Florida State’s defense and special teams were up to the task. But the offense, after an efficient start with scores on the first two drives, fell flat.
And the Seminoles lost 16-13 in the first game of the Mike Norvell Era, dropping a fourth straight season opener (since 2017).
“I believe in these players. I believe in the guys that I’m getting to coach and the coaches that I work with,” Norvell said. “We just have to continue to go through our process. I hate that we lost tonight. I hate how we lost tonight in every aspect. … There were some plays that showed up. It truly came down to some little things. that’s where we have to be more consistent in all aspects.”
True freshman Jeff Sims, who was once an FSU commitment until December, threw for 277 yards and a touchdown. Sims completed 24 of 35 passes and had two costly interceptions but the Jacksonville, Fla., native also ran for 64 yards helped guide Georgia Tech to the season-opening win.
Keyshawn Helton returned to the field after missing the second half of 2019 due to knee surgery. Helton ran in motion on the goal line and sprinted right, catching a 3-yard pass for FSU’s first touchdown.
The touchdown was set up by Camren McDonald’s 27-yard grab, in which he turned his body to make the catch and set up FSU with first-and-goal at the GT 6.
James Blackman was 18 of 34 for 175 yards. His costly interception did not result in points due to Marvin Wilson’s block. But he was largely ineffective after the Seminoles scored a touchdown and a field goal on their first two drives.
Tailback Jashaun Corbin was Florida State’s top receiver. He had eight receptions for 55 yards.
Jordan Travis tied for the team’s leading rusher, carrying six times for 39 yards. La’Damian Webb also had 39 yards on 13 carries. FSU managed just 109 yards on 35 carries, averaging 3.1 yards per carry.
Tamorrion Terry dropped a long pass from Blackman, one that could have been a lengthy touchdown.
Asante Samuel Jr. intercepted a Jeff Sims pass at the FSU 10 and returned it to the FSU 48, setting up the Seminoles for a short field on their first drive. Samuel had two interceptions, already giving FSU a fourth of their 2019 total of eight. Coordinator Adam Fuller used the slogan “Mission takeaway” in Twitter posts, recognizing takeaways in practices. It was clear Samuel made it a priority.
The Seminoles pitched a first-half shutout, something the team did not do in 2019 (in a first half or second half). FSU kept Ga. Tech off the scoreboard until Jordan Mason’s 19-yard touchdown run with 6:13 left in the third quarter.
Defensive end Joshua Kaindoh was injured in the second quarter and did not return.
One surprise: The defensive front of Marvin Wilson, Robert Cooper, Cory Durden and Kaindoh did not generate a sack. Amari Gainer and Raymond Woodie III split FSU’s sack.
Kalen DeLoach earned the start at linebacker but Gainer was also in the game on GT’s first drive. Gainer led the team with 10 tackles.
Marvin Wilson blocked a pair of field-goal attempts by Georgia Tech’s Jude Kelley, the first a 22-yarder and the second a 38-yarder. Wilson and B.J. Ward (in 2003 vs. Duke) are the only two Seminoles with a pair of blocked field goals in the same game. Janarius Robinson blocked an extra-point attempt in the fourth quarter.
Parker Grothaus connected on field goals of 37 and 53. Grothaus’ 37-yarder was the first of the walk-on’s college career. Those kicks were big as FSU’s offense stalled out in Ga. Tech territory.
Travis Jay was the starting punt returner, producing a 16-yard return in the first quarter.
The announced attendance was 17,538. FSU officials had expected between 19,000-20,000, roughly 25 percent of the capacity at Doak Campbell Stadium.
If you hear news of meetings among ACC athletics directors on Saturday morning, it’s part of the new normal. AD David Coburn said it’s a quick check-in meeting and will happen weekly throughout the season.
FSU had six coaches on the field and four in the press box. Those in the box: Kenny Dillingham, Chris Thomsen, Chris Marve and Marcus Woodson.
Among the scouts here for FSU-Georgia Tech were four from the NFL: Bengals, Packers, Jets and Panthers. Danny McManus, who is with Winnipeg, was also in the press box scouting.
Webb, Warren Thompson, Camren McDonald and Renardo Green made their first career starts.
A handful of notable players who did not participate but were on the sideline: Meiko Dotson, Thomas Shrader, Darion Williamson, Sidney Williams and Jarrett Jackson. Kicker Ryan Fitzgerald was not observed.