TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Travis Rudolph had already spent several minutes explaining his big day, explaining just how he broke through for a 13-catch, 238-yard outburst during Florida State’s 17-6 win over Wake Forest. He had answered questions about his mindset, and about Florida State’s offense and about whatever it was that allowed him to erupt for a history-making performance.
A performance that came after a month in which he caught just four passes in the previous four games combined, no less.
Finally, as Rudolph’s post-game interview session wore on, a loud voice broke through the gathered crowd and offered an answer as simple – and maybe as accurate – as any that Rudolph could have produced.
“He was due,” running back Dalvin Cook said.
Then, one more time for emphasis: “He was due.”
Maybe that was it.
After all, it’s not like Rudolph hasn’t done something like this before.
He caught seven passes for 201 yards in last year’s Peach Bowl, and he flirted with the 200-yard mark with a five-catch, 191-yard outing against Syracuse earlier that season.
As a result, Rudolph finished the year with the team lead in both catches (59) and receiving yards (916) and had designs on even bigger things for his junior year.
“I can do that every week,” Rudolph said. “When my number is called, I make the best of it.”
But, for one reason or another, he hadn’t done it yet this season.
Rudolph got off to a fine start, catching six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown in a win over Ole Miss, then following with seven catches for 105 yards and two scores against Charleston Southern.
After that, though, Rudolph was mostly quiet.
He caught two passes for 40 yards at Louisville, was limited to just one catch against both USF and North Carolina and then had two grabs at Miami.
With the ball not coming his way as much, Rudolph said he tried to focus on being effective in other ways.
“I feel like, as a receiver, you have to be good with and without the ball,” Rudolph said. “I felt like I was making some great blocks even when I wasn’t getting the ball. Really being an all-around receiver.”
And besides, Rudolph has played in Florida State’s offense long enough to know that there can be different heroes from week to week.
“Honestly,” he said, “I just realized I have to suck it up because that is how the offense is. It wasn’t my time to get the ball. I know when my time comes I’m supposed to make the plays.”
Rudolph’s time came Saturday, and he more than answered the bell.
Although he didn’t find the end zone, Rudolph caught at least one pass on both of FSU’s touchdown drives, including a 36-yarder in the third quarter that led directly to an Auden Tate TD on the very next play.
And he had a hand in the most exciting play of the game – a 58-yard catch off of a deflection to end the first half. Rudolph tried to barrel into the end zone, but, with the goal line heavily patrolled by Wake defenders, he was brought down a yard short.
Still, Rudolph’s effort, both on that play and throughout the day, left an impression on his coaches and teammates.
“He was just running great routes, getting open,” quarterback Deondre Francois said. “Had a lot of energy today, like he does every Saturday. It was just his day.”
Added coach Jimbo Fisher, “I said he’s been playing good football. I mean, he really has.
“Good to get him back.”
Rudolph’s 238 yards were the fourth-most in school history, behind only FSU Hall-of-Famers Ron Sellers (260, 259 in in 1968) and Peter Warrick (249 in 1997).
And he upped his season totals to a team-high 32 catches and 497 yards – not all that far off the pace Rudolph set for himself a year ago.
“He wasn’t doing anything different that he doesn’t already do,” Francois said.
No, maybe Rudolph was just due.