What a gutsy performance from Florida State.
It wasn’t all pretty and there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but the Seminoles found a way and kept their postseason hopes alive for at least one more game.
FSU trailed for most of the game, but rallied with just 1:49 left in the game to beat No. 22 Boston College 22-21 in the friendly confines of Doak Campbell Stadium.
It was FSU’s first win over a ranked team this season and the first win over a ranked opponent in the Willie Taggart era.
“Hopefully it was that defining moment that we all knew had to happen,” Taggart said.
“You’ve probably heard me say a lot that we’re close and it’s good that our guys kept believing and found a way… To beat a ranked opponent was big for us, especially for a team that was struggling.
“We were on a three-game (losing) streak. A lot of teams would have given up and our team didn’t. They found a way and that says a lot about them… We needed it tonight in the worst way.”
The Seminoles were dead in the water a week ago.
FSU had lost the last three games by a combined 97 points and were coming off a demoralizing 42-13 loss to Notre Dame.
Somehow, the FSU players managed to put those losses behind them and lock back in on what they needed to accomplish this season.
“It’s all about pride,” FSU linebacker Dontavious Jackson said.
“We have a lot of guys on this team that have a lot of pride and are good players. We know we’re better than what we’ve put on the field the last three weeks and we wanted to show it. We got fed up. Fed up with losing.”
The Seminoles trailed BC 21-13 in the fourth quarter and trailed 21-16 with just 2:45 left with the ball on their own 13.
FSU responded with a 74-yard touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to Tamorrion Terry that ended up being the game winner.
“Danny Kanell came and talked to our team this week, and he spoke about some times all you need is somebody to step up and make a play and that can change some things around,” Taggart said.
“And sure enough in that game, we’re struggling, struggling, struggling, and then Tamorrion Terry and Deondre make the play for us at a perfect time for us, and that was big for us.”
FSU’s offense didn’t have the most consistent game but made the plays when it needed to.
The FSU defense picked them up by playing its best game of the season a week after playing one of its worst.
The Seminoles gave up 365 rushing yards to ND, but held the Eagles’ potent rushing attack to just 2.6 yards per carry.
All-ACC running back A.J. Dillon had just 3.2 yards per carry on 37 rushes with a long of just 16 yards.
Coming into the game no one would have predicted that FSU’s lamented rushing game and Cam Akers would be far more effective, but that’s exactly what happened.
“That was the first time I saw a defense fly around to the ball,” Taggart said.
“It wasn’t just one guy, it was two, three, four guys flying to the ball. To me, that’s Florida State football. You just run and see multiple guys hit. I haven’t seen our guys play like that.”
The FSU defense set the tone early by being more physical than the Boston College offense. The same BC offense that physically dominated the Seminoles just over a year ago in a 35-3 loss.
The Seminoles folded last year in that game and the players remembered that feeling.
It wasn’t going to happen again.
“We took that very personal,” FSU defensive back Stanford Samuels III said.
“I don’t think anybody understands how personal we took that. For you to come in and think you’re going to punk us, just run the ball all over us and do this and do that, nobody here is built like that, nobody here comes from that. We’re not scared of anybody, we’re not running away from anybody, shying away from anybody. If somebody wants us, they can come find us and they can come get us.
“That’s what they did today. They thought they were going to run the ball on us, thought they were going to come in and just out-physical us and that wasn’t the case.”
Every time BC would throw a punch, FSU would counter and throw one right back.
The players and coaches didn’t give up. They handled the adversity and fought with everything they had.
And it resulted in a win that could change the outlook of the program.
“Pretty much this whole season has been about handling adversity,” Samuels III said.
“You’re going to face adversity no matter what you do life, no matter what you’re going through. It just so happened that we ran into adversity early in the game, but we knew, we stuck it out, kept playing Nole defense, kept playing Nole ball, we’ll eventually get it rolling and things will get going. Our team is one of those type of teams that just needs one play, one spark. Once it sparks, it’s on.”
FSU found that spark a few times over with big plays from Akers, Francois, Terry, Jackson, Samuels, Brian Burns.
The Seminoles have struggled when adversity hits all season long. Whenever something goes wrong it seemed like FSU would crumble.
But not Saturday.
Not when FSU needed a win to keep its 36-year consecutive bowl game streak and its 41-year consecutive winning seasons streak alive.
FSU found a way to find a way and may have found something about themselves in the process.
“We’ve got a prideful university, and we pride ourselves on winning,” Taggart said.
“It’s a resilient group of guys. A lot of guys were here last year, and they had the same thing. When their backs were against the wall, they found a way to win the ballgame. It was good to see that out of our guys.”
Florida State vs. No. 16 Florida
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium
TV/Radio: ABC/103.1 FM