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As injuries force use of two QBs, Travis reinforces his value to FSU

If you add up all the scattered playing time for Jordan Travis, he’s only played six full games in a Seminole uniform. That’s not a lot of time for someone that has single-handedly won Florida State more than a few games over the past three years. 

Travis gave another example as to just how impactful he can be on Saturday. With two scrambles totaling 58 yards on the final drive, he led the Seminoles down the field to kick a game-winning field goal and earn FSU its first win of the season against Syracuse.   

“I didn’t know what to feel,” Travis said Saturday. “It doesn’t feel real. I’m so excited. I’m so happy for the guys. We can go home and sleep well and wake up with a smile on our face no matter how we feel in the morning. We know we got the win.”

It’s a win that could go a long way toward building confidence going into the game at North Carolina on Saturday (3:30 p.m. on ESPN) as well as in the second half of the season. 

The coaches have a feel for what the offense looks like with Travis as well as McKenzie Milton in the game. They may also be faced with weekly decisions that begin with the big question, “Which quarterback is able to go?” It’s a question in large part because of the injuries Travis and Milton have sustained in their careers as well as the pounding quarterbacks take each game.

And the questions could also revolve around which quarterback can execute a game plan against what an opponent’s defense has shown in recent weeks.

Travis, who was not available against Louisville following an injury suffered at Wake Forest, was a surprise starter against the Orange after missing practice on Tuesday and moving around with a limp on Wednesday of Syracuse week. But by Saturday? You couldn’t tell: He rushed for 113 yards and threw for 131 more with two touchdowns in the win. 

“We know what Jordan is capable of,” defensive end Jermaine Johnson said. “Not just physically, but his mindset. We hear the noise, he hears the noise, but he continues to blank it out for the love of the team and the love of his brothers. He came out there and he fought. Yeah, he was banged up in the beginning of the week, but he stayed focused and kept the team first, and was available for us. We couldn’t be more happy and proud.”

The “noise” of course that Johnson spoke of is the constant QB battle between him and Milton, among other things. 

Since Milton nearly led the Seminoles to an upset win against Notre Dame, the lines have been a little blurred as to who should be behind center. Travis was never written out of the equation, but it was easy to get swept up in what was a special moment for Milton and assume he would be the starter moving forward. It didn’t help that Travis continued to struggle with injuries. 

With three straight weeks of inconsistent offensive production, the coaching staff was met with a tough decision. Either quarterback was a valid option, as neither had played poorly enough to warrant a benching, especially with larger offensive (and team) issues mostly being responsible for an 0-4 September. 

“I don’t want it to look like it’s one down, the other up,” offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said. “I think both those guys have unique leadership abilities. I think what Jordan provides is any time you play quarterback, you usually don’t get the physical beatdown that some of the other positions get throughout a game. That’s a guy who’s getting that and getting up and playing every snap. I think the teammates respond to that.”

After watching Florida State beat Syracuse on Saturday, Travis was the only quarterback on the roster that would have won the game for the Seminoles — one who could use his legs to escape pressure as well as not just find running lanes but be elusive in weaving around defenders. 

There was a fair bit to criticize about an offense spearheaded by Travis. More read-option means taking the ball out of the hands of Jashaun Corbin, who is having a breakout season. The passing game will not be as lethal as coach Mike Norvell wants it to be, as promises of an improved arm have not fully materialized for Travis. 

But when you look at the film, Travis was exactly the quarterback FSU needed against an aggressive Syracuse defense that averaged 4.5 sacks a game. In an alternate universe, would a less aggressive runner in Milton have gotten the job done? 

Despite only playing six full games (189 passes at FSU from 2019-21) when you add everything up, you know what you are getting from Travis. And with promises of growth and improvement in the passing game, there is quite a lot of room to grow for the redshirt sophomore.

The coaching staff will continue to have a tough weekly decision. Start an experienced, well-rounded quarterback in Milton, or start a younger, more explosive runner in Travis?

The case for Travis isn’t a knock against Milton, it’s a case for the future. If he can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, the potential for a more well-rounded and experienced Jordan Travis is an exciting thought for the future of Seminole football. 

“He came out and showed the confidence he has in this team and offense and what we can be,” Norvell said. “The way he’s been in the meeting room, even when he’s not been on the field, how engaged he’s been in trying to help the other guys in that room, that’s how you build up trust. Sometimes, you’re not physically able to make an impact and you’re still willing to make an impact in others, it shows that you’re trustworthy. This past week, when we knew he was going to be able to play at a very high level, he got the call. And he went out there and performed and gave everything that he had and helped swing that football game.”