Florida State’s offense showed signs of life in the win over Jacksonville State. But the performance came with the asterisk of one that was at the hands of an FCS defense.
The Seminoles had plenty of struggles, failing to sustain drives being one of them. Third downs were a challenge as FSU converted on just 2 of 14 opportunities, but there were also issues on first and second down, too. FSU also settled for field goals twice and had a goal-line interception.
But FSU accumulated 405 offensive yards (153 rushing and 252 passing), the first time the Seminoles surpassed the 400-yard mark against a top-10 team on the road since Miami in Oct. 8, 2016. There were no moral victories in FSU’s 42-26 loss to Notre Dame, even for a team rebuilding in Mike Norvell’s first season. Quarterback Jordan Travis said finding success and winning are the expectations regardless of the opponent.
“We should have these expectations,” Travis said. “We should be winning. We’re a good team. There’s little things that matter. Over and over. We make mistakes, little mistakes that matter so much. And it cost us a couple touchdowns. Coming from me, too. There’s mistakes that I made that need to be corrected and that can help us be very successful.”
FSU is 1-3 and has an 0-3 mark in the ACC. The growing pains of a young program are evident each week. But it’s also evident the offense is taking steps forward, seeing improved performances at quarterback as well as better play around Travis.
Travis is still struggling to complete passes with accuracy from the pocket but he has fared much better when rolling out and throwing on the run. His biggest mistake came midway through the fourth quarter when he rolled left and tossed an interception on the goal line that Notre Dame’s Shaun Crawford picked off.
“I think Jordan as he was getting out on the edge felt a little pressure there into his face,” Norvell said. “You’d like the ball to be outside a little more, but the guy made a good play on it. It’s unfortunate that happened. Just continuing to teach the situation, the third-down situation we’d have another down. We’d like to try to miss outside if we’re going to miss on that.”
Norvell also called a number of designed run plays for Travis, and he ran 19 times for 96 yards (he would have been well over 100 if not for sack yardage removing from his total). Travis hurt his hand in the fourth quarter, saying after the game he would get treatment and should be fine. He also admitted he has to protect himself better, sliding or getting out of bounds and limiting the hits.
“I thought he played extremely tough,” Norvell said. “He had a lot of different looks, a lot of different things thrown his way. Thought he made some really good decisions, and there are some things he’ll be able to learn from. But it was a gutsy performance. Carried the ball a good number of times throughout the game. I thought he definitely provides a great dynamic for us.”
FSU’s run game has been a bright spot, too. Despite injuries on the offensive line – which forced Devontay Love-Taylor to shift to left tackle with Darius Washington out due to injury – the Seminoles also used a true freshman (Robert Scott), redshirt freshman (Maurice Smith) and sophomore (Dontae Lucas) along with Baveon Johnson.
The Seminoles ran 40 times for 153 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per carry that was diminished in the second half. FSU was more efficient in the first half, rushing 22 times for 102 yards (4.6 yards per carry). La’Damian Webb had 13 rushes for 59 yards, his best total of the season, to lead FSU’s running backs.
“I think we did decent but not good enough to win,” Webb said. “It wasn’t a pretty game but I think we got better as a team.”
FSU’s run game is trending up – to 37th in the FBS among the 76 teams that have played games, while the 676 rushing yards is 23rd overall. The Seminoles’ passing game has lagged but their 897 yards in the air are 32nd in the FBS.
Tamorrion Terry also had his best night – nine receptions for 146 yards and a 48-yard touchdown pass from Travis. It was Terry’s first touchdown reception of the season, although he also bobbled a two-point pass in tight coverage. Terry had been up and down this season, including being held without a catch at Miami.
“I thought Tamorrion played at a high level,” Norvell said. “Made some big plays, made some plays through contact. Caught the ball better. It was something we knew we’d need tonight. We knew that was going to be a big part if we got a 1 on 1 opportunity with him.”