TALLAHASSEE — In the days leading up to Saturday’s make-or-break game for Florida State’s bowl chances, former Seminoles quarterback Danny Kanell delivered a message to his former team.
Sometimes all you need is somebody to step up and make a play that can change some things around.
“Sure enough in that game…” Seminoles coach Willie Taggart said Saturday night, “Tamorrion Terry and Deondre (Francois) make the play for us at a perfect time for us.”
That play —a 74-yard pass from Francois to Terry with 1:49 left — was the game winner in the Seminoles’ 22-21 comeback win over No. 22 Boston College.
We don’t know yet whether it will turn around the long-term trajectory of a program that still seems a long way from returning to its championship glory. We don’t even know whether it’ll be enough to help FSU (5-6, 3-5 ACC) extend its NCAA-record bowl streak to 37 years; FSU must beat rival Florida next week to accomplish that.
But the days have been dark in Taggart’s first season, as evidenced by the smallest Doak Campbell Stadium crowd (57,274) in 30 years. Snapping a three-game losing skid and beating a ranked opponent for the first time since the Orange Bowl triumph over Michigan after the 2016 season showed that these Seminoles still have some fight in them.
They had to, after how they started Saturday against the Eagles (7-4, 4-3). Before the ESPN2 feed could even switch over from Harvard-Yale, FSU already had one blunder (a Ricky Aguayo blocked field goal). Francois threw a pair of first-half interceptions. The Seminoles committed at least four false-start penalties.
When Boston College running back AJ Dillon rushed in for a 6-yard touchdown with 13:45 left, FSU trailed 21-13. And considering how rough the offense had looked in the first three quarters and the previous 10 games, a win seemed unlikely.
The bowl streak looked over.
“A lot of teams would have given up,” Taggart said, “and our guys didn’t.”
Running back Cam Akers ripped off a 55-yard rush on FSU’s next play to set up a field goal that cut the deficit to 21-16. The Seminoles’ next drive stalled, but they got one more chance when the Eagles chose to punt on fourth-and-1 at the FSU 40 instead of going for it for the seventh time.
“I smelled blood, really,” Francois said after the fifth fourth-quarter game-winning touchdown drive of his career.
Francois and his teammates shrugged off their previous 57:15 of struggles and focused on the 87 yards ahead of them. They only needed three plays to cover them.
After an Akers rush and a Francois draw, FSU lined Terry up wide to the right in what looked like one-on-one coverage.
“We’ll take that any time,” Taggart said.
Before the drive, Terry thought back to what Taggart has been saying all year — that somebody has to go make a play. When the 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman noticed a safety wasn’t back deep, Terry knew it was his time to come through.
“Once I saw that safety go down, I was already saying in my head it was a touchdown,” Terry said. “Touchdown. I already knew what was coming.”
Just to make sure, he looked over at Francois, who saw the single coverage, too. Terry streaked down the field on a post and got a yard or two on his defender. Francois’ pass hit him in stride, and Terry high-stepped over the trailing defensive back.
The only thing left to do was to extend his arms wide as he crossed the goal-line to celebrate his eighth touchdown of the season and the Seminoles’ biggest of the year.
“By no means were we perfect,” Taggart said, “but we found a way to win the ballgame —a much-needed ballgame.”
And a way to keep their bowl streak alive, at least for one more week.
Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.