Seminoles rally for clutch win
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
FSU closed strong, with Francois hitting Murray for the game-winning touchdown.
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.
Deondre Francois, an Orlando Olympia High product, threw for 294 yards and a career-best four touchdowns.