Friedlander: FSU isn't 'back' yet ... but beating LSU is a step in the right direction
You’re going to need a thesaurus to fully describe what went down at the Superdome on Sunday.
Wild, crazy, unbelievable and entertaining are a few of the words that spring immediately to mind.
Though it wasn’t particularly well-played, well-executed or well-coached, there probably won’t be another game all season that comes close to the drama and craziness that ensued over the final few minutes of Florida State’s improbable 24-23 victory against LSU.
So the hyperbole is understandable.
With apologies to standout FSU edge Jared Verse, let’s just not get too carried away with the “Florida State is back” narrative. At least for now.
As important as the result was for both a Seminoles program working to rebound from 4 straight losing seasons and a conference that desperately needed the PR boost of a nationally televised win against an SEC opponent, it’s never a good idea to start making knee-jerk big-picture proclamations based on a single game played on the opening week of a new season.
Keep in mind that LSU is not the national championship contender it once was and that it did everything it possibly could to give the game away in its debut under new coach Brian Kelly.
The Tigers twice muffed punts to give the Seminoles short fields, lost a key defensive player to a celebration, another defensive stud to a targeting ejection, and had a field goal blocked before topping it all off with the missed extra point that ultimately decided the outcome.
Florida State and its coach Mike Norvell didn’t exactly distinguish themselves down the stretch, either.
The play-calling that resulted in a fumble at the goal line and gifted LSU its final possession when a field goal would have put the game away produced flashbacks to the final play of last year’s Jacksonville State loss, in which the Seminoles’ staff showed poor situational awareness by getting caught in the wrong defense.
Norvell might very well have found himself teetering on the brink of Willie Taggart territory had Shyheim Brown not gotten a hand on the decisive extra point after time had expired and the Tigers won in overtime.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) September 5, 2022
Instead, he finds himself basking in the afterglow of a tenure-defining victory with a 2-0 team well on its way toward building on the momentum of last year’s strong finish.
Despite the coaching gaffe, the red-zone issues and the 99-yard drive it allowed in the near collapse at the end, there were plenty of reasons to be encouraged by the Seminoles’ overall effort.
First and foremost was the play of quarterback Jordan Travis.
Finally free from the shadow of McKenzie Milton and fully established as his team’s leader, the dynamic junior had a breakout performance against LSU. Not only did he complete 20-of-32 passes for 260 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, he also ran for 31 yards while showing off some Russell Wilson-like elusiveness and improvisational skills.
Jordan Travis is DIALED IN 😤 pic.twitter.com/wGiKDTjVv1
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 5, 2022
On the other side of the ball, Verse, the Albany transfer, more than lived up to his hype as a pass-rushing replacement for 2021 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jermaine Johnson by recording 2 sacks and creating far more havoc in the Tigers’ backfield than can be noted on a stat sheet.
And while Verse’s harassment of quarterback Jayden Daniels certainly played a role, the secondary also stood out by holding LSU’s star receiver Kayshon Boutte – a projected high first-round NFL Draft pick – without a catch until the final 5 minutes and only 2 overall.
#FloridaState Edge Jared Verse #5 terrorized the LSU backfield all night. Officially had 2.0 sacks but his impact was greater than that.
The Albany transfer is quickly establishing himself as one of the most disruptive pass rushers in CFB. pic.twitter.com/L1kRBmkZwm
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 5, 2022
In fact, the Seminoles were the by far better team in all phases of the game until the wild, crazy, unbelievable and entertaining final 5 minutes.
Even though it took a near-miracle to finish it off, they still figured out a way to hang on for a victory that in the words of NC State coach Dave Doeren – whose team also won in Week 1 on a missed kick as time expired by a team wearing purple and gold – doesn’t count any different than if they’d have won by 100.
“I just had a big smile on my face and a couple of tears thinking about how much we have been through as a football team,” Travis said afterward. “To end the game like that is really special. The game really shouldn’t have been that close from the jump. But a win is a win.”
It is, however, only 1 win. Now what do they do for an encore?
A year ago, amid the same chorus of “FSU is back” assertions following an encouraging overtime loss to Notre Dame – and Brian Kelly – they immediately fell on their face by losing to an FCS team at home.
This time after a much-needed open date to regroup, they’ll take to the road again for a matchup with ACC Atlantic rival Louisville. A victory there would send an unmistakable message to frontrunners Clemson, NC State and Wake Forest.
While the Seminoles might not yet be in a position to win the division, they’re at least good enough to have a say in who does.