Florida State Seminole fans celebrating touchdown – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Ruth Peterkin
Florida State Seminoles football coach Mike Norvell was not ready to just yet declare his program as “back” on Monday, a whole day after a 24-23 upset victory over LSU in New Orleans that came down to the last play of the game.
Instead, Norvell said in a phone call with ESPN that his team would “get back to work.”
“That game, it didn’t need to be as close as it was,” Norvell said. “We made some mistakes that can cost us, so we better learn from the experience that we had last night and go get better. If you want to show you’re back, go win every game and get better every week and with every practice. That’s what you have to do. I’m glad our guys are excited about the steps we’ve taken. But if we don’t continue to take steps, then none of that is going to matter.”
In postgame interviews, several players–including receiver Ontaria Wilson and defensive end Jared Verse–said the win meant FSU was back. It is understandable that they felt that way after a long-haul down-to-the-wire victory. Florida State hadn’t started a season 2-0 since 2016. In 2021, the Seminoles started 0-4, including a memorable season-opening loss against Notre Dame.
There were numerous uncertainties about the program’s future going into this season and Year 3 under Norvell. The team can definitely win close games, even when there is difficulty to overcome, as evidenced by the victory over LSU.
The Seminoles appeared to be in a position to secure the victory after recovering a Malik Nabers fumbled punt with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left at the LSU 8-yard line. Treshaun Ward fumbled after Florida State called a pitch back to him on third-and-goal from the LSU 1. LSU made a comeback with 1:20 left.
“In retrospect, that obviously wasn’t the best call,” Norvell said Monday. “It wasn’t worth the risk-reward.”
With no time remaining, LSU drove 99 yards down the field to score a touchdown. On that defensive series, Norvell admitted that there were “a few slip-ups.” Field goal blockers from Florida State entered the game, and Norvell signaled to his team that all it needed to do was make one play by holding up one finger.
Jared Verse, a defensive end for Florida State, had stopped a field goal earlier in the game.
LSU focused on Verse on the extra point attempt, giving Shyheim Brown the opportunity to have an open path to block the kick. This gave the Seminoles their first victory against a Power 5 nonconference team since beating the University of Florida Gators in 2017. But even if the game had made it past overtime, Norvell said he felt his team would have won regardless.
“Regardless of what would have happened on that last kick, I believed that we were going to be successful in that game, and believed that our guys would rise to the occasion,” Norvell said. “But we had one more play in regulation. And we made the play that was necessary to win.”
Norvell said the post-win celebration was “awesome.” Norvell was lifted into the air by defensive tackle Jarrett Jackson and several other teammates.
“He shook me like a rag doll,” Norvell said with a laugh. “Just to see the joy. We talked all week about that heart, and whatever it takes, let that identity show up.”
This week, Florida State is off before traveling to face Louisville on Friday night to open ACC play. The last thing Norvell wants is for his team to forget what brought them to a point where they could win the kind of game they won Sunday after all the adversity this team has faced over the past five seasons.
“We’ve been talking since the beginning–how are you going to respond to success? — because I absolutely know success is coming, and we’re achieving some of that now,” Norvell said. “But ultimately, we have to improve, and if we don’t do that, the things that we desire, the things we to grow to become, to live out the potential that this team and, and this program has, we’ll miss out on the opportunity.”
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Chris began his writing as a hobby while attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. Today he and his wife live in the Orlando area with their three children and dog.