Semi­noles rally for clutch win

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Steve Bit­ten­ben­der Or­lando Sen­tinel Cor­re­spon­dent

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There was noth­ing but blue skies over Car­di­nal Sta­dium Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon, but for most of the day, it looked like the same old clouds were hang­ing over Wil­lie Tag­gart and his Flor­ida State foot­ball team.

The Car­di­nals led by 14 points mid­way through the third quar­ter and still led by 10 at the end of the pe­riod. For most of the fourth quar­ter, it looked like the Semi­noles would start 0-3 in At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence play for just the se­cond time in pro­gram his­tory.

But then, FSU caught a break it sought all sea­son, cul­mi­nat­ing in a sur­real 28-24 vic­tory over Louisville in a game both teams were des­per­ate to win for the same rea­sons. Nyqwan Mur­ray’s 58-yard touch­down re­cep­tion from Deon­dre Fran­cois with 1:13 left al­lowed the Semi­noles (3-2, 1-2) to es­cape with a much-needed win.

Mur­ray, a for­mer Or­lando Oak Ridge stand­out, ran the 53 yards for the de­ci­sive score, break­ing one tackle shortly af­ter the catch and then avoid­ing an­other de­fender

be­fore he found day­light. It was setup by A.J. West­brook’s in­ter­cep­tion at the Semi­noles 19 with 1:56 re­main­ing.

“We needed this win to con­tinue the progress that we’re try­ing to do with our foot­ball pro­gram,” said Tag­gart, whose play­ers have strug­gled early in his first sea­son lead­ing the Semi­noles. “This was huge for our team.”

Fran­cois, a for­mer Or­lando Olympia High stand­out, was 16-of-27 pass­ing for

294 yards and a ca­reer-best four touch­downs. Mur­ray hauled in six re­cep­tions for

114 yards and two scores. Louisville (2-3, 0-2) was in con­trol for most of the game, even though the Semi­noles did their best to keep the Car­di­nals out of the end zone and pre­vent them from blow­ing the game wide open.

Af­ter Louisville built a 14-7 lead on the first play of the se­cond quar­ter, the Semi­noles’ de­fense clamped down for most of the quar­ter. Even af­ter the spe­cial teams unit al­lowed Louisville to re­cover a fum­ble on a punt, de­fen­sive ned Brian Burns negated the costly play by forc­ing a fum­ble of his own. And while the of­fense wasn’t mov­ing the ball ef­fec­tively, it ap­peared the Semi­noles would go into half­time only down a touch­down and get the ball to start the se­cond half.

How­ever, Louisville fin­ished the first half with an

11-play, 70-yard drive that padded its lead. Louisville,

which en­tered the game con­vert­ing on an ACC­worst 29.2 per­cent of third downs, cashed in on three third-down plays, one of which was a de­fen­sive pass in­ter­fer­ence call on Asante Sa­muel Jr. on a third-and-14 at the Semi­noles’ 22. Two plays later, Pass hit Dez Fitz­patrick on a 3-yard pass that made it 21-7 with 10 sec­onds left in the half.

Fran­cois helped lead the come­back in the se­cond half, throw­ing for all three scores. The first came on a

55-yarder to Tamor­rion Terry with 2:39 left in the third quar­ter. Tag­gart said he had seen Terry, a

6-foot-4 red­shirt fresh­man,

beat­ing his de­fender all day, but they weren’t able to get the play in on pre­vi­ous drives. Af­ter a Louisville punt, Tag­gart told Fran­cois they were run­ning that play and the Semi­noles cashed in on the first play of the drive.

Af­ter a field goal late in the third quar­ter ex­tended the Car­di­nals’ lead to 24-14, FSU re­sponded with an

11-play, 65-yard drive that cul­mi­nated in a Fran­cois

25-yard scor­ing pass to Tre’ McKitty that cut the Louisville lead to 24-21 with

9:55 left.

FSU closed strong, with Fran­cois hit­ting Mur­ray for the game-win­ning touch­down.

JOE ROB­BINS/GETTY

FSU re­ceiver Nyqwan Mur­ray runs for a 58-yard touch­down in the fourth quar­ter, help­ing seal the Semi­noles’ come-from-be­hind 28-24 win over Louisville.

TIM­O­THY D. EASLEY/AP

Deon­dre Fran­cois, an Or­lando Olympia High prod­uct, threw for 294 yards and a ca­reer-best four touch­downs.

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