
FSU won the toss and elected to defer to the second half. The opening kickoff was punched out of the back of the endzone, setting up the Cards at their own 25-yard line.
On the game’s second play, Louisville running back Jawhar Jordan was stopped in the backfield for a three-yard loss. This stalled the drive, forcing them to punt after a three-and-out.
FSU would start their opening possession at their own 33-yard line. Third-string freshman QB Brock Glen would get the start under center for the Noles. Things wouldn’t bode well for his first drive as the starter, taking an eight-yard sack on third and seven, forcing the Noles into a punt.
Starting from their own 30-yard line, Louisville got their second possession underway. After receiver Jimmy Galloway just missed hauling in a deep shot from Jack Plummer on 2nd down, the Cardinals would see a second straight three-and-out.
The Noles would follow suit with a three-and-out of their own as Glen struggled to get anything going offensively.
On the Card’s 3rd possession of the game, they would get things rolling. On the drive’s first play, Plummer connected with Jordan for a 22-yard gain, the first 1st down of the game, and moved them into FSU territory.
However, on 3rd and seven from the Noles’ 46, Jared Verse would come up with a huge 13-yard sack. This would force the Cards to punt back to the Noles, who would see their third consecutive three-and-out to start the game.
On their fourth possession, the Cards would elect to go for it on 4th and two from the FSU 49-yard line. The Noles’ defense would get pressure and knock down Plummer’s pass attempt, forcing a turnover on downs.
However, once again, the FSU offense would stall, tallying their 4th straight three-and-out.
As the first quarter ended, we were still scoreless and had seen eight punts. FSU had possession as we started the 2nd quarter. On 3rd down, the Noles would catch a break with a pass interference, which gave them their lone first down of the game to this point.
This sparked the longest drive of the game to this point for either team. They would get to the Cards’ 24-yard line before settling for a 45-yard field goal from Ryan Fitzgerald. This made it 3-0 FSU with 10:32 left in the 1st half. It was an 11-play, 50-yard drive that took 5:01 off the clock.
On the Cardinals’ ensuing possession, they would pick up 18 yards on a 3rd and 11 to start a drive that would get into FSU territory. However, once they crossed midfield, the drive stalled out, and they would have to settle for 5th punt.
The punt part would continue as we finished the first half with a 3-0 game, with FSU leading and set to receive the 2nd half kickoff.
The Noles’s halftime adjustments wouldn’t show up on the first drive. They had to settle for 5th three-and-out of the game after a holding call wiped out a big run from FSU’s Glen.
Louisville’s opening second-half drive would see more success as they quickly moved past midfield. Facing a 3rd and two from the Noles 20-yard line, the Cards elected for a rush up the gut and would be stopped short.
The Cards would settle for a 36-yard field goal from Brock Travelstead. This made it 3-3 with 7:02 left to play in the 3rd quarter.
Then lightning struck in the form of Lawrence Toafili from the Wildcat. On the first play of the drive, Toafili took the direct snap for 73 yards to the right sideline before being pushed out at the two-yard line. He would then finish it off on the next play, punching it in for the 1st TD of the game and made it 10-3 with 6:20 left in the 3rd.
The Cards wouldn’t answer, and the Noles went back to work at their own 20-yard line. The next two FSU possessions would see Freshman mistakes, with three near interceptions thrown.
Louisville would then put together their best drive of the game, getting in a goal-to-go situation with a 1st and goal from the seven-yard line as we started the 4th quarter. They would falter backward and face a 3rd and goal from the 16-yard line. A throw out of the endzone from Plummer would set up a 33-yard field goal from Travelstead to make it 10-6, with the Noles on top.
FSU took over with 13:36 left to play at their 25-yard line. However, they would quickly have to punt it away after a three-and-out. However, Alex Mastromanno wouldn’t get the punt off and was tackled for an 11-yard loss. This set the Cards took over 1st and ten at the Noles 12-yard line.
On 3rd and nine from the FSU 11, Plummer would throw to the endzone and be picked off by Noles defender Tatum Bethune. The offense wouldn’t be able to get across midfield. However, they were able to flip the field, as Louisville started at their own 14-yard line with 7:31 left to play.
The offensive production wasn’t there for the drive, and they settled for a 10th punt of the game after a quick three and out.
The Seminoles would chew some clock as they took over with 6:05 to play. However, their drive would stall out after picking up two quick first downs to put them at the Cardinals 17. They then settled for a 33-yard Fitzgerald field goal to make it a 13-6 lead for the Noles with 3:13 left to play.
The Cardinals would then try to force the issue as they looked to tie things up. However, a 4th down sack of Plummer would focus a turnover at their own 20 and really fizzled out any hope they had.
FSU added a final field goal for extra measure to make it a 16-6 game with 2:19 left to play. The Cardinal’s final drive of the game ended on another sack from Brandon Fiske.
The win marked the completion of a 13-0 season for the Seminoles’ Pre-Bowl Season. They now sit as one of three undefeated Power 5 Conference Champions, and they must wait until Sunday at noon to see where they will sit once the CFP releases their rankings.
Written by Adrian Beecher