Before trotting into the locker room tunnel, LSU coach Brian Kelly underscored the need for improvement on fourth down tries after watching a pair of golden opportunities dissipate deep in FSU territory.
It was a salient and echoing message, ultimately heard clearest by FSU boss Mike Norvell from the opposing sideline — racked with a 4th-and-2 decision near midfield, Norvell opted to roll the dice with the game deadlocked at 17 in the third quarter.
Norvell’s faith in star quarterback Jordan Travis paid off ten-fold, with Travis finding a crossing Lawrance Toafili beneath a convoy of blockers and sparking a game-changing run for the Seminoles.
Toafili was desperately flung down a few feet from the goal line before Travis found the endzone next snap with on a read option, beginning a 21-0 over the next ten minutes of game time and transforming a nip-and-tuck affair into utter carnage.
Florida State would ultimately win 45-24, an emphatic first step toward the college football playoff and its first win over a ranked opponent in nearly three years.
“I told them before today they were built for a stage like this,” Norvell said. “That second half was a glimpse of what I think this team can do, I don’t think we played our best game.”
The Seminoles actually looked poised to suffer an early setback, with Heisman candidate Jayden Daniels gliding down the field off of the opening kickoff. The Tigers found themselves at the two-yard line with a fresh set of downs, but could get no further against a suddenly stiffened FSU front.
A desperate Daniels was finally dragged down 15 yards back on fourth-and-goal, giving Travis enough room to spark a quick fire touchdown drive. Overcoming a disconcerting 1st and 25 along with early pressure from LSU rushers, Travis capped off the drive by finding Keon Coleman on a slant and letting his wideout speed past the LSU secondary — Coleman shone brightest in a star-studded FSU receiving room, tallying three touchdowns and 122 yards.
LSU responded promptly with a 75-yard drive, half of which came courtesy of an impressive Kyren Lacy tightroping act, which led into a sloppy second quarter headlined by interceptions, muffed punts and FSU penalties. The Tigers entered into the locker room up 17-14 thanks to a last-second field goal from Damian Ramos.
Travis, who ultimately finished 23/31 through the air for nearly 350 yards, found himself with much more time in the pocket in the second half. The Seminoles would manage to score on every drive out of the locker room, beginning with a field goal to level the game at 17 six minutes into the stanza.
An LSU punt set up Florida State’s crucial fourth down conversion, giving the ‘Noles their first lead since the first quarter. Their second-half dominance amounted to a 28-0 advantage late in the fourth quarter before Daniels managed a consolation touchdown to close the game.
“I’m glad everyone got to see a glimpse of this team,” Norvell said. “Now we’ve got to work to get better.”
Both Florida State and LSU will return to action in Week 2, with LSU battling in-state rivals Grambling State while FSU matches up with Southern Mississippi.