By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the first time in 14 months, Matthew Thomas made his way onto the field as a Florida State Seminole.
Donning the No. 7 – his preferred No. 6 already belonged to senior Nick Waisome – Thomas recorded six tackles (five solo) to help Florida State to a 31-27 win over Notre Dame on Saturday night.
Between a season-ending shoulder injury and an NCAA-related suspension, Thomas, a redshirt freshman from Miami, hadn’t played since last year’s Boston College game on Sept. 28, 2013.
“That was great to have him back,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “His role continues to grow. He’s really going to help us in a lot of areas now.”
Thomas’ return bolstered a defense that took a while to find its footing before clamping down on the Fighting Irish in the second half.
After allowing Notre Dame 254 total yards in the first two quarters, FSU held the Irish to 216 yards and 10 points the rest of the way.
“It felt good not watching from the sideline and contributing to the defense again,” Thomas said.
Florida State has apparently found another reliable receiver.
A pretty dangerous one, too.
Playing in the biggest game of his young career, freshman Travis Rudolph caught six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown that gave FSU its first points of the game.
“You can’t be prouder than a young guy stepping up in the clutch time,” FSU quarterback Jameis Winston said.
Rudolph, a 6-2, 180-pound West Palm Beach native, has started in back-to-back weeks and, even better, has seen his production steadily climb over the last month.
After being held off the stat sheet through FSU’s first three games, Rudolph has since had one catch for 40 yards at North Carolina State, four for 66 and a TD against Wake Forest, six for 46 at Syracuse and then finally Saturday’s career performance.
His 17 catches and 232 yards this season rank fourth on the team, and his 13.6 yards-per-catch average is second only to senior Rashad Greene among Seminoles with at least 10 catches.
“Travis Rudolph isn’t too bad either, is he?” Fisher said. “I think he’s got a chance to be a very good player and he’s developing in a lot of ways. He’s a special player.”
Biletnikoff sings Greene’s praises
Florida State’s Biletnikoff Award candidate has a fan in the award’s namesake.
FSU and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Fred Biletnikoff made a rare visit to an FSU home game Saturday and was asked for his thoughts on Seminoles star Rashad Greene.
“I love the guy,” said Biletnikoff, a consensus All-American in 1964.
“I think he’s terrific. We want him to win the award.”
Greene continued to state his case with an eight-catch, 108-yard performance against the Irish. His 10-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter was the 26th of his career, good for fourth on the school’s all-time list.
No Seminole has ever won the Biletnikoff Award, which has been presented to the nation’s top receiver by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club since 1994.
Notre Dame talks offensive pass interference
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said that his staff doesn’t coach “illegal plays” and that the play he he called on fourth-and-goal from FSU’s 2-yard line is one the Irish execute on a regular basis.
ND quarterback Everett Golson completed an easy pass for the go-ahead touchdown, but a referee’s flag hit the ground at almost the exact time the ball landed in receiver Corey Robinson’s hands.
Officials ruled that Irish receiver C.J. Prosise had interfered with FSU defensive back Jalen Ramsey’s attempt to defend the play. The points came off the board and, one play later, FSU escaped.
“We execute that play every day and we do it legally,” Kelly said. “(Prosise) did exactly what he’s coached to do. Exactly was he’s supposed to do.”
Golson, however, said he didn’t take exception to the call.
“That’s something you can’t argue with,” he said. “You’ve just got to play through it.”
Winston continues to climb the FSU record books. His two touchdown passes gave him 53 for his career and moved him past Gary Huff (1970-72) for fourth place on FSU’s all-time list … Freshman Jacob Pugh was awarded a second interception on Notre Dame’s final play of the game. It was the first two-interception game of Pugh’s career and the first for a Seminole this season. …FSU won its eighth straight game against a Top-25 opponent, matching a school record set in 1993.
Florida State has a bye week before visiting Louisville (6-2) for a Thursday-night contest on Oct. 30. FSU faced the Cardinals regularly in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the two haven’t met since 2002. The Seminoles hold a 12-2 advantage in the series.