TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Florida State nearly turned a 24-point deficit into the greatest comeback in school history. The Seminoles trailed 31-13 at halftime and outscored the Cardinals by a 10-0 margin in the second half, but fell just short of coming all the way back to tie the game at the end.
Florida State’s defense held Louisville scoreless in the second half and gave itself the opportunity to tie the game with under one minute remaining, but Louisville escaped with a 31-23 win at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Seminoles had the ball at the 46-yard line driving towards a potential game-tying score when Kei’Trel Clark intercepted a McKenzie Milton pass at the Louisville five-yard line to end the Seminoles’ comeback attempt.
Jashaun Corbin rushed for a career-high 159 yards and one touchdown while Milton completed 24-of-39 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown. The rushing effort marked Corbin’s fourth career 100-yard game, while Milton’s 248 passing marked his Florida State career-high. Defensive back Jammie Robinson recorded 13 tackles and Jermaine Johnson added to his team-leading sack total with one sack.
Florida State surrendered the first 17 points of the game, and then outscored Louisville by a 23-14 margin to close the game in the last three quarters.
The Seminoles’ defense came to life in the second half as it limited the Cardinals’ to zero points, 79 total yards (42 rushing, 37 passing), two first downs and a one-of-eight success rate on third downs while forcing six punts.
Florida State’s offense totaled 273 yards of total offense (190 rushing and 83 passing), 13 first downs and punted only twice after halftime.
For the game, the Seminoles outgained the Cardinals by a 452-395 margin in total yards, totaled more first downs (23-21) and punted only four times.
“We came in at halftime and challenged the guys,” said Head Coach Mike Norvell. “We continued to push them to focus on the play that was ahead. They did what I expected them to do. They came out and played really hard in the second half. Defensively, they did a great job of being able to get off the field. “
While the Seminoles’ defense turned their play up a notch in the second half, so did Milton and the offense.
Led by Corbin on the ground, the Seminoles totaled 205 rushing yards – the fourth time in four games this season they have rushed for more than 200 yards. Milton’s 248 passing yards were the most passing yards for Florida State this season.
“We didn’t finish drives,” said Norvell. “We were very aggressive in what we were trying to do to get back into position (to win the game). We’ve got to finish.”
Louisville scored the first touchdown of the game on its third offensive play of the afternoon. Cardinal quarterback Malik Cunningham led Tyler Harrell on a 59-yard fly pattern to put Louisville up 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
Louisville increased its first quarter lead to 17-0 as Cunningham scored his 25th career-rushing touchdown at the 1:40 mark of the first quarter. He led the Cardinals on a 10-play, 51-yard drive to put the visitors up by three scores.
Florida State’s Treshaun Ward put the Seminoles on the scoreboard with a 20-yard rushing touchdown to make the score 17-7. The touchdown was Ward’s second in two games while the 20-yard run was his longest of the season.
Cunningham scored his second career rushing touchdown of the day at the 6:47 mark of the second quarter to increase Louisville’s lead to 24-7. Louisville closed out its first half scoring on a 21-yard scoring pass from Cunningham to Jordan Watkins to make the score 31-7.
Florida State closed the deficit to 31-13 on a 23-yard catch and run from Milton to Andrew Parchment with 1:08 to play in the half. Milton completed three-of-four passes for 57 yards on that drive, which lasted only 41 seconds – the second-fastest scoring drive of the season.
“I thought our guys did a better job of working to play more disciplined in regards to eliminating penalties,” said Norvell. “We didn’t turn the ball over until the last play. Those things are always things that we always need to be aware of. We have to eliminate the missed assignments, we have to make sure we are playing with our eyes and we have to continue to coach better.”
Florida State scored quickly in the second half. After receiving the kickoff, the Seminoles cut the deficit to 11 at 31-20 on a 75-yard scoring run on their second play from scrimmage. The scoring run by Corbin was his second of the season 75 yards or more. He also scored on an 89-yard run in the season-opener against Notre Dame.
Florida State pulled to within eight at 31-23 on a 45-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald with 8:40 remaining to be played.
“I expected the entire game that we were going to come back and win,” said Norvell. “At halftime, even though we were down, I loved the guys’ eyes. I was really pleased with the defensive effort there in the second half. Offensively we have to continue to grow and develop and put ourselves in a position to go and win games.”
The Seminoles play host to Syracuse on Saturday (Oct. 2) at 3:30 in their final home game before Oct. 23 against UMass.