Florida is looking to battle select programs against rival Florida.
Florida State maintained its momentum in earnest late into the rolling season with another impressive finish Saturday at Boston College, setting the stage for a phenomenal regular season finale next week in Florida.
After Saturday’s results–FSU’s win in BC and UF’s loss in Missouri–both teams now stand at 5-6 overall, and the two play Saturday in Gainesville with a bowl appearing on the line for each program.
This is the first time that the two arch-rivals are in this position heading into the end of the last week of the year.
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Before the Seminoles got worried about the Gators, they first had to finish a tough 26-23 win on the road against the Eagles.
This was FSU’s fifth win in its last seven games after a 0-4 start to the season. And after it was over, sophomore coach Mike Norville praised his team for showing “a tremendous heart and tremendous character.”
“To be able to stand up to these guys in the locker room and know they’ve fought back to that point,” Norville said. “When we were down, 0-4 at the start of the season, not many people gave us a chance. But we go into this last week with a chance to win another one. And that’s special.”
Once Florida State beat rival Miami last week, Norville said Seminole’s players and coaches immediately knew they could return to the bowl picture with a win at the Boston College Wi UF.
Nor is it worth anything that while FSU has won five of their last seven games, the Gators have lost five of their last seven.
“We talked about: What legacy do you want to leave? This is not necessarily how everyone envisioned the continuation of the season, especially after the start.” Norville said. “But we definitely control how that ends, how we end up.”
Starting with quarterback Jordan Travis, who completed 20 of 34 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday, he said the chance to make a bowl “means everything.”
“We just have to come to work every day like any other week. Work hard, come tomorrow and fix our patches,” Travis said. “It’s a big week for us, it’s a big competition match. We just have to get back to work. …we have one match, and hopefully two, left this year. We just have to keep improving and focus on the little things.”
On the defensive side, linebacker Calin DeLoach imposed safety in the second quarter when he jumped through a screen pass, ending the afternoon with six tackles.
Now that the program is just one win away from an unlikely berth, DeLoach said the team’s determination, particularly after a 0-4 start through 2021, “says a lot.”
“We have been through a lot. I trust them every day, I go to battle with them every day,” Deloach said of his teammates and coaches. “I just love the way we fought from the start of the season to the end of the season. We never gave up. We always carried each other…
We want to take advantage of it. We play in Florida, so this is the last game, the last of the season. We want to go out there and do what we need to do just like we did here, and leave victorious.”
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Although he’s only been a Seminole for one season, his recent defensive move Keir Thomas said he’s impressed throughout the season with the team’s collaboration through tough times.
“It just shows what we’re capable of. I feel like we’ve resisted. As I tell you guys all the time, I don’t doubt the efforts of these guys and how they’re going to respond,” Thomas said.
Thomas has a unique perspective on these matters.
In his five seasons in South Carolina, he witnessed the ups and downs of former coach Will Muschamp’s regime. He has also squared off against the SEC East contender in Florida five times and is very familiar with the Gators.
“I try to take every opportunity I have, especially against Florida,” Thomas said. “You know how we feel about these guys, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Norville evidently couldn’t be more proud on Saturday after seeing his team clinch another close victory.
“We’ve seen the spectrum at both ends. At 0-4, there are a lot of people telling you what you can’t do, but you have the choice every day,” Norville said. “The way our guys get up, we never flinch. We push. … they want more of a push because they know they can.”
“For what you want in life, to put yourself in a position to succeed, you have to pay the price. These guys sacrifice so much. They allow us to train them. They allow us to put them to very uncomfortable standards at times. They believe where they are going to take them.”
Finally, Norville explained how a “big” victory over Florida to earn a pot seat would be for his team.
“Huge for our program,” Norville said. “When we come back, it’s a big week ahead. Our focus is on continuing to improve, taking control of the things we can control, getting better, and learning from all the experiences we had today. And go and get ready to play one game.
“I am excited about what this could mean for our program. For more practice. Give these guys another chance to make their mark.”
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