Semi­noles avoid disas­ter, earn vic­tory over North­ern Illi­nois

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Colleges - By Kather­ine Wright Or­lando Sen­tinel Cor­re­spon­dent

TAL­LA­HAS­SEE — Florida State brushed off a se­ries of mis­cues, hold­ing on for its first win over a Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion op­po­nent this sea­son.

The Semi­noles (2-2) got a boost from their of­fense dur­ing a 37-19 vic­tory over North­ern Illi­nois (1-3), whose of­fense strug­gled against the re­li­able FSU de­fense.

“A great win for the ’Noles,” head coach Wil­lie Tag­gart said. “It wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily the best game, but it was a good win for our guys. Our foot­ball team got bet­ter to­day, some­thing we needed to do. It was great to get it here at home.”

FSU fi­nally matched up with an of­fense in­ca­pable of sus­tain­ing drives. NIU held the field for 22:33 com­pared to the Semi­noles’

37:27.

The Gulf Coast Of­fense showed signs of life dur­ing the open­ing touch­down drive. Quar­ter­back Deon­dre Fran­cois com­pleted a shovel pass to fresh­man re­ceiver Tre’Shaun Har­ri­son – his first ca­reer touch – for

12 yards. Run­ning back Cam Ak­ers kept up the tempo with a gain of 19 yards.

The drive wasn’t as per­fect as the num­bers sug­gest. A near-in­ter­cep­tion at mid­field and a shaky touch­down pass to run­ning back Jac­ques Pa­trick fore­shad­owed Fran­cois’ in­con­sis­tent play. The pass was in­tended for wide re­ceiver Keith Gavin, but it de­flected into the hands of Pa­trick.

On the Semi­noles’ next scor­ing drive, Fran­cois

fired a smooth 30-yard pass to wide re­ceiver Nyqwan Mur­ray. Ak­ers later walked into the end zone to put FSU up 14-0.

“[The first two drives] gave them a lot of con­fi­dence,” Tag­gart said. “You see the en­thu­si­asm those guys had on mov­ing the ball down there and be­ing able to score on the first cou­ple of drives. It was some­thing that needed to hap­pen so our guys can get con­fi­dent know­ing that they can ac­tu­ally get it done. And for them to go out and ex­e­cute it like they did was im­pres­sive. Now we need them to ex­e­cute like that for four quar­ters.”

The Semi­noles led NIU 17-7 just be­fore half­time when a promis­ing drive

stalled and threat­ened to sap the team’s con­fi­dence. Af­ter a penalty, kicker Ricky Aguayo brushed off two time­outs called by the Huskies to ice him and con­nected on a 50-yard field goal that gave his team a 20-7 half­time lead and con­fi­dence the Semi­noles could hold off the Huskies.

The Semi­noles gave up their eighth, ninth, 10 and 11 turnovers of the sea­son, thwart­ing po­ten­tial scor­ing drives. Fran­cois threw a pick di­rectly to line­backer Cortez Ho­gans and it led to a Huskies touch­down that

made the score 30-19.

NIU fin­ished with nine tack­les for a loss and two sacks, signs the of­fen­sive line is hav­ing dif­fi­culty pro­tect­ing the quar­ter­back and Fran­cois hasn’t mas­tered evad­ing pres­sure.

Nose guard Fred Jones said the de­fense fo­cused more on the de­tails be­cause that’s what wins and loses games.

“I think this is the best game we have played this year but there is way more im­prove­ment,” he said. “Now we just have to keep build­ing on this.”

STEVEN CAN­NON/AP

Florida State’s Cam Ak­ers cuts up­field on a run­ning play against North­ern Illi­nois’ de­fense in the first quar­ter of Satur­day’s game in Tal­la­has­see.

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