Image Credit: FSU Athletics

Mike Norvell has earned his first signature win as Florida State’s head coach.

The Noles beat conference foe North Carolina in prime time to improve to 2-3 on the season (1-3 ACC). The victory over the fifth-ranked Tar Heels is FSU’s first against a top-five opponent since beating fifth-ranked Notre Dame in 2014.

After demolishing North Carolina 31-7 going into the half, FSU had to survive an incredible comeback bid to pull out the win.

A HOT START

The country was shocked at the end of the first half.

The Seminole defense came out of the gate blazing hot. North Carolina’s first six drives ended in four punts, a turnover on downs, and a pick-six. In the meantime, FSU’s offense was consistent. The Noles managed 24 points of offense on its six first-half drives.

Although North Carolina scored a touchdown to end the half, they gave Jordan Travis a minute left. The Noles marched right back and answered with a touchdown to end the half.

FSU went into the locker room up 31-7.

SURVIVING THE COMEBACK

And then the second half started.

Penalties were the theme of the second act. Florida State started its first drive of the half with a huge gain, but it ended with zero points due to a Dontae Lucas personal foul in the red zone and a missed field goal.

Norvell then decided to go conservative with his play calling. FSU’s remaining drives had one goal: milk the clock. Meanwhile, Sam Howell and the Tar Heel offense was red hot. North Carolina scored 21 unanswered points to put themselves in position to pull off the largest comeback in school history.

Unfortunately for Howell, his receivers suffered from the late Tallahassee humidity. A case of the drops led to a turnover on downs with 35 seconds remaining, and the ‘Noles assumed the victory formation.

FSU somehow pulled out the win despite adding no points to their first-half total.

SHOWING GROWTH

The team is finally starting to come together and the results of buy-in to Mike Norvell’s message are showing. When asked about the team’s buy-in, Norvell responded “I know they’re buying in because I see their response.”

After an abysmal season so far defensively, FSU won the game on the back of the defense. Norvell has been high on the players’ abilities, but “needed to see that consistency show up.” Florida State’s defensive line was consistently able to get pressure on Sam Howell, and the defense as a unit played a much more sound game.

This win is a huge step in the right direction for the FSU football program, and a win like this will help tremendously in terms of player buy-in. Norvell stated “When they see the reward of that (winning)…we’re still going to push.” When the players see the rewards they reap from preparing themselves and pushing hard, they will continue to improve and set a higher standard.

PROS/CONS

PROS

  • Sacks. FSU had three sacks all season. They doubled that total in this game.
  • First down efficiency. FSU gained an average of 7.5 yards on first down.
  • Pressure. Howell ran for his life all game.
  • Special teams. FSU played extremely well with field position, and blocked two total punts on the night. They lead the nation in blocked kicks with 5.

CONS

  • The Noles could not stop passes up the middle. Tight ends gashed the middle of the field all night.
  • Failure to control momentum. FSU was up 31-7 and could have iced the game. Instead, they let the Tar Heels seize momentum and surge back.
  • Penalties. FSU was penalized 12 times for 89 yards, some killing key drives.
  • Allowing chunk plays. FSU allowed 558 total yards of offense, 412 of which came on 17 plays of 10 yards or more.