Down to 3rd-string QB, FSU beats Louisville to keep CFP dream alive
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Florida State made things as difficult as possible on the College Football Playoff selection committee, using a dominant defensive performance to beat No. 15 Louisville 16-6 on Saturday night for the fourth-ranked Seminoles' first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 2014.
The Seminoles moved to 13-0, but even that doesn't guarantee a spot in the four-team playoff after Alabama knocked off No. 1 Georgia for the Southeastern Conference championship and Texas, which beat Alabama this season, won the Big 12 title.
No Power Five team has ever gone unbeaten, won its conference title and failed to make the playoff.
Seminoles fans held up signs reading “Win and we’re in!” But Florida State's offensive performance and unsettled quarterback situation created some doubt about whether it's one of the four best teams in the country.
Coach Mike Norvell said there's no question that his team, which started freshman third-stringer Brock Glenn at quarterback, deserves a chance to play for a national title.
“We just beat a top 15 team with a true freshman quarterback,” Norvell said. “I don't care what people think. We win. We win. And if we get the opportunity to go play in the national semifinal it's going to be a challenge, but I believe in this team, I believe in what they can do and I believe in who they are.”
Norvell then pounded his fist on a table, saying, “You know what, they have showed up every single week and done it. So I don't really care what everybody else's opinions are. I know who I coach and I know they are going to go fight for everything they get. Whatever the next opportunity is, I promise you they're going to show up.”
Lawrance Toafili ran for 118 yards and a touchdown for the Seminoles, who stuck to a conservative game plan with Glenn behind center. He finished 8 of 21 for 55 yards.
Starting QB and Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Travis is out for the season with a leg injury. Tate Rodemaker, Travis' backup, was sidelined with a concussion.
The difference for the Seminoles was their defense, which had a season-high seven sacks and a critical interception that kept Louisville out of the end zone.
Trailing 10-6 in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals (10-3) had a chance to take the lead after they tackled Seminoles punter Alex Mastromanno before he could get the kick away.
Louisville took over at the Seminoles 11, but three plays later, Tatum Bethune picked off Jack Plummer’s pass in the end zone.
After a 33-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald put Florida State ahead 13-6 with 3:11 left, the Cardinals had one more shot.
But Braden Fiske sacked Plummer on a fourth down, giving the Seminoles the ball at the Louisville 20 with 2:35 remaining. Fitzgerald made it a two-possession game with his third field goal of the game from 40 yards.
Plummer finished 14 of 36 for 111 yards.
“We just couldn’t convert,” Louisville coach Jeff Brohm said. “We chances to convert and we were not able to make those plays. Guys have to understand you have to make contested plays. ... We were not able to make those. And after that we really started to stink it up on offense in the fourth quarter.”
The game was tied 3-3 in the third quarter when the Seminoles finally took the ball out of Glenn’s hands, going to the wildcat formation with Toafili in the backfield. Toafili received the direct snap from center and raced around right end for a 73-yard gain and then scored from 2 yards out on the next play, from the same formation.
Toafili was named MVP of the game.
Florida State's defense had 14 tackles for loss and 10 pass breakups.
“They have been remarkable all year long and continue to get better,” Norvell said. “We knew it was going to take a team effort and those guys were unbelievable.”
GAMESMANSHIP AT PLAY
Rodemaker went through pregame warmups for the Seminoles and even put on his game jersey, making it look as though he might play. But just before kickoff, he removed his pads, signaling that Glenn would be FSU's QB.
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