Game ball: Deondre Francois, DeMarcus Walker and Ricky Aguayo all made excellent cases in Florida State’s 45-34 win over Ole Miss, but it has to be Francois, who passed for an astounding 419 yards and two touchdowns in his collegiate debut. It was startling to see coach Jimbo Fisher trust Francois to make so many difficult throws throughout a game that wasn’t decided until late, but, on virtually every occasion, Francois rewarded Fisher’s trust.
His touchdown pass to Travis Rudolph at the end of the second quarter will be on all the highlight shows, but his 27-yard completion to Rudolph – deep and over the middle – on third-and-15 late in the fourth quarter may have been just as impressive. That play led to a 40-yard field goal by Aguayo that stretched FSU’s lead back to eight points just a few moments after the Rebels threatened with a quick touchdown.
Play of the game: Francois will likely remember his second-quarter TD pass to Rudolph (referenced above) for a few reasons: One, it was the first touchdown pass of his career, and it cut FSU’s deficit to 28-13 at halftime. And two, after standing in the pocket and absorbing a heavy hit from a Rebels defender while making the throw, he’ll probably feel the aftereffects when he wakes up Tuesday morning. Fisher called the play “critical” for FSU’s comeback bid and noted that there’s no better way for a young quarterback to earn the respect of his teammates than by standing tall and delivering a pass while knowing he’s going to take a big hit.
Turning point: Even after the Seminoles scored a quick 10 points to start the third quarter, they still trailed 28-23 and had yet to consistently stifle the Rebels’ offense. But the momentum changed for good on Ole Miss’ second drive of the third quarter, when FSU senior DeMarcus Walker barreled through the Rebels’ line, locked up quarterback Chad Kelly and knocked the ball loose. Derrick Nnadi recovered at the Rebels’ 11-yard line and, three plays later, Kermit Whitfield was in the end zone for FSU’s first lead of the game. The Seminoles never trailed again. It was the first of 4 ½ sacks for Walker and one of four turnovers FSU forced from Kelly.
It was over when: Aguayo hit the last of his school-record six field goals, this one from 30 yards out, to make it 45-34. As much as FSU dominated in the second half, the Rebels still trailed by just one possession midway through the fourth quarter. Aguayo’s kick – which came with plenty of pressure, given the circumstances – gave the Seminoles some breathing room and put the Rebels into desperation mode. Kelly then threw his third interception on the ensuing possession and the Seminoles were able to run out the clock.