FSU back? Norvell says Noles need to prove it

  • ACC reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2010.
  • Graduate of the University of Florida.

Florida State football coach Mike Norvell was not ready to declare his program “back” on Monday, a day after a 24-23 upset victory over the LSU in New Orleans that came down to the last play.

Rather, Norvell said in a phone interview with ESPN that his team would simply get “back to work.”

“That game, it didn’t need to be as close as it was,” Norvell said. “We made some mistakes that can cost us, so we better learn from the experience that we had last night and go get better. If you want to show you’re back, go win every game and get better every week and with every practice. That’s what you have to do. I’m glad our guys are excited about the steps we’ve taken. But if we don’t continue to take steps, then none of that is going to matter.”

In postgame interviews, multiple players — including defensive end Jared Verse and receiver Ontaria Wilson — said the victory meant Florida State was back. It is easy to understand why they felt that way after an emotional down-to-the-wire victory. Florida State has not started a season 2-0 since 2016. Last year, the Seminoles started 0-4, including a down-to-the-wire, season-opening loss against Notre Dame.

Headed into this season and Year 3 under Norvell, there were many questions whether the program would finally turn a corner. The victory against LSU certainly showed this team knows how to win close games — even when there is adversity to overcome.

After recovering a Malik Nabers fumbled punt with 2 minutes, 15 seconds remaining at the LSU 8-yard line and holding a 24-17 lead, it seemed as if the Seminoles would be poised to close out the win. But on third-and-goal from the LSU 1, Florida State called a pitch back to Treshaun Ward, who fumbled. LSU recovered with 1:20 remaining.

“In retrospect, that obviously wasn’t the best call,” Norvell said Tuesday. “It wasn’t worth the risk reward.”

LSU drove 99 yards down the field to score a touchdown with no time remaining. Norvell acknowledged “a couple of mishaps” on that defensive series. Florida State sent its field goal block team on, and Norvell held up one finger, signifying to his team all it had to do was make one play.

Florida State defensive end Jared Verse had blocked a field goal earlier in the game.

On the extra point attempt, LSU focused on Verse, allowing Shyheim Brown to have a clear path to block the kick — giving the Seminoles their first win against a Power 5 nonconference opponent since beating Florida in 2017. But even if the game had gone into overtime, Norvell said he felt his team would have won.

“Regardless of what would have happened on that last kick, I believed that we were going to be successful in that game, and believed that our guys would rise to the occasion,” Norvell said. “But we had one more play in regulation. And we made the play that was necessary to win.”

Norvell described the postgame celebration as “awesome.” Defensive tackle Jarrett Jackson lifted Norvell into the air.

“He shook me like a rag doll,” Norvell said with a laugh. “Just to see the joy. We talked all week about that heart, and whatever it takes, let that identity show up.”

Florida State has an open date this week before starting ACC play on the road in a Friday night game against Louisville. After all the adversity this team has overcome over the past five seasons, the last thing Norvell wants is for his team to forget about what got them to a point where they could win the type of game they won Monday.

“We’ve been talking since the beginning — how are you going to respond to success? — because I absolutely know success is coming, and we’re achieving some of that now,” Norvell said. “But ultimately, we have to improve, and if we don’t do that, the things that we desire, the things we to grow to become, to live out the potential that this team and, and this program has, we’ll miss out on the opportunity.”

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