Mike Norvell brought in transfers this offseason who have experience and leadership. Through just one game, they were impactful in a variety of ways.
On the defensive front, Jermaine Johnson (Georgia) and Keir Thomas (South Carolina) led the resurgence as FSU held Notre Dame to just 65 rushing yards — including only six yards after halftime). Johnson had seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, taking ACC defensive lineman of the week honors. Thomas had four tackles and a third-down sack in the fourth quarter.
“We definitely played really well,” Johnson said. “I feel like we set the tone. We pride ourselves that no one is going to run on us. It’s really a mindset. I feel like we went out there and did that. We weren’t perfect by any means, we’ve got to go back to the drawing board, definitely look at what we need to fix. But I think that we did stop the run pretty well excluding a couple plays. I think the defense overall played their butts off and definitely showed our identity throughout the entire game. Still too many points.”
It’s often tough to find optimism in a loss, especially one in which the defense gives up 41 points and 366 passing yards. But No. 9 Notre Dame scored 21 points on a short field and the Seminoles had their best game against the run since Norvell arrived.
While ND quarterback Jack Coan made some throws that were flat-out tough to defend, receivers also made some significant wins in one-on-one balls where FSU corners like Travis Jay were in the right position but just didn’t knock the ball away or make an interception. The pass rush looked dramatically better a year after generating just nine sacks. On Sunday, the Seminoles had nine tackles for loss and four sacks (aside from Johnson and Thomas, Quashon Fuller had a sack and Robert Cooper shared a sack).
“It gives us confidence,” Thomas said. “We’re not far away. It’s just a couple mental errors that caused us to lose that game.”
Among the other transfers who stood out were Jammie Robinson, who had a pair of tackles and a tackle for loss (Robinson was hit with a targeting penalty in his final game at South Carolina, prompting him to sit out the first half of the FSU-Notre Dame game). Linebacker Cortez Andrews, from Maryland, also had two tackles.
On offense, FSU started Dillan Gibbons at guard and turned to quarterback McKenzie Milton, who provided a spark late in the game. Andrew Parchment had a quiet game but did have a touchdown grab on his first FSU catch.
Norvell commented in February that bringing in so many transfers wasn’t ideal but was necessary for a program that was filling in missing pieces and often leaned on freshmen in 2020. One of the big early storylines this offseason, and going into the fall, is how the transfers mesh with the veterans as well as newcomers.
The early results have been positive.
“Guys have come from all different journeys, some have transferred in and some have been here for many years,” Norvell said. “Some guys just stepping on campus. At the end of the day, they’re doing their part in building the relationship.”
FSU’s history vs. FCS
The Seminoles have had some close calls in recent years but are 26-0 all-time against FCS schools. FSU avoided an upset against Samford (36-26 in 2018). Jacksonville State had FSU on the ropes late in 2009, when the Seminoles played Miami on a Monday and were facing the Gamecocks on a short week. Last year, JSU proved tough until FSU’s talent and depth prevailed 41-24.
Norvell played at Central Arkansas so he understands the level of talent at lower levels as well as Group of 5 and Power 5 programs.
“We found ourselves in a very uncomfortable situation because they’ve got good players,” Norvell said.
Jacksonville State will earn $400,000 for Saturday’s appearance in Tallahassee, the same amount as the guarantee for the 2020 game.
FSU’s 264 rushing yards are the most for the Seminoles against a ranked opponent since having 287 vs. No. 10 Clemson in 2012.
Jashaun Corbin’s 89-yard touchdown was the longest run by an FSU or Memphis player in Mike Norvell’s time as a head coach.