The Daily Nole

Column: Louisville’s Late-Game Interception Was an IOU to FSU

Mitch White/FSU athletics

Regardless of who actually gets the blame, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino could see an uptick in Christmas cards this holiday season from fans who spend their Saturdays wearing a different shade of red.

Florida State was given new life on Saturday after the Cardinals elected to throw on first down, inside the FSU 25-yard-line with the clock running down to two minutes and the Seminoles already down a timeout. The pass from Jawon Pass was intercepted by FSU safety A.J. Westbrook with 1:56 to play to give the visiting team new life.

Five plays later, wide receiver Nyqwan Murray was streaking down the field on the receiving end of a 58-yard touchdown from quarterback Deondre Francois with 1:13 to play. Stanford Samuels III’s interception on the ensuing possession for Louisville sealed a 28-24 victory — the first for FSU in ACC play and on the road this season.

The decision to throw on first down likely cost Louisville the contest. Had the Cardinals elected just to run the ball, force FSU to use its two remaining timeouts and kicked a field goal, the Seminoles would have likely had about 40 seconds to go 70 to 80 yards and try to score a game-winning touchdown. That would have been a best-case scenario for FSU.

As much as the gaffe feels like a gift for Florida State, it is in actuality probably more of a repayment considering how the 2017 version of the contest went in Tallahassee. While the coaching staff didn’t receive the same scrutiny, it was a turnover by an inexperienced quarterback that turned the tides at Doak Campbell Stadium.

During the contest in October last season, Florida State looked as though it was in a position where the only options were a victory or overtime. FSU had overcome a 28-14 fourth-quarter deficit to draw even and had reached the Louisville 21-yard-line with just over two minutes to play. On a first down play, quarterback James Blackman fumbled on a busted play and Henry Famurewa recovered for the Cardinals.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson proceeded to take his team down the field and set up a 34-yard field goal from Blanton Creque with five seconds remaining in a 31-28 victory for Louisville. The deflating loss looked as though it could ruin the remainder of the season as FSU fell to 2-4. The Seminoles followed that up with a 35-3 beatdown at the hands of Boston College to fall to 2-5 before going 5-1 the rest of the way to achieve bowl-eligibility with the help of a made up contest with Louisiana-Monroe.

Being unable to get the victory on Saturday could have had adverse carryover consequences, especially with a trip to Miami on the horizon. Being able to overcome what seemed like a surefire defeat over the weekend should at least give the Seminoles a puncher’s chance and provide a much-needed confidence booster.

The scrutinized decision to throw for Louisville won’t have the same long-term effects of Clemson’s fumble in the red zone in Tallahassee back in 2014, the “Clint Stoerner moment” for eventual national champion Tennessee against Arkansas in 1998 or Colorado being gifted a “fifth down” against Missouri, but for a team in transition learning to win, a little bit of luck is necessary. As far as FSU and Louisville go, Pass’ late-game pick was far more of a debt repaid than a present.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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