ORLANDO — There have easily been better halves of football since Mike Norvell arrived at Florida State. But there have been few more impressive when the opponent is from the SEC and ranked in the top 10.
The Seminoles delivered with an electric second half, with Jordan Travis rushing for a TD and connecting with Keon Coleman and Jaheim Bell on TDs — Bell added another on a TD run — as No. 8 FSU hammered No. 5 LSU 45-24. FSU outscored LSU 31-7 in the second half, with fans taunting the Tigers with chants of “Over-rated” on their way out of Camping World Stadium.
Coleman was one of the stars of the night in a debut that was as impressive as the hype had been in the preseason, a difference-maker in 1-on-1s as he pulled in three touchdowns. The Michigan State transfer is the first FSU receiver with three TD receptions since Auden Tate in the 2017 Independence Bowl against Southern Miss.
The first half looked like a Week 1 game, often rough around the edges on offense and defense. But the Seminoles are 1-0 with a massive non-conference win. Here are three takeaways from the game:
Defense made mistakes but exceptional in situations
LSU marched down the field twice in the first half only to be shut down. If the Seminoles hadn’t made a pair of fourth-down stops in their own territory, the Tigers could have raced to a double-digit lead.
FSU’s defense bent often in the first half, missing tackles and blowing coverage, but was exceptional on third down (allowing just 2 of 6) and on fourth down (two stops). In a first half that was surprisingly sloppy, the Seminoles played well in situations.
LSU set up with first-and-goal at the FSU 1 after a pair of Daniels passes, for 55 yards and 15 yards. On the second pass, DJ Lundy lost track of Mason Taylor and couldn’t track him down on the sideline. But Lundy later redeemed himself on fourth-and-1 when Daniels tried to scramble free. But Lundy tracked him down for a 13-yard loss and a turnover on downs.
The Tigers then built a 70-yard drive and were knocking on the door again early in the second quarter. But on fourth-and-1, safety Shyheim Brown read the play and set the edge well — keeping Daniels pinned in the pocket. Brown and linebacker Kalen DeLoach combined for the sack.
A wow debut from Keon Coleman
The most impressive receiver in the preseason was Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman. And he had an electric night, pulling in nine receptions for 122 yards and a pair of first-half touchdown receptions, finishing off LSU with a 7-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter.
Johnny Wilson and Coleman are the first FSU receivers since 2018 to surpass the 100-yard mark.
FSU had three notable drops early, two by Wilson and one by Jaheim Bell, which contributed to two stalled-out drives. The Seminoles’ first five drives went touchdown, punt, punt, interception, punt — and Jordan Travis threw another ball over the middle when backed up on FSU’s goal line for what could have been a costly interception.
But Coleman was nearly flawless in his debut. Travis targeted him 11 times, and Coleman hauled in everything that was in the catch radius. Included was a 40-yard TD to open the scoring, a jump-ball 21-yard TD pass in the second quarter and a back-of-the-end-zone 1-on-1 win to give the Seminoles a 31-17 lead.
FSU’s miscues under microscope, but not ultimately harmful
Through FSU’s history, we’ve seen mistake-filled Week 1 performances. Coaches may say they want to open against a top-10 opponent, but the margin for error can be small with missed tackles, coverage breakdowns, drops and a Travis interception (as well as nearly a second costly one).
On another night, the drops and takeaway could have been costly. But FSU was so efficient on offense in the second half. And the defense? Renardo Green had an interception that set up a touchdown, forced a turnover on downs and then two punts.
Daniels was held to just six rushing yards after halftime. When you do that, shutting down a mobile quarterback, good things happen.
Notables from the opener
Travis completed 23 of 31 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 74 percent of his passes.
Among those making their FSU debuts on offense: Keon Coleman, Jaheim Bell, Kyle Morlock, Jeremiah Byers, Keon Coleman, Destyn Hill and Winston Wright. Those making their FSU debuts on defense: Braden Fiske and Gilber Edmond. Caziah Holmes was a kick returner.
Winston Wright Jr. caught his first pass at FSU, an 18-yarder.
Tatum Bethune led FSU with nine tackles. FSU had three sacks — one apiece by Lundy, Dennis Briggs and Josh Farmer. AZ Thomas had two of FSU’s six pass breakups.
FSU was 9 of 14 on third downs. LSU finished 3 of 10 and 0 of 3 on fourth downs.
A crowd of 65,429 watched the game at Camping World Stadium. Among them were Darnell Dockett, Peter Warrick and Warrick Dunn.
Deuce Spann’s double pass went for 17 yards to Wilson.
FSU ran 66 plays, including 34 carries. Trey Benson had 12 rushes for 47 yards.
Bob Ferrante, TheOsceola.com