By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Rashad Greene meant what he said to be taken as tongue-in-cheek.
At least it seemed that way.
“I’m convinced,” Greene said. “I think we should just go ahead and give our opponents 21 points for us to come out and play fast, the way we want to play.”
It’s not conventional and probably not a great long-term plan, but it’s hard to argue with the results after Florida State’s 42-31 win here at Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinals Stadium.
For the second time in as many games, the second-ranked FSU (8-0, 5-0 ACC) rallied for a dramatic, late victory.
And for the third time this season, the Seminoles used a fourth-quarter comeback to make it happen.
Freshman running back Dalvin Cook scored two touchdowns and accounted for 150 total yards, helping the Seminoles erase a 21-point deficit and race past the Cardinals for their 24th consecutive victory.
The Seminoles in the process hung 574 yards on Louisville’s top-ranked defense, which came into the contest allowing only 244 yards per game.
The Seminoles return home to face Virginia on Nov. 8.
“We keep finding a way, man,” Greene said. “That’s character. That’s guts.”
He was dead serious about that.
After a series of close calls and a narrow escape against Notre Dame, college football pundits across the country had declared that FSU was ripe for an upset. And the Seminoles in the first half seemed intent on proving them right.
Louisville (6-3, 4-3) struck for a 71-yard reception on the game’s first play, and while FSU’s defense held firm on a goal-line stand, it didn’t stop the Cardinals’ offense from taking what it wanted in the game’s first two quarters.
Louisville’s star duo of running back Michael Dyer and senior DeVante Parker accounted for more than 200 yards by halftime, and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, meanwhile, threw two first-half interceptions.
But even in the face of more dire circumstances – FSU hadn’t trailed by 21 since 2010 – the Seminoles didn’t waiver.
“We’ve been there before,” Winston said. “Being down is nothing when you have heart and you persevere.”
And so they did. The same way they did after falling behind 24-7 at North Carolina State. And same as they did when they rallied past Clemson in overtime last month. And same as they did when they held on to beat Notre Dame in Tallahassee on Oct. 18.
This time it was Winston who made that play that might have swung the game. And it wasn’t one of his three touchdown passes.
Winston threw his third interception of the night on FSU’s first drive of the second half. Rather than duck toward the sideline, he ran over to Cardinals defensive back Gerod Holliman and punched the ball loose.
Travis Rudolph recovered to save the possession. The Seminoles didn’t get points on that drive, and eventually fell down 24-14. But Fisher said the resolve shown on that play represented the entire game. And maybe the entire season.
“It shows the heart of our players,” he said. “That play may exemplify as much as any. Down 21-7, you throw a pick. Well, do you feel sorry for it? No. … To me, that play may signify who we are as much as anything we did in that ball game.”
Added Winston, “I had to do something. I threw three interceptions. I never threw three picks in my whole life. I had to make some type of play.
“When I’m throwing picks I have to try and get me some turnovers myself.”
From there, Winston was simply spectacular. After a 10-of-22 first half, he bounced back to throw for 401 yards and three touchdowns.
He threw two of them to freshmen, too. His 68-yarder to Travis Rudolph cut FSU’s deficit to 10.
And his 47-yarder to Ermon Lane, through the tightest of windows, gave the Seminoles their first lead.
“Ermon, what great concentration on that ball,” Winston said. “I wasn’t supposed to throw that ball, it was just a blessing from above. But he caught it and found his way in the end zone to put us up.”
But they didn’t stay there long. Dyer’s third TD of the night put the Cardinals back on top with 9:20 to play.
Not until Cook’s second score – a 38-yard run on FSU’s first play of a late, fourth-quarter drive – did the Seminoles pull ahead for good.
They delivered a knockout blow — with boxing legend Muhammad Ali in attendance, no less — when Winston threw off of playaction to Freddie Stevenson for a 35-yard touchdown that provided the final margin.
The play came on third-and-6, after FSU had called two straight runs to drain some clock.
Rather than play it conservatively, Fisher opted to throw. Had the play not worked, Louisville would’ve had more than two minutes and a timeout with which to drive for the winning touchdown.
“I wanted to win the game,” Fisher said. “I didn’t want to leave it where they could do it.”