Photo courtesy of Florida State athletics

Not many could have predicted how Sunday night’s game could’ve shook out.

The late-night contest between Florida State and No. 9 Notre Dame at Doak Campbell Stadium was a back-and-forth slug fest, with momentum swings fairly even. FSU rallied from 18 points to force overtime, but a field goal in the extra session was the difference as the Fighting Irish prevailed, 41-38.

Florida State nearly pulled off the impossible upset, but still hung with a top-10 team for more than four quarters.

This team is going to be a lot of fun to watch this year — a welcomed change from the recent past.

Setting In

The Seminoles started off as cold as could be. Notre Dame elected to receive and made the most of its first possession with a touchdown. Fighting Irish tight end Michael Mayer exploited a blown assignment on 4th-and-1 with a 41-yard touchdown reception.

The Seminoles answered by taking their first three plays for negative-10 yards and a punt. Seminole fans were approaching the ledge and all was doom and gloom.

Then the defense showed up. The first-game jitters started to ease and the Seminoles held. After trading punts, Jashaun Corbin tied the game with an 89-yard touchdown run.

Florida State’s defensive line transfers gave the young Notre Dame line hell for the entirety of the first half. The defense as a whole looked much improved, playing with physicality and flying to the ball.

The ‘Noles entered the half down by just three points, 17-14, and the upset was still very much a possibility.

Never Give Up

The Seminoles scored on the first drive of the second half with a dime pass from Jordan Travis to Ja’Khi Douglas. However, the next two drives ended in bad interceptions thrown by Travis.

With the offensive struggles and short field position, the Seminole defense started to wear down. Notre Dame scored on its next two drives with ease to take a commanding 38-20 lead.

The Seminoles didn’t stop fighting, however.

When it seemed like the game was under wraps, they ran the ball down the field and scored. The defense made the stop on the very next drive.

Then, the unlikely happened. Travis lost his helmet and was forced to sit for a play. He did not return.

In walked McKenzie Milton. Milton showed great poise in his first action in three years, making swift reads and accurate passes. He led the Seminoles for the rest of the game as they tied the Irish and held on to head to overtime.

The absolute nail-biter of a game ended shortly after Mike Norvell accidentally iced his own kicker by challenging a fumble. Kicker Ryan Fitzgerald nailed the 50-yard field goal but missed the 37-yarder immediately after Norvell won the challenge.

Florida State fans can be upset at this loss, but this was a turning point for the football program. FSU fought with a top-10 team after a 3-win season in 2020 and almost won. The future is bright for the ‘Noles.

PROS/CONS

PROS

  • Defense, defense, defense. This is the most physical defense we’ve seen FSU put out on the field in over four years.
  • Fight. The Seminoles did not seem to crack under adversity, continuing the fight until the last whistle.
  • Rushing. The Florida State running backs ran with purpose, averaging nearly seven yards per carry.

CONS

  • Passing. The offensive line could not block the Irish defensive front and Travis was running for his life. Milton had more success but was still heavily pressured.
  • Staying behind schedule. The ‘Noles were extremely inconsistent on first down, leading to 3rd-and-long situations.
  • Turnovers. FSU forced just one turnover to Notre Dame’s three. The lone turnover forced by the Seminoles came on a Hail Mary at the end of regulation.