Stunning loss leaves FSU seeking answers

FSU players were left trying to figure out how Jacksonville State managed a game-winning rally.
Photo courtesy FSU athletics / Ken Lanese

Outlook Staff Report

Everyone was stunned. Coach Mike Norvell included.

The FCS football team that was paid to come to Doak Campbell Stadium and challenge FSU did one better. However, no one saw what Jacksonville State did coming.

Damond Philyaw-Johnson caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from Zerrick Cooper on the final play of the game to give JSU a 20-17 win over Florida State.

The Gamecocks scored the final 13 points of the night in the final 4:45 of the game to earn the win.

“You’ve got to play at a certain level execution-wise in these type games and we did that night,” Jacksonville State head coach John Grass told the Gamecocks’ athletic staff, players and coaches as they celebrated around him. “We missed a chance to score on the same play before. Damond was open and we missed him and we decided to do it again.

“He beat his man (and) Zerrick made a perfect throw, he made a great cut down there and Ahmad (Edwards) made a big block and got him in the end zone.”

Florida State was led by first-time starter McKenzie Milton who completed 18-of-30 passes for 133 yards while running back Jashaun Corbin totaled 109 yards and scored a touchdown, earning his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game.

“Congratulations to Jacksonville State,” said Florida State head coach Mike Norvell.  “I did not have our team ready to play today. We definitely did not play in any way to the standard that we are capable of. Penalties, self-inflicted mistakes; 100 percent on me. I did not have the guys ready to go and that will be fixed.”

After a near storybook ending in last week’s overtime loss to Notre Dame, Milton made his first career start as a Seminole. After 33 starts as the quarterback at UCF, he had the Seminoles on the cusp of their first victory of the season before Jacksonville State’s final scoring drive that covered 83 yards in 10 plays in the final 1:32 of the game. 

Milton connected with eight different receivers including three completions each to Darion Williamson (32 yards), Andrew Parchment (29 yards) and Camren McDonald (29 yards). 

Corbin led Florida State’s rushing attack that topped 200 yards for the second consecutive game. The Seminoles rushed for 202 yards against Jacksonville State after totaling 264 yards in their season-opener against Notre Dame. 

Jacksonville State scored first on a second-quarter two-yard touchdown run by Josh Samuel to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead. 

Following Jacksonville State’s opening score, the Seminoles scored 17 straight points. 

Florida State turned the momentum it’s way as it forced the first turnover of the game. The fumble was recovered by the Seminoles’ Sidney Williams and Florida State began at its own 47-yard line. The drive culminated in a 12-yard rushing touchdown by Corbin to tie the game at 7-7.  The score was Corbin’s second rushing touchdown of the season and the ninth of his career. 

Florida State upped its lead to 14-7 on a two-yard touchdown pass from Milton to tight end Wyatt Rector with nine seconds left to play before halftime.  The drive began with a 31-yard punt return by Keyshawn Helton and ended with Wyatt Rector’s second career touchdown reception.  

A career-long 53-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter gave the Seminoles a 17-7 lead. His field goal increased by 10 yards the longest of his career, which came against Notre Dame last week. contributed to this report.