Against all odds (and all logic), the Florida State Seminoles (3-2) relied on a late turnover and subsequent touchdown to beat Louisville (2-3) 28-24 in the waning minutes.
The story of the game will come down to Louisville giving it away in the final minutes. Louisville held a 21-7 lead at halftime, a 24-14 lead entering the fourth quarter and had the ball in field goal range with two minutes left. It was the first time since 1979 that Louisville blew a lead of at least ten points entering the fourth quarter. (stat provided by Kelly Dickey).
But an ill-advised pass play inside Florida State territory (AND IN FIELD GOAL RANGE) led to an interception. Then DeAndre Francois found Nyqwan Murray underneath. Murray broke a tackle by Dee Smith and scored a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown to take the lead with under 90 seconds left. Another interception thrown by Puma Pass on the following drive sealed what will probably go down as one of the worst losses in program history.
It was a game full of ironies for Louisville. Last year, Florida State gave the game away to Louisville on a late fumble, sealed with a field goal by Blanton Creque.
This time around, it was different in more ways than that. Despite their previous first half struggles all season, Louisville came out and had plenty of success. Puma led the Cardinals to 21 first half points, all coming on plays that he accounted for. Puma scored on a run in the first quarter, then threw a pair of touchdown passes to Micky Crum and Dez Fitzpatrick.
Not to be left out, Francois threw a touchdown on a bubble screen to Nyqwan Murray, leaving the halftime score at 21-7. But he, and the Seminoles offense, took over and found a way in the second half. Francois connected on three touchdown throws in the second half, first finding Tamorion Terry deep on a 55-yard bomb. Tre’ McKitty followed that up with another touchdown catch, closing Louisville’s lead to 24-21.
Louisville’s offense sputtered throughout the second half and squandered many opportunities to seal the game, or at least stack the odds further against Florida State. They abandoned the run, Puma couldn’t connect on multiple shots down the field, and Louisville only mustered three points in the second half.
Louisville took over with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter, aiming to close out the game. They had some success running the ball, and even connected on a 21-yard pass from Puma to Jaylen Smith to get inside Florida State territory. But a shocking pass play with under two minutes left led to an interception by A.J. Westbrook, setting up Florida State’s game-winning drive
Francois certainly earned MVP honors in the game. In his return game to Cardinal Stadium after the 2016 appearance, the sophomore finished 16-of-27 for 294 yards and four touchdowns. Nyqwan Murray led the Seminoles with six catches for 114 yards and two scores, including the catch-and-run that gave them the lead.
Puma Pass finished 24/45 for 306 yards and two touchdowns, with two late interceptions that sealed the game. Louisville settled on a two-man rotation at running back, leaning on freshman Hassan Hall (11 carries, 57 yards) and Trey Smith (14 carries, 70 yards). Jaylen Smith finished with five catches for 100 yards.
Honestly, this was a game Louisville needed to win, and blew it in the closing minutes. Louisville had chance after chance to blow the game open with receivers being open downfield, but could not connect. Louisville had a drive inside the 25 with under two minutes left and running the ball with more success than they ever had all season, but decided on one pass play and it backfired. Louisville could have made stops on Florida State’s passing attack, but had no answers for the most part in the second half.
Blowing this game is soul-crushing because the schedule does not get any easier. They’ll have Georgia Tech on Friday night, which is always a tough game especially on short notice. Then they’ll take on a (formerly ranked) Boston College team with star running back AJ Dillon, go on the road to face Syracuse and Clemson, and of course face a ranked Kentucky team at the end. NC State and Wake Forest won’t be walks in the park, either. Louisville is staring down the possibility of seeing their eight-season bowl streak snapped, unless they can turn it around dramatically.
Up next as mentioned, Louisville takes on Georgia Tech in the Blackout game on Friday night. Good luck finding a spot on the Sun that is hotter than Bobby Petrino’s seat after this.