With six seconds remaining, Jacksonville State was at its own 41 facing a fourth-and-10 play while trailing 17-14. The Gamecocks had a timeout left, but time would almost certainly run out on a gain of more than 10 yards.
Therefore, the FCS program had to throw it deep if it wanted to pull an upset over the Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Everybody in Tallahassee, Talladega and viewers across the country on the ACC Network knew that.
However, I’m not sure if Mike Norvell, his coaching staff or his 11 players on the field had any idea that that was the deal. (More on that in a moment.) Whatever the case, FSU rushed four and multiple linebackers were in No Man’s Land, and here’s what happened.
Let’s be clear here: Jacksonville St. didn’t exactly run a textbook two-minute drill on its final possession, and it didn’t even run a Hail Mary play like it’s normally drawn up. Nevertheless, it worked to perfection because FSU inexplicably “ran a two-deep man under [and] tried to get pressure on the quarterback,” according to Norvell.
Norvell added, “They still had one time out, so we didn’t go to immediate prevent.”
Jacksonville St. kicker Alen Karajic’s career-long field goal is from 46 yards out. But for the purpose of this conversation, let’s just say the Gamecocks wanted to get him set up for a 55-yard FG attempt. They would need to get to the 38-yard line for a 55-yarder. To do so, Jacksonville St. would need a gain of 21 yards in five seconds or fewer.
I’d say the chances of that happening are highly unlikely, as are Karajic’s chances of making a 55-yarder. Regardless, a field goal would only tie the game and force overtime. Therefore, FSU obviously should’ve rushed only three and dropped its entire secondary and its linebackers back deep into prevent coverage with one goal: Don’t let anybody get behind you! (We’re talking kindergarten stuff here.)
That didn’t happen and Zerrick Cooper found Damond Philyaw-Johnson for a 59-yard touchdown pass, giving Jacksonville St. a 20-17 win in walk-off fashion. The Gamecocks won outright as 28-point underdogs. FanDuel was the only major book offering a money-line price, with Jacksonville St. hooking up its backers with a 14/1 payout (paid $1,400 on $100 bets).
The most galling thing about the game’s final play might not be the defensive formation. If you go back and watch the replay, check out #10 Jammie Robinson, who literally quits on the play three different times. If he’s not loafing and instead sprints at Philyaw-Johnson after he makes the catch, Robinson would’ve been in position to make the tackle.
Wait, there’s more. FSU cut Jacksonville St. a check for $400,000 to play the game.
And then there’s this: FSU offensive lineman Brady Scott decided it would be a good idea to propose to his girlfriend after the game. Did he wait to do so in a private setting? You know, not in front of cameras while the Gamecocks are still celebrating in the background.
Nope, Scott had the audacity to drop to a knee right there, just moments after FSU took the most humiliating defeat in program history. Seriously?
Now I’m sure many will call this “sweet.” Hell, Scott called it “the greatest moment of his life.”
See, that’s a problem. That’s a clear-cut indicator that Norvell’s players aren’t invested enough.
This isn’t pee-wee pigskin. This is major college football. Head coaches are paid millions of dollars and many assistants make six-figure salaries.
When the team doesn’t perform, coaches get fired. Coaches have kids and wives and lives are impacted.
FSU lost outright for the first time when favored by 27 points or more. It was also the Seminoles’ first loss to an FCS foe in program history.
FSU is now 14-22 in its last 26 games and 3-8 on Norvell’s watch. One of Norvell’s three wins came over Jacksonville St. last season, so he’s 2-8 against FBS competition. And he’s lucky that it’s not 2-10 because FSU forfeited against Clemson and Virginia just hours before kickoff last year.
The ‘Noles are listed as 5.5-point underdogs Saturday at Wake Forest.