Royal A. Shepherd (RoyalShepherdFS on Twitter), Director
TALLAHASSEE, FLA., (www.franchisesportsonline.net) – Willie Taggart’s offense got its first touchdown of the season after 70 minutes, 57 seconds of game time. He also collected his first win as the head coach at FSU.
A 33-point favorite, Florida State didn’t lead the game until the fourth quarter in the 36-26 nailbiter win over the Samford Bulldogs at Doak Cambell Stadium on Saturday.
Taggart said the slugfest was a solid first win for his team. He acknowledged the team’s desire to play better on offense, but said he would take the wins however they come.
“Good win for the Noles,” he said. “It was good to see our guys find a way to come back and get a win after we started slow and weren’t playing as well. I thought it was a great team victory.”
Offensively, FSU continued to struggle up front. Despite only giving up one sack, Seminole quarterback Deandre Francois was hit frequently. He would finish the game 31-46 for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Cam Akers paces the Noles on the ground with 76 yards on 14 carries. In total, the team had 134 rushing yards, averaging 3.8 yards a carry.
The Noles gave up 525 yards of total offense to the Bulldogs, including 475 through the air from senior quarterback Devlin Hodges. Hodges completed 39 of 60 passes with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Samford scored on its first play from scrimmage on a 54-yard bomb from Hodges to senior receiver and Bradenton native, Kelvin McKnight. Cooper Cross failed to connect on the extra point attempt, leaving the score at 6-0.
The Bulldogs would get another score in the first when senior running back Roland Adams plowed his way into the endzone from two yards out. This time Cross would convert the PAT, increasing the lead to 13-0.
The Seminoles would get their first touchdown of the season on a 27-yard hookup from quarterback Deondre Francois to wideout Tamorrion Terry to cut the Bulldogs lead to six.
Freshman kicker Mitchell Fineran added a 30-yard field goal to push the Bulldog lead to 16-7.
The Noles would trim the lead when Francois scored on an 8-yard keeper, cutting the deficit to two and bringing the score to 16-14.
Despite Florida State’s back-to-back scores, Samford continued its onslaught with a 27-yard touchdown from Hodges to McKnight to extend the lead to 23-14. It was the pair’s second touchdown connection.
Francois would find Terry again in the second quarter on a 15-yard strike for a touchdown to cut the lead again to 23-21, where it would remain until halftime.
Fineran’s late field goal with 7:58 left in the game gave Samford a 26-21 lead.
FSU would get the go-ahead touchdown with 4:03 left in the game when Francois found tight end Tre McKitty on a 5-yard pass into the endzone. It gave the Noles a 29-26 lead, their first of the game.
McKitty said the play was designed for him and his only job was to make a play on the ball.
“I was the first read,” McKitty said. “As soon as we left the huddle I knew the ball was coming to me.”
LeVonta Taylor returned an interception for a touchdown in the game’s final minutes to salt it away.
During a break in the game, Florida State played a video tribute for former Nole Burt Reynolds. Reynolds died on Thursday at the age of 82.
Samford will take on the Mercer Bears in their next contest. Florida State will travel to New York for a conference matchup against the Syracuse Orange in a noon kickoff on Sept. 15.