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Six Plays that Changed the Game as Florida State Survives Thriller in Louisville

The Seminoles stayed composed in the fourth quarter to take down the Cardinals.

Friday night’s game was a rollercoaster of emotion for both Seminole and Cardinal fans alike. Throughout the contest, there was non-stop, momentum-shifting action that left viewers with no clear indication of who might take home the win. Back and forth, these two teams were locked in a slugfest trading blows for 4 straight quarters.

READ MORE: Recruits react to Florida State's comeback win over Louisville

Impact players, hometown heroes, and bonafide superstars from both sides all left their marks on the field in an effort to tip the scales in their team’s favor. However, it was the unexpected play from the unlikeliest of heroes that ultimately ruled the day. In perhaps one of the most unconventional of ways, the Florida State Seminoles survived a road trip to Cardinal Stadium and came out with their first win in ACC play on Friday night.

Let’s review some key plays from the matchup against Louisville, and then we’ll get right back to getting some much-needed R&R after an emotionally (and physically) taxing weekend in college football.

1. The second half begins, and FSU responds with a TD

As expected, the Florida State offense came to play, and Jordan Travis left his mark early in the game with 11 consecutive completed passes, 2 TDs, and a completion percentage of about 76.5%. Despite finding a rhythm early on, FSU found itself in a hole around halftime.

Down 21-14, Florida State was facing an even bigger hurdle than just making up one touchdown. The Seminoles closed the first half with four straight empty possessions resulting in 2 punts and 2 interceptions. The offense had stagnated, and the reason was clear: Jordan Travis has gone down with an injury. Florida State had to not only find a way to spark their offense, but they had to do so without Jordan Travis.

Enter Tate Rodemaker.

FSU comes out of the locker room with Rodemaker at the helm of the offense, and the unit put together a complete drive. The Seminoles hammered the run game with Benson and Ward, found chunk yardage through the air to Johnny and Ontaria Wilson, and even extended a drive on third down on a Rodemaker scramble. Florida State’s offense answered the call with an emphatic 10-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 15-yard touchdown run by Lawrence Toafili to tie the game at 21 a piece.

2. Tate Rodemaker finds Johnny Wilson for a 69 yard gain

Here we go again.

That’s what FSU fans everywhere must have thought after seeing yet another dual-threat quarterback carve up the Seminole defense with ease. After watching both teams combine to produce four straight drives that ended in punts, FSU fans just watched Malik Cunningham close the 3rd quarter with a 40-yard run into FSU territory and open the 4th quarter with an 18-yard, go-ahead touchdown run. Two plays that were very reminiscent of something that one Louisville quarterback in 2016 did as he proceeded to dismantle FSU’s defense. Again, the Seminoles found themselves down a score and struggling to move the ball, but not for long.

On the second play of the ensuing drive, Tate Rodemaker rolled right, stepped up into the pocket, and delivered a deep ball to a streaking Johnny Wilson for a gain of 69 yards down to the Louisville 10-yard line.

The Rodemaker to Wilson connection would strike again on the following play with a 10-yard touchdown reception to complete the drive. In just three plays, the Seminoles had answered the Louisville Cardinals once again.

3. Johnny Wilson climbs the ladder over Jarvis Brownlee to secure the go-ahead score

Florida State was able to keep the Louisville offense out of the end zone and forced the Cardinals to settle for a field goal. Down 31-28 at this point in the game, the Seminoles had an opportunity to take an extended lead late in the game. Running back Trey Benson broke off an electrifying 37-yard run on the outside, powered through a face mask like it was nothing, and set the Seminole offense up on the 1-yard line.   

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In what was becoming a trend for the night, Tate Rodemaker turned to Johnny Wilson to punch the ball in for 6. On 3rd & goal, Rodemaker dropped back, turned to his right, and lofted the ball above the defender's head on a fade towards the corner of the end zone. Receiver Johnny Wilson used all of his 6'7" frame to climb the ladder over Louisville cornerback, and former Seminole, Jarvis Brownlee, to high point the ball and pull in Rodemaker's second TD pass of the game. 

The reception, featured on Randy Moss' "You Got Mossed" segment on Sunday morning's episode of NFL Countdown, gave the Seminoles a 35-31 lead over the Cardinals and gave Twitter a lot to talk about. I can't speak for Jarvis Brownlee, but I can assure you that it's a play Seminole fans will have circled for the rest of the season.

4. FSU's Defense Holds on 4th Down

With just under eight minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, Florida State found itself with a lead for the first time since scoring the opening touchdown. The defense had to step up and find a way to contain Malik Cunningham and the Louisville offense without Fabien Lovett and Jared Verse on the defensive line. 

The Cardinals drove into Florida State territory and on a critical 3rd & 5, DB Akeem Dent and LB Kalen DeLoach combined to stop a Cunningham scramble short of the first down marker. On 4th & 2 from the FSU 47-yard line, the Cardinal offense took the field. Cunningham could not connect with receiver Tyler Hudson in the middle of the field and the Seminoles forced a critical turnover on downs. 

5. Fitzgerald misses a late field goal

Following the hold by the defense, the Rodemaker-led offense once again charged down the field deep into Louisville territory. Unable to extend the drive deep into the red zone, the Seminoles elected to kick the FG and attempted to push their lead to 7. With 1:47 left in the game, Fitzgerald hooked the kick left and missed his 36 yard attempt. The second miss of the night by the redshirt sophomore breathed life into the Cardinals and left the door open for Louisville to win the game with a touchdown. 

6. Knowles secures a win for the 'Noles with an INT

The Louisville Cardinals had 1:39 remaining in the 4th quarter to score a touchdown and send the Seminoles packing with a loss. The Cardinals converted the first down in just two plays and continued their charge down the field. After throwing 2 deep passes that fell incomplete, Cunningham scrambled towards the sideline where he was once again met by Akeem Dent short of the first down marker. Louisville now faced 4th & 3 with time winding down. 

Malik Cunningham dropped back and surveyed the field. Finding nothing deep, he checked it down Trevion Cooley behind the line of scrimmage. Cooley narrowly avoided a tackle by Kalen DeLoach in the backfield and ran straight into Jammie Robinson at the first down marker and pushed through. The Cardinals converted on fourth down to keep their hopes alive. 

Louisville had a fresh set of downs from its own 46 yard line with just under a minute left to play in the game. Cunningham snapped the ball and dropped back to pass. FSU defensive linemen Derrick McLendon II and Patrick Payton pushed into the backfield with the initial pressure and forced Cunningham out of the pocket. Rolling right and still searching for a receiver downfield, 

Cunningham was met by DL Jarrett Jackson, who had kept contain of the shifty Louisville quarterback. With ample time left to escape a sack and only 40 seconds on the clock, Malik Cunningham planted and uncorked a throw towards the sideline. The pass sailed over the head of the intended receiver and into the outstretched arms of DB Kevin Knowles II. Knowles, falling out of bounds, secured the ball with his hands and tapped both feet in to force a game-sealing interception.

The Seminoles had survived the Cardinals' late push, and for the first time since 2015, the Florida State Seminoles have started the season 3-0. 

READ MORE: Florida State knocks out Louisville, advances to 3-0 for first time since 2015

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