By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Florida State defense got a surprise before Thursday’s game at Louisville, and it wasn’t a good one.
Junior linebacker Terrance Smith, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leader in tackles per game (10.2), would miss the contest with a strained pectoral muscle.
All told, FSU had more linebackers out than available on Thursday.
“It was different having them guys gone,” said junior Reggie Northrup.
“I knew we were going to be missing a couple guys, so I made sure I was on my younger guys. And they knew what they had to do. I was comfortable when they came in.”
Northrup did his part, posting a game-high 12 tackles while also sealing the game with his first ever interception.
And his cohorts held their own, too. Matthew Thomas, making the first start of his career, made three tackles, Ro’Derrick Hoskins rotated in for a few plays and even defensive back Tyrell Lyons took some linebacker snaps.
“I’m definitely proud,” Northrup said. “We work hard for what we do, what we earn. I’m proud of all my guys on defense.”
Their efforts, combined with another strong outing by FSU’s defensive line, helped the Seminoles slow down the Cardinals long enough to erase a 21-0 deficit and come back for a 42-31 win.
Louisville got out to a hot start, running up 294 yards and 21 points in the first half. But after that, FSU limited the Cardinals to 194 yards and 10 points in the second. Even better, the Seminoles tightened up on third down, allowing Louisville to convert just one of their 11 attempts.
“I thought our defense played well for the night, I really did,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “There were a couple things they gave up, but I thought they played pretty well considering the second half, I thought they were outstanding.”
Winston shines … again
After a slow first half in which he threw two interceptions, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston caught fire in the third and fourth quarters.
Despite twisting his ankle early in the second half, Winston still went on to throw for a season-high 401 yards and three touchdowns.
“Pain is temporary,” Winston said. “So I was hurt and I had some limitations, but I wasn’t really feeling the pain. I couldn’t push off of it really.”
The redshirt sophomore moved to 21-0 as a starter, extending his NCAA record for consecutive wins to begin a career.
Aguayo’s streak ends
Redshirt sophomore kicker Roberto Aguayo saw his school-record streak of 23 consecutive made field goals come to an end late in the third quarter. Aguayo’s miss from 41 yards was only the second of his career and first since Nov. 9, 2013.
Aguayo, the reigning Lou Groza Award winner, has 35 of 37 field goal attempts (94.5 percent) since taking over as FSU’s kicker in 2013.
FSU-Louisville draws big ratings
FSU’s win over Louisville drew a 3.5 metered market rating, making it the most-watched college football game on any of ESPN’s networks this season.
It was the ninth-highest overnight rating for a Thursday night broadcast since at least 2000.
FSU also holds the distinction of having played in the most-watched college football game of the 2014 season. The Seminoles’ 31-27 victory over Notre Dame averaged more than 13 million viewers.