Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis made a triumphant return to the starting lineup, throwing 2 touchdown passes and setting up a 34-yard game-winning field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald as the Seminoles secured their first win of the season, 33-30, on Saturday at home against Syracuse.
After a series of heartbreaking losses, it was FSU on the other side this time around.
“Nothing comes easy,” said FSU coach Mike Norvell. “We knew this was going to come down to one play. We didn’t know which play was going to be the difference, but we had to continue to fight and continue to improve, continue to believe.
“I’m happy for our players. I know the work that goes into it.”
FSU (1-4, 1-2 ACC) opened with a 15-play, 48-yard drive capped by a 35-yard field goal by Fitzgerald. It was the first points by the Seminoles on an opening drive this season.
Travis, who was making his first start since the opener against Notre Dame, settled down midway through the second quarter with the redshirt sophomore finding Camren McDonald on a short screen that the redshirt junior tight end took to the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 9-0.
But that momentum was short-lived as Syracuse’s offense began imposing its will on the FSU defense. Garrett Shrader avoided pressure before rambling 55 yards for a touchdown. The Orange (3-2, 0-1 ACC) cut the deficit to 9-6 after missing the extra point.
Shrader continued to carve his way through a crumbling defense. After completing 2 passes for 29 yards and scrambling for 16, the sophomore finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run up the middle that gave Syracuse its first lead, 13-9.
The Seminoles regrouped as Travis connected with Keyshawn Helton for a 14-yard touchdown pass before the end of the first half.
FSU extended its lead to 23-13 on a heads-up play by Andrew Parchment, who scooped up a fumbled screen pass by Travis to Ontaria Wilson and took it 10 yards for the score.
Syracuse capitalized on a pair of long runs by Shrader and tailback Sean Tucker to set up another touchdown run before the end of the third quarter to cut into the lead, 23-20.
FSU responded with running back Treshaun Ward, who outran most of the defense for a 65-yard gain that put the Seminoles on the Orange’s 2-yard line. Jashaun Corbin blasted through the line for the touchdown.
Shrader continued to rally Syracuse, finding receiver Anthony Queeley for a 26-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 30-27 with 10:35 left.
On FSU’s next possession, Travis had his pass intercepted by Duce Chestnut deep in Seminoles territory. The Orange capitalized on the takeaway with a 24-yard field goal to tie the score with 5:17.
Travis finished 22 of 32 for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran for a career-high 113 yards, including 25-yard and 33-yard scrambles that set up the winning field goal.
“They were not designed [runs],” said Travis. “The holes opened up and the receivers made big blocks downfield.”
Injuries limited Travis’ availability this season and it wasn’t until Thursday that FSU named him the starter.
“I have a great supporting cast,” Travis said. “My family keeps me going every single day and keeps me positive. My team keeps me positive, always staying on me and just pushing me to go out there every single day.”
For Fitzgerald, it was a shot at redemption. He’d missed a 37-yard field goal in the overtime against Notre Dame, a 41-38 loss in the opener for the Seminoles.
“In Week 1, I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a matter of like 15 minutes,” Fitzgerald said. “It was a good learning process and building confidence off the highs and the lows and knowing how to respond and keep getting better.”