Saturday’s game between Florida State and Louisville was a bottom-line moment for both teams. The bad losses and poor performances from these teams in the first four weeks of the season were not going to lead to a Mona Lisa oil painting of excellence on Saturday. No one expected that. However, victory was essential for either team in its attempt to merely make a bowl game.
Just two years ago, Florida State and Louisville met for high stakes. The two teams were in contention for an Orange Bowl bid, which swung to FSU at the very end of the regular season. This was a distinctly different game played for survival and the right to save face.
Winning was the only priority.
Late in the fourth quarter, Florida State’s offense had finally become the well-oiled machine its fans had every right to expect it would be before the season began. The Seminoles had not become a juggernaut, but they had become an offense which, while spotty due to its offensive line, could occasionally hit big plays and strike fear into opposing defenses. That’s what the Noles always had the ability to become on offense in 2018. They had arrived at that modest but reasonable standard.
They just needed another chance… but it didn’t seem likely that they were going to get it.
Down 24-21, Florida State watched Louisville march down the field, continuing to make big pass plays against a Seminole secondary which was constantly out of position. Louisville used the pass to get to gain considerable leverage, but with 1:56 and facing first and 10 deep in FSU territory, the Cardinals had to run the ball. Everyone in the stadium knew Louisville needed to run…
.. except the two people who mattered most: quarterback Jawon Pass and head coach Bobby Petrino.
Florida State had only two timeouts, meaning that with two running plays, Louisville could have exhausted FSU’s supply of timeouts. If the Cardinals needed to convert a third down, then they could have passed. On first and 10, however, they needed to see if they could run for four or more yards and squeeze the FSU defense.
Pass threw a first-down toss which was intercepted.
Deondre Francois had his extra chance. Nyqwan Murray knew he also had a chance to transform the way this day — and this season — would be remembered
They found the piece of magic they were looking for.
Francois, who dropped dimes throughout the second half, hit Murray on a short-intermediate pass in the middle third of the field. He fought off the first would-be tackler, found the running lane he needed, turned on the jets downfield, then darted to his right and wound his way into the end zone. A dazzling 58 yard play which married strength, field sense, and skill sent the Florida State sideline into a state of euphoria.
After surviving Samford and turning in a workmanlike but unremarkable effort in a win over Northern Illinois, this was the surge of adrenaline and ecstasy FSU’s season had been lacking.
The team struggled throughout the game, but Francois finally returned to being the kind of quarterback he had been before injuries got in the way:
Deondre Francois' final line for the second half: 11/15, 218 passing yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers
— Curt Weiler (@CurtMWeiler) September 29, 2018
The reemergence of Francois is the engine Florida State hopes will power this team through tough upcoming games. No one can know for sure how much this win will mean in time, but plenty of in-season turnarounds have been launched by this kind of victory, the deathbed revival which once seemed utterly lost, but — thanks to Louisville and Deondre Francois and Nyqwan Murray — was blessedly found on a late September afternoon.
Florida State still has a lot of work to do in order to merely get back to a bowl game, but the odds now look a lot better than they did before Bobby Petrino’s pass play with 1:56 left in the fourth quarter. The Noles are still not a good team, but now they have a better chance of becoming one.
Inspiration mixed with elation can be tonics for the football soul.
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