TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Cam Akers had a demanding checklist for himself headed into Saturday’s game against Syracuse, and he shared it with coach Willie Taggart before kickoff.
“He was going to break the record for touchdowns,” Taggart said, “and he was going to run for a lot of yards, and he was going to help this football team win. He was going to put this team on his back.”
Hey, three out of four ain’t bad.
Akers ran for plenty of yards, led Florida State to a 35-17 win over the Orange and, by any measure, put the Seminoles on his back.
He’ll have to settle for a tie on that touchdowns record, though.
Florida State’s star running back did a little bit of everything on Saturday afternoon, running for 144 yards and a school-record-tying four touchdowns as the Seminoles rolled to a Homecoming romp over Syracuse in front of 50,517 fans at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Akers ran over, through and around the Orange, and then, for good measure, he threw a few passes over their heads.
Operating out of the “wildcat” formation for several snaps, Akers, a former prep quarterback, lined up behind center and completed 2-of-3 passes for 26 yards.
WATCH: ‘Wild Cam’ runs wild in win over Cuse
“Cam did what he said he was going to do in this ballgame,” Taggart said. “He spoke into existence the things he wanted to get accomplished.”
As a result, the Seminoles walked off the field with a satisfying measure of revenge for last year’s defeat at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, as well as a welcome stop to their recent two-game skid.
Good time for it, too: Florida State (4-4, 3-3 ACC) is set to host rival Miami (4-4, 2-3), a winner over Pittsburgh earlier in the day, next week (3:30 p.m., ABC).
“Very proud of our football team,” Taggart said. “Very proud of their focus this week. I thought our guys had unbelievable focus (despite) a lot of distractions. They stayed locked in.”
As has been the case for much of the season, Akers led the charge.
The Mississippi native scored touchdowns of 23, seven, six and three yards, and by the time he ran untouched for a two-point conversion late in the second quarter, Akers had scored 20 of FSU’s 21 total points.
That alone gave him enough to boast the highest-scoring game for an ACC player this season, besting the previous high of 18 points. It also put Akers into some pretty elite company – his 26 total points were second only to Ron Sellers (30 against Wake Forest in 1968) in school history.
“God put me in position to go make some plays, and I went and made some plays,” said Akers, who topped the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this season. “All I can do is give the credit to God – and the offensive line for opening holes for me.”
Alex Hornibrook, somewhat of a surprise starter at quarterback, completed 15 of 26 passes for 196 yards before giving way to James Blackman early in the fourth quarter.
He and Akers teamed up with Tamorrion Terry for what might have been FSU’s top highlight of the day – a triple-pass that seemed bound for disaster before Hornibrook found Terry downfield for a 54-yard gain on third-and-eight.
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) October 26, 2019
No, that’s not exactly how it looked in practice.
“Nah, not quite,” Akers said with a smile. “But it worked.”
Whether on the field or on the sidelines, seemingly everyone wearing garnet and gold had the same thought as they watched the play unfold – “No, no, no – yes!”
“I didn’t really understand what was going on,” defensive end Janarius Robinson said. “But I was happy at the end.”
A few plays later, Akers took a wildcat snap, waited out the Syracuse defense and burst around the right side of the line for a score that made it 21-3.
FSU went on to lead by as many as 32 points and, although Syracuse added two late touchdowns, the Seminoles never had much reason to sweat.
“I think he’s the best running back in the country,” Taggart said about Akers. “The kid is special. When you see the way he runs the football, he’s a tremendous talent. He’s doing a darn good job for us and I’m looking forward to watching the rest of this season to see how he ends up.”
Akers’ outing will own the headlines, but Florida State’s defense nearly put in a performance to match.
Lined up across from the most generous offensive line in the country – the Orange average five sacks allowed per game – the Seminoles were aggressive and relentless in their pursuit of banged-up quarterback Tommy DeVito.
DeVito left last week’s game against Pittsburgh with an injury, and although he made it through this one, he’ll likely be sore when he wakes up on Sunday morning. Six FSU defenders combined to record seven sacks, with defensive tackle Marvin Wilson (two) and end Robinson (1.5) leading the way.
“They (Syracuse) like to throw the ball around, and I thought our guys did a good job,” Taggart said. “… I thought our guys flew around and different guys were taking turns making plays for us.”
That includes safety Hamsah Nasirildeen, who a week after missing most of the Wake Forst game due to a targeting penalty, returned to the lineup and racked up an eye-popping 17 tackles. That’s the most for any Seminole since A.J. Nicholson had 19 in 2005.
“I thought I had about eight,” Nasirildeen said with a laugh. “… Coming into the fourth quarter, I thought we could have still played better and shut some more things down. But it was just all focus in that first half, just being locked in, knowing what we’re all doing, coming out with a goal and just getting everybody doing their jobs.
“It looks good when everybody does their job.”