As ugly as the first half was for Florida State, the last 32 minutes of football were some of the best the Seminoles have played in weeks.
But FSU simply couldn’t dig itself out of a 24-point deficit and fell 31-23 to Louisville on Saturday afternoon.
Malik Cunningham had four touchdowns — two passing and two rushing. Cunningham now has eight rushing touchdowns, two in each game for Louisville (3-1, 1-0 ACC). He also completed 25 of 39 passes for 264 yards.
The Seminoles trailed 31-7 with 1:49 to halftime but gradually chipped away at Louisville’s lead in the second half, trimming the lead to 31-23 on Ryan Fitzgerald’s 45-yard field-goal attempt with 8:40 left. But the Seminoles’ rally fell short when McKenzie Milton’s downfield pass was picked off by Louisville’s Kei’Trel Clark with 48 seconds left.
“Came out and played really hard in the second half,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “Defensively did a great job there being able to get off the field. Just missed opportunities. We had our chances. Didn’t finish drives. We got to finish.”
FSU has not opened 0-4 in a season since 1974, two years before coaching legend Bobby Bowden arrived.
Jashaun Corbin had a 75-yard touchdown run and Treshaun Ward added a 20-yard TD run for FSU. Corbin had 11 rushes for 159 yards. He has surpassed the 100-yard mark in three games this season (Notre Dame and Jacksonville State).
Corbin had an 89-yard TD run against Notre Dame. He is the fourth player in FSU history to have a pair of TD runs of at least 75 yards in a season – Dalvin Cook in 2015, Chris Thompson in 2010 and Sammie Smith in 1987.
The Seminoles ran for 205 yards, the third time in four games they had surpassed that mark (also vs. ND and JSU).
McKenzie Milton completed 24 of 39 passes for 248 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Parchment. Milton completed passes to eight receivers. Parchment led FSU with 86 receiving yards. He and Ontaria Wilson each had five receptions.
Milton surpassed 9,000 career passing yards on an 11-yard completion to Malik McClain. He is now at 9,231 for his career.
The Seminoles mostly abandoned the run early as they found themselves in a shootout. Ward’s run capped FSU’s best first-half drive, which was seven plays for 75 yards and in two minutes, 44 seconds.
FSU didn’t build drives, keeping possession for just 9:52 in the first half. That included two three-and-outs early as well as a fourth-down conversion that fell short.
In the second half, a pair of FSU drives went inside the Louisville 30 but ended in field-goal attempts.
The Seminoles went 0 for 4 on fourth down, continuing a trend where Mike Norvell opted to go for it but the team fell short.
Jordan Travis was on the FSU sideline but did not play.
After allowing scores on Louisville’s first five drives, FSU forced seven punts and a turnover on downs. The Seminoles gave up 31 points in the first half but none in the second half.
Louisville converted on 8 of 10 third downs to extend drives and wear out FSU’s defense. The Cardinals had possession for 20:08 of the first half. Louisville ran 52 first-half plays to FSU’s 30.
The second half was a different story as Louisville was just 1 of 8 on third downs.
FSU held an ACC opponent scoreless in a half for the first time since shutting out NC State in the second half in 2015.
Dennis Briggs Jr. went down after a chop block but returned to the game.
Jammie Robinson led FSU with 13 tackles. Amari Gainer had eight tackles, while D.J. Lundy added seven tackles. Meiko Dotson forced a fumble.
Jermaine Johnson had a sack, giving him six on the season.
Alex Mastromanno had a 53-yard punt early in the game.
Fitzgerald missed an extra-point attempt and a 47-yard field-goal attempt.
Helton also could not field a punt in the third quarter, which went over his head and rolled toward the goal line for a 73-yarder and pinned the Seminoles deep. He also fielded a punt late in the game near FSU’s goal line.
Running back D.J. Williams, defensive tackle Joshua Farmer and defensive back Omarion Cooper made their FSU debuts on Saturday.
FSU announced a crowd of 50,964 tickets distributed.
The Seminoles return to Doak Campbell Stadium next Saturday to play host to Syracuse at 3:30 p.m. (ACC Network). The Orange defeated Liberty on Friday night.