TALLAHASSEE, Fla (seminoles.com) – Redshirt-freshman Ryan Fitzgerald kicked a 34-yard field goal with no time remaining to give Florida State a 33-30 win over Syracuse at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Starting quarterback Jordan Travis engineered the final scoring drive, which accounted for 63-yards on seven plays and began on the Seminoles’ own 21-yard line. He rushed for 58 yards and completed two passes for eight yards in the final 1:02 to set up the game-winning kick by Fitzgerald.
Travis completed 22-of-32 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a career-high 113 yards in the victory. He threw for two touchdowns – one to Camren McDonald and one to Keyshawn Helton – as he found seven different receivers during the win. He gained 103 of his 113 yards on the ground in the second half.
Fitzgerald totaled two field goals in the game, but none bigger than his first game-winner as a Seminole. After lining up the first time, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers called a time out. When play resumed, Fitzgerald split the uprights to give Florida State the victory.
“After halftime, I was already preparing in my mind,” said Fitzgerald. “We were winning by three and already envisioned in my mind that they’d kick a field goal. We might be tied. We might be down by three. I went ahead and just mentally prepared for that moment and just treated it like any other kick. More than anything, I just trusted my technique and trusted James Rosenberry and Alex Mastromanno. We prepared through summer and fall. Just having the confidence and visualizing it going right down the middle.”
Norvell, too, had a feeling the game would come down to the final play.
“All week, we knew this was going to come down to one play,” said Head Coach Mike Norvell. “We didn’t know which one play was going to be the difference. We just had to continue to fight, continue to improve and continue to believe. You saw that throughout the rest of the game whether we were up, whether we had a good play or bad play.”
Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader was limited to just 13-of-23 passing for 150 yards by the Seminole defense. Sean Tucker, who entered the game averaging 134 yards and nearly two rushing touchdowns per game, was limited to 102 yards rushing and zero touchdowns.
Florida State’s defense was led by Jammie Robinson who totaled nine tackles. The Seminoles’ defense stood tall on a goal line stand with 3:34 left in the third quarter with a stop from the one-yard line to keep the Orange from scoring. The defensive stop allowed the Seminoles to hold onto a 23-13 lead.
The Seminoles’ defense stopped Shrader for no gain from the 1-yard line on what might be considered the biggest defensive play for the Seminoles this season. The Orange had the opportunity to pull within 23-20 but instead turned the ball over on downs back to the Seminoles.
Though the Orange outscored the Seminoles by a 17-10 margin during the remainder of the game, it was the Seminoles who possessed the ball last and scored the final – and winning – points of the game.
Florida State scored first on a 35-yard field goal by Fitzgerald. His kick gave the Seminoles a 3-0 advantage and marked the first time Florida State had scored first in a game this season.
The Seminoles increased their lead to 9-0 on a 14-yard catch and run by McDonald. McDonald was guided into the end zone by two picture-perfect blocks by Ontaria Wilson and Keyshawn Helton. The touchdown pass was the first of two in the game for Travis.
Syracuse answered on its next possession to pull to within 9-6. Shrader scored on a 55-yard touchdown run – the longest rush and the longest rushing touchdown of his career.
Prior to Sharder’s touchdown run, the Seminoles defense had held the Orange to three three-and-outs and a turnover on downs on their first four possessions of the game.
Shrader engineered a second consecutive touchdown drive for the Orange – mostly by himself and on the ground. He rushed for 38 of 60 yards on the five-play drive including a 16-yard touchdown run to put the Orange up 13-9. Shrader also completed one pass for 12 yards on the drive.
Florida State retook the lead on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Travis to Helton with 36 seconds left to play in the second quarter. With the extra point, the Seminoles took a 16-13 lead into the locker room at halftime.
A rushing touchdown of three yards by Andrew Parchment on Florida State’s second possession of the third quarter gave Florida State a 23-13 lead. The play began as a mishandled lateral from Travis to McDonald, which was scooped up by Parchment who took it into the end zone for his third touchdown as a Seminole.
A 1-yard touchdown dive by Shrader capped a four-play, 49-yard drive and drew Syracuse to within three at 23-20 at the end of the third quarter. Shrader gained 33 of Syracuse’s 49 rushing yards on the drive.
Shrader totaled a career-high 137 rushing yards on 16 carries and had a hand in all four of Syracuse’s touchdowns.
Jashaun Corbin put Florida State up 30-20 with two-yard scoring burst with 13:24 left to play. Treshaun Ward set up the score with a 65-run bolt – a run that gave Florida State possession of a first and goal at the 2-yard line.
Syracuse closed the gap with just over 10 minutes remaining to be played as Shrader connected with Anthony Queeley on a 26-yard scoring play to make the score 30-27.
Syracuse then tied the game at 30 on a 24-yard field goal by Andrew Szmyt with 5:17 left to play.
The table was then set for Travis to march the team down the field and for Fitzgerald to make the winning kick.
“Those final runs were not designed,” said Travis. “The holes opened up and the receivers made big blocks downfield. I couldn’t do it without them. Keyshawn made a big block on the sideline that allowed me to stay in. I couldn’t do anything without those guys. They worked really hard today. Shout out to the offensive line. I appreciate them. I love them, and I’m just so happy right now.”
Norvell was certainly happy following the game.
“I’m happy for our players,” said Norvell. “I know the work that goes into it. I know how much this program means to them. To see them finish the game the way it was finished was huge. I’m proud for them. That’s all I can ever hope for that those guys as they continue to work, as they continue to grow and as they continue to develop that they put themselves in a position to finish like they did.”