ORLANDO — Analyzing No. 4 Florida State’s 45-34 victory against No. 12 Ole Miss on Monday:.
THE BIG PICTURE: It was anything but routine for Florida State, but the Seminoles lived up to their No. 4 preseason ranking and showed explosive ability in coming back to beat Ole Miss. After falling behind by 22 points, getting dominated on both lines of scrimmage and making crazy mistakes like Dalvin Cook fumbling away the easiest touchdown he could ever score, it would have been easy for the Seminoles to say it wasn’t their day.
Instead, they stayed mentally engaged, made adjustments, played with ferocity in the second half and showed this is an extremely talented team. Though it’s only one game, a significant test has been passed.
For Ole Miss, on the other hand, this isn’t just any loss. The Rebels were rolling early, inspiring a notion that they might be a legitimate challenger for the SEC and national titles. Quarterback Chad Kelly looked unstoppable and the defensive line was abusing Florida State up front. Then it all imploded very quickly, and the Rebels will spend a long time questioning how it went wrong.
WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT: It’s almost inconceivable Florida State could score 33 consecutive points on Ole Miss. Even more shocking is that the Seminoles did it after getting absolutely crushed the first 27 minutes of the game.
But thanks to a third quarter in which Florida State outgained the Rebels 214 to minus-7 and forced two turnovers deep in Ole Miss territory, the Seminoles took a 29-28 lead with 9:17 left in the third quarter after trailing 28-6 just before halftime.
By the time Florida State punched in the next possession, it had scored 30 points in 13:45 of game time.
KEY PLAY: It’s hard to pinpoint just one moment where it became apparent the Seminoles were going to make this comeback, but Ole Miss’ swagger was officially gone after Kelly fumbled with 10:47 left in the third quarter.
Trying to extend a play while defensive end Demarcus Walker was bearing down on him, Kelly instead coughed it up with several garnet jerseys around him, handing the Seminoles possession at the 11-yard line. Florida State had already drawn within 28-23 at that point, and the Seminoles punched it in three plays later to finally take the lead.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: The big question mark for Florida State was how redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois would respond when the lights came on, particularly against a quality opponent like Ole Miss with plenty of speed and future NFL talent on defense. After some shaky moments early, some of which were caused by protection problems, Francois showed why the Seminoles coaches have been so high on him.
His touchdown to end the first half — a 16-yard laser to Travis Rudolph — required him to stand in there and take a heavy hit from defensive end Marquis Haynes that left him staggered after the play. But the jolt seemed to give Francois confidence, as he completed 9-for-13 in the third quarter and made plays with his legs. He finished 33-for-52 for 420 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers.
Freshman kicker Ricky Aguayo, brother of former Seminoles All-American Roberto Aguayo, went 6-for-6 on field goals in his debut.