Seminole Football: Season in the Rear View
What if I promised you in July that we would have a 3-game losing streak and still finish the season in contention to win 10 games, would you have taken it? Of course, you would in a season where many believed this team had a floor of 6 wins and a ceiling of 8. At the midpoint of the 2022 college football season, FSU was sitting at a mediocre 4-3 record and the Seminoles fan base was beginning to waver on the idea that Mike Norvell could return this program to glory. National championships were not considered to be in the realm of possibility and Heisman Trophy ceremony invites seem nowhere in sight. For a season that started off with a bang with a win over a legit SEC West Champion LSU, it suddenly opened a map from promising to a very mediocre opportunity during the worst beginning decade in the program’s history.
Fast forward 5 games later and Florida State is rocking one of the nation’s most prolific offenses while also fielding one of the nation’s premier defenses. Currently, FSU is riding a 4-game win streak and finished 2-0 in the state among the Big 3. Entering the half down 24-21 FSU showed the resolve we have heard about for 2.5 years, the resolve we all wanted to believe, and formally birthed a walk into a new era in Tallahassee. The Second half of this final game gave us the transcript of our full season. Started the half with 3 straight scoring drives, 2 Touchdowns, and Field Goal going up 38-24. FSU hit their midpoint with a little hiccup and the Gators responded with 2 Touchdowns of their own to tie the game up.
With under 8 minutes left in the game, we proved our 4-game winning streak, our win over The SEC West Champion was real. FSU had a drive that simulated how it dominated the season by running the ball. 6 rushes and 1 pass FSU worked its way down the field for the game-winner by Trey Benson from 17 yards away, helping cement the 7th straight game Florida State has rushed for over 200 yards. There is no better way to say it than how Coach Norvell said it, “To be able to finish tonight 2-0 in the state, which is big. These two games are important, and it is critical for us to play well and win these games.”
Now we stand at 9-3 with wins over our rivals, one in exhilarating fashion with a last-second stop by your defense and the other in complete domination not allowing a touchdown. These Seminoles have a chance to hit 10 wins, after hitting rock bottom two years ago. These Seminoles have a real shot of being a potential top-12 team in the country next season. These Noles appear to have the offense envisioned under Atkins/Norvell while coordinator Adam Fuller’s defense has been playing lights out.
Here is a look at how we got here to 9-3 with a #13 ranking in the College Football Playoff. If this was 2024 The Noles would have an argument to get into the playoff and would have been playing in the ACC Championship. Yet we are here in 2022 knowing we have an opportunity in 2023 to reach glory.
Offensive MVP: Jordan Travis QB
Travis’ transformation and maturation have shown the world what Coach Norvell has been echoing all offseason when speaking of his progression. He has done it with his arms and his legs. His ability to stretch the field with his arm has resulted in spectacular plays, like the 20-yard Slant to Johnny Wilson on a huge 3rd & 6 that led to the victory against the Gators. His improvement and ability to attack downfield has opened the run game immensely helping us not to always rely on his legs to move the chains.
There were only 4 games this year where Jordan finished with less than 20 pass attempts and ironically all 4 of those ended as wins with 1 game of him leaving with injury requiring backup Tate Rodemaker to beat Louisville. Jordan finished the season with 63% completion, 2796 passing yards with 22 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions adding another 7 rushing touchdowns. Many believe Jordan should easily be invited to the Heisman ceremony this season but with his return for 2023 there will be a push for Jordan to win and become the 4th QB in history with a Heisman and a National
Defensive MVP: All-11
Giving this award to one person would be a slap in the face to the way the defense has played throughout the season. This unit is the definition of “team” defense, with players contributing from everywhere. If you had to pick one standout segment of the defense, it would be the defensive line. When you combine what Jared Verse brought to this team in energy, effort, and results. Verse racked up 14.5 TFL along with 7.5 sacks leading the team while playing the season mostly hobbled with a lower-body injury.
When you add that the roughest stretch of the season happened when we lost our interior leader Fabien Lovett further proves their importance. Then you think about the potential of Pat Payton being the next great Nole edge rusher it is not hard to turn over the MVP to the Defensive Line. Yet with that, you are deeply discounting the importance of the back 7. You could easily award Jammie as the Defensive MVP, he never misses a game, and he leaves his impact on the field in all facets. He can play middle-field safety, slot corner, or Linebacker. He can blitz from anywhere and run down any player, he will forever be in Seminole lore for his stop in the RedZone and tossing away The Miami QB in the most dismissive manner possible. Which helped FSU maintain a win over a rival without allowing a touchdown. Add in all that he does all over the field he still is the team leader in total tackles from the Safety position.
Then the least talked about unit but potentially the most improved and solid unit we have is our Linebacker core. Bethune, Deloach, Lundy rotating, splitting time as we deployed just 2 LB’s for the majority of the snaps combined for 176 tackles, 19 TFL, and 7 sacks. We cannot discount the times we had to use our LB as spies across the field with athletic QBs and spread offenses with RPO. If that does not impress you enough the #1 player on our defense in passes defended is LB Kalen Deloach who leads the team with 7 passes deflected. So, as you can see, I cannot name 1 guy and for a good defense there generally is not one guy, it takes all eleven and this is what contributed to Florida State having a defense finish in the top 15.
Best Moment of the Season: Tate the Great
Fresh off an extra point block to win a game over LSU and getting 10 days to prepare for a gritty Louisville team that has caused us fits for years. Many in their heart believed we may have lost the game with star QB Travis leaving the game with a lower-body injury. However, the team rallied around backup Tate as he led us to victory with some great throws to Johnny Wilson. It was Wilson’s best game of the season finishing with 7 receptions 149 yards and 2 touchdowns. We also got to see the rushing attack grab the bull by the horns as they picked up for a team that lost their starting QB and to the tune of 126 yards from Tre Ward chased with 70 from Trey B. The team pulled together to win a game we had been trailing and watching Tate throw 2 touchdowns in the 4th Quarter to get FSU the victory with the defense getting the stop, in the end, showed once again, this team was here to stay.
Best Newcomer: Trey Benson
It would be too easy to give this award to several players. For starters, it could be Jared Verse with all he has done to change this defense. It would be easy to give to Johnny Wilson who led this team in receiving and touchdown receptions or his counterpart Mycah Pittman who was 3rd on the team in receiving and potentially the best blocker we have on the team. His contribution to the run game, screen game, and special teams cannot be overlooked. With all that said the newcomer who has had the most impact in my mind has to be Benson. The Oregon transfer has defined grit and determination in the backfield and though he has not gotten the same level of praise as Jordan Travis, it was his running and game-breaking ability that gave this offense the boost it needed down the stretch. With an NFL body and elite Speed, Trey Benson became the man amongst boys down the wire.
After the 3-game skid and losing Tre Ward to injury we looked around to see who the next man would be to step up to help this team and in the last 5 games Benson rushed for 593 yards, 6 TDs, and averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Benson set the tone in the big rivalry game versus the Hurricanes where they would rather give him daps and props for running than tackle him ,not to mention in the finale the game-winning TD against the Gators.