Noles go to OT in three-point loss to Irish

Quarterback McKenzie Milton returned to playing football for the first time since 2018.
Photo courtesy Forthewin

By Chuck Walsh

On the night that Florida State celebrated the legacy of the legendary Bobby Bowden, Mike Norvell opened up his second season as FSU’s head Coach. 

The Seminoles scored 18-unanswered points in the fourth quarter erasing a 38-20 deficit and forced No. 9 Notre Dame into overtime where the Irish would eventually seal the win. Notre Dame’s Jonathan Doerer kicked a 41-yard field goal in the first overtime period to give the Irish a 41-38 win over Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in the season opener for both teams.

The Seminoles were spurred on in the fourth quarter by quarterback McKenzie Milton who led Florida State on two scoring drives in the final 5:16 of the game to erase a 38-28 deficit and force a tie at 38.  Milton’s first appearance in a Seminole uniform came 1,017-days after he suffered a catastrophic injury as the quarterback at UCF in November of 2018.

Notre Dame won the coin toss in overtime and chose to go on defense.  The Irish defense forced a missed field goal by Florida State and won the game on Doerer’s game-winning kick.

Florida State outscored Notre Dame by an 18-0 margin in the fourth quarter to recover from a 38-20 deficit after three quarters of play.  In that decisive fourth quarter, Florida State outgained Notre Dame by a 137-33 margin in total yards while converting on four of five third down plays. The Seminoles owned the fourth quarter time of possession battle by a 9:36-5:24 margin.

“I wanted to see the passion and pursuit to win the play that was in front of them (in the fourth quarter),” said Norvell.  “You’re down 18; you’re not going to get it in one play.  You have to continue to stack play after play on top of each other.  That’s what showed up.  That’s what I was so pleased with – that we weren’t focused on what the scoreboard was saying at the moment.  We were focused on the play in front of us.  That’s probably one of the greatest lessons that we learned from tonight.”

Milton completed five of seven passes for 48 yards and led the Seminoles to their final 10 points of the game. Milton’s first Florida State drive, which culminated in a 2-yard touchdown run by Treshaun Ward, brought the Seminoles  within three (38-35) with 5:26 left to play in the fourth quarter. Milton then engineered a 10-play, 46-yard drive that ended in a 43-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald to tie the game at 38-38.

“It’s one of those bang-bang moments,” said Milton.  “His (QB Jordan Travis) helmet pops off, and you just have to be engaged and ready to go on the sideline.  I ran out there, thank God; it was time to roll. I didn’t have time to process any emotions, the job had to be done. It gave us a chance to win the game … but we just came up short. I felt like it was three years ago and I was playing ball. I was definitely grateful to be out there with the guys. I’m super-proud of the way our guys fought tonight.”

It certainly was Florida State that fought throughout the entire game.

The Seminoles ran for 264 yards after averaging 199.9 yards per game on the ground last season.

After surrendering the first touchdown of the game to Notre Dame in the first quarter, the Seminoles scored consecutive touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.

The Seminoles were led on the ground by a career-high 144 yards rushing by Jashuan Corbin.  He scored the Seminoles’ first touchdown of the season on an 89-yard score to tie the game at 7-7.  Corbin’s run – the longest of his career by 64 yards – ranks as the fifth-longest touchdown scoring run in school history.

The Seminoles took their first lead of the game on a two-yard scoring plunge by starting quarterback Jordan Travis with 10:05 remaining in the first half. The rushing touchdown was Travis’s 11th career rushing score and eighth in his last six games. Travis has now scored at least one rushing touchdown in seven consecutive games.

Notre Dame scored the final 10 points of the first half to take a 17-14 lead.  The Irish gained a 48-yard field goal from Doerer to draw within 14-10.  They regained the lead on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jack Coan to Joe Wilkins.

Travis took to the air to begin the second half and the result of his first pass after halftime was a 16-yard scoring strike to Ja’khi Douglas to give the Seminoles a 20-17 lead.  Douglas’ touchdown was his first of the season and his third in the last two games after totaling two in the Seminoles’ victory over Duke in the final game of the 2020 season.

The Fighting Irish answered immediately as Coan found Kevin Austin for a 37-yard touchdown and a 24-20 Notre Dame lead.  It was Austin’s second receiving touchdown of the game; he hauled in Coan’s first scoring pass of the night in the second half.

Coan extended Notre Dame’s lead to 31-20 on a six-yard scoring pass to Kyren Williams with 7:05 left to play in the third quarter.

Notre Dame scored 21 third-quarter points – the final 21 points of the quarter — to take a 38-20 lead into the fourth quarter before the Seminoles mounted a comeback for the ages before falling just short in overtime.

Florida State returns to Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday against Jacksonville State at 8 p.m.  The game will be televised by the ACC Network.

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