From trailing by 22 to winning by 11, Florida State created history Monday night at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Never had a Seminole football team overcome such a large deficit. While it was certainly a huge struggle, an Ole Miss defensive scheme that failed to adjust made it look easy.
If a team was going to win by double digits, Ole Miss appeared to be that team in the first half. The Rebels took the opening kickoff and easily moved down the field. It took just six plays and 1:46 to find the end zone for a 7-0 lead. Early on, the defense was just as dominant. They held Heisman hopeful Dalvin Cook to just ten yards on his first six carries. Meanwhile following a second possession interception from Chad Kelly the Rebel offense scored touchdowns on its next three drives to grab a 28-6 lead.
Then redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois found WR Travis Rudolph for a 16-yard touchdown pass just before halftime. A pattern was starting to emerge. While the Rebel defensive line was applying pressure – Francois had to be helped off the field on the touchdown pass – their secondary was playing soft coverage allowing FSU receivers to consistently be open.
Ole Miss had a ten-play touchdown drive that lasted just 1:45. Another nine-play touchdown drive took only 2:19 off the clock. While the Rebels were building a big lead they were also leaving their defense on the field the majority of the time. The Seminoles finished with a 42:39 time of possession compared to just 17:21 for the Rebels.
Florida State started the second half with a seven-play field goal try, and followed up two Ole Miss turnovers into touchdowns, and before you knew it a 28-6 lead had become a 29-28 deficit. Holding the Noles to field goals was the best the Ole Miss defense could muster the rest of the game. Final score: FSU 45 Ole Miss 34.
“We didn’t stop them much at all in the second half and we were really poor on third downs in the second half, really poor. We could not get off the field in the second half and some of them were third-and-longs. You have to get off the field in those situations.” said Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Womack.
He’s right. FSU was 9-18 on 3rd down including two third and 15 conversions in the second half. And while the players certainly had their fare share of mistakes, not adjusting the defensive philosophy was the biggest mistake. And that’s on Womack.
As for the ‘Noles, while the pregame hype was all about Cook, the accolades post-game belong to Francois. In his first start he completed 33-52 for 419-yards and two touchdowns. He also accounted for 59-yards on the ground.
Instead of being a third Top-5 team to lose on opening weekend, Florida State seems poised for a Playoff run.