On January 1st the Florida State Seminoles take on the Oregon Ducks in the semifinals of the first ever College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl. Seminole fans have endured an up and down season for Jameis Winston, horrendous first halves, and games that come down to the last drive even though they never should have. Even though the Seminoles haven’t displayed the same dominance they did last year, the Seminoles finished the regular season unscathed, and have extended their winning streak to 29 consecutive games.
Looking back at the Seminoles season, even though it was extremely stressful at times, it was also one of the most exciting seasons to watch in college football. I wouldn’t be saying that if the Seminoles had lost of course, but now that they are safely in the playoffs, we can look at the critical moments and plays throughout the season that got them to where they are today.
1. Jameis Winston’s running touchdown versus Oklahoma State in the first game of the season. Only up 20-17 in the 3rd quarter of the game, from the 28-yard line, Winston takes it upon himself, hurdles a defender than upon landing slides to the left juking another defender, and dives into the end zone. This moment not only took life out of the Oklahoma State defense, but it was the most impressive run Jameis Winston has had in his career, displaying mobility that many Seminoles fans didn’t know he had in him. The Seminoles would go on to win the game 37-31, and start the season 1-0.
2. Clemson fumbling the ball with 1:26 left in the 4th quarter, at FSU’s 20-yard line. This simply was a game that the Seminoles should not have won. The Noles were playing without QB Jameis Winston, giving backup QB Sean Maguire his first start of his career, against ACC rival Clemson. Maguire didn’t play very well, with his worst play being an interception with two minutes left in the 4th quarter in FSU’s own territory. With Clemson poised to run out the clock and hit a game-winning field goal, running back C.J. Davidson fumbled the ball at FSU’s 20-yard line that gave Sean Maguire this “Oh My God we got the ball back” reaction below. The Seminoles would go on to win the game in overtime and preserve their undefeated record.
3. The third critical moment of Florida State’s season was against NC State when they were down 24-7 at the end of the first quarter. This was the first real situation for the Seminoles where they were in a deep hole, and needed to have a big comeback in order to win. Unfortunately this would foreshadow the rest of the season for the Seminoles, with the whole “Winston and the defense will start slow and then they get it together to finish the rest of the game,” technique beginning in this game. The Seminoles would go on to win the game by scoring 56 points, and established the Seminoles ability to come back in games that have awful beginnings.
4. This next play, or call by the referee, rivals the Clemson fumble as the most crucial play of the year; the offensive pass interference call on Notre Dame, that nullified a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining in the game. With the Seminoles up 4 points, the Fighting Irish drove to the goal line with time expiring in the 4th quarter. On 4th and 2, Notre Dame lined up three receivers on the ride side of the field, and used two of those receivers to illegally pick two Seminoles defenders, springing the third WR to a wide-open touchdown. A flag was thrown on the two Notre Dame receivers, nullifying the touchdown, and forced a 4th and goal from the 18 yard line for the Irish, that ended up being picked off by the Seminoles, preserving the 31-27 victory.
5. Dalvin Cook’s 26-yard touchdown run against Miami when the Noles were down 3 points, giving the Noles a 4-point lead with 3 minutes remaining in the game. This wasn’t only the game winning score of the game, this run, and this game, established true freshman RB Dalvin Cook as the lead running back for Florida State as he turned 7 carries into 92 yards in this game. In the next three games against Boston College, Florida and Georgia Tech, Cook would go on to rush for 397 yards. Cook’s explosiveness and ability to turn a 4-yard gain into a 30-yard gain, was something that Florida State’s offense had been missing all season from the running back position.
6. In the biggest game of the season, Jameis Winston would buck his horrible start to games trend, and play a near perfect game against #11 ranked Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship game. After throwing three interceptions against Florida in the previous game, Winston threw for over 300 yards, 3 touchdowns, and zero interceptions against Georgia Tech. This was the type of game that Florida State fans were looking for Jameis Winston to have all season. Looking past the ACC Championship game, Seminole fans knew that Winston would have to play much better football if they wanted a chance to win the National Championship, and the way that Winston played against Georgia Tech assured everyone that in huge games like this, with everything on the line, Jameis Winston will play up to his ability. It now appears that Jameis Winston is playing the best he has all year, and is poised to lead the Seminoles to their second straight National Championship.
These moments have all had huge impacts on the Seminoles season, and have gotten them to their birth in the College Playoff. These moments also point to how crazy the Seminoles season has been. Without a Clemson fumble, a offensive pass interference call against Notre Dame, and the emergence of Dalvin Cook, Florida State could easily have three or more losses right now. However, these pieces have all fallen into place, the #3 Seminoles are 13-0, and will face the #2 Oregon Ducks in the College Football Playoff semifinal on January 1st.