Florida State's turnaround rooted in 2021 win over Syracuse

Thu, Oct 12, 2023
NCAAF News (AP)

Florida State's turnaround rooted in 2021 win over Syracuse

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida State was on the ropes, 0-4 to start the 2021 season, before playing host to Syracuse in a game that is directly linked to the Seminoles' turnaround.

Jordan Travis had runs of 33 and 25 yards on the final drive to set up Ryan Fitzgerald's game-winning 34-yard field-goal as time expired in a 33-30 win. Since that kick two years ago, the Seminoles have gone 20-6. They're now No. 4 in the nation going into Saturday's game against the Orange.

"It was necessary," Florida State coach Mike Norvell said, reflecting on the impact of that win on Wednesday. "It was good to see our guys in a close game, tough moment, have to go win. All three phases were necessary in that game to go be able to that. It built some confidence in the work that we had put in."

Travis produced one of his best games to that point, rushing for 113 yards and passing for 131 yards. But it was a well-rounded win, too.

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The Seminoles' defense held the Orange to 2 of 12 on third-down conversions and stopped a trio of fourth-down conversion attempts. Florida State's line got a good push forward on one such stop, a fourth-and-goal run by Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader, with linebacker Kalen DeLoach among those in to make the stop and prevent a Syracuse touchdown.

"That was a big game," DeLoach said.

They're all big games now as Florida State (5-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) seeks to remain in the mix for the league title and perhaps a spot in the College Football Playoff at the season's midpoint. And as Syracuse (4-2, 0-2) makes its first trip to Tallahassee since the 2021 game, it's remarkable how far the Seminoles have improved.

"It's just motivation to keep going," running back Lawrance Toafili said. "Push the team to be even better than what we're doing now. We started at the bottom and we just keep on going."

While there have been struggles in the run game, Florida State is sixth in the FBS in scoring offense (42.4 points). Travis has completed 63 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns, and he's gone 132 passes without throwing an interception. Keon Coleman is tied for the ACC lead with six touchdown receptions.

The defense has also been susceptible, bending often and allowing 238 passing yards per game (83rd in the FBS). But the Seminoles have allowed just a touchdown in the second halves of their last two wins - at Clemson and against Virginia Tech, which had just a special-teams touchdown in the third quarter. Florida State also is tightening up in the red zone and allowing 21.4 points per game (44th in the FBS).

"It's a fantastic football team on tape," Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. "It's most likely the best team that we've seen so far this year, although the one we just played (North Carolina) was pretty good."

Here are five storylines as Florida State plays host to Syracuse on Saturday:

STREAKING

Florida State has scored 30 or more points in 11 straight games, all of them wins, in a streak that dates to a win over Georgia Tech on Oct. 29, 2022. The Seminoles' streak is the second-longest in ACC history, behind only Florida State's 17-game run of 30 or more points from 2012-14.

OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES

Syracuse had just 286 yards in a 31-14 loss to Clemson, and the Orange followed that up last week with 221 yards in the 40-7 defeat at North Carolina. The passing game has struggled with star tight end Oronde Gadsden Jr. (foot) out for the season along with depleted depth at other positions.

"We just got to play a lot cleaner slate on the offensive side of the ball," Babers said. "I think there's enough mistakes for everybody to claim some."

RED MEANS GO

Florida State's offense has scored on all 20 red-zone trips, including 16 touchdowns. That 80 percent touchdown percentage is sixth in the FBS.

ONE-SIDED SERIES

Florida State has a 13-2 lead in the series with Syracuse, including a 7-0 mark in Tallahassee. Syracuse's last win came in 2018.

30-YEAR REUNION

Florida State will be honoring its 1993 national championship team as part of a reunion weekend. Players and assistant coaches will also be honored as part of an on-field ceremony on Saturday.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll

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