Tampa Bay Sports Day

Second Half Dominance Allows No. 4 FSU to Rally Past No. 11 Ole Miss

Photo by Tallahassee Democrat

ORLANDO, Fla. — Fourth-ranked Florida State rallied to defeat 11th-ranked Ole Miss 45-34 in the Camping World Kickoff.

“First of all, I’m very proud of these guys, just the way they competed in the game and overcame adversity. I’m not happy about the situation we put ourselves in, and sometimes in opening games, though, you never know. But what I do know is, we’ve got a bunch of competitors that care about each other and fight,” said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher.

FSU freshman QB Deondre Francois was 33 of 52 for 419 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Dalvin Cook ran for 91 yards and caught seven passes for 101 yards. True freshman kicker Ricky Aguayo was a perfect 6-for-6 on field goals, an FSU record in converting from 25, 21, 40, 40, 44 and 30 yards.

“It was a nightmarish second half. You have to give credit to Florida State. I really thought that things started to turn a little bit for them the last drive of the first half. And we blew a coverage there and gave them ‑‑ or the technique on the coverage and gave them a score right before half and they definitely came out of the locker room with a lot more life and, you know, we turned the ball over twice,” said Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.

FSU’s Travis Rudolph and tight end Ryan Izzo both caught TD passes. Kermit Whitfield added a three-yard TD run and Freddie Stevenson scored on a one-yard run following a Marcus Lewis interception. Jesus Wilson led the ‘Noles receivers with nine catches for 125 yards.

Rebels’ QB Chad Kelly threw for 313 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

“That really shifted the momentum to their favor. And when you’re playing in a game against one of the nation’s best teams, you can’t turn the ball over like that. And certainly, we were really bad on third down defense. And you know, give credit to them, but we’ve got to improve those if we want to win these types of games,” Freeze said.

Ole Miss’ Van Jefferson, Demore’ea Stringfellow, D.K. Metcalf and Evan Engram caught TDs. Engram was the Rebels’ leading receiver with nine catches for 121 yards. Rebels running back Akeem Judd scored on a run.

Derwin James had an interception and led the Seminoles with eight tackles, defensive back Trey Marshall and linebacker Matthew Thomas each had seven.

KICKOFF NOTEBOOK: FSU Punter Logan Tyler averaged 44 yards a punt and notched five touchbacks on kickoffs. …The 22-point deficit was the largest the Seminoles ever overcame for a victory, topping a 2014 comeback of 21 points against Louisville…. the Seminoles improved to 8-1 against Southeastern Conference programs under head coach Jimbo Fisher….Ole Miss’ defense was led by defensive back Zedrick Woods with 11 solo tackles….Ole Miss defensive back Ken Webster sustained a leg injury during the Rebels’ first defensive possession. He was carted off the field early in the opening quarter. …Ole Miss had only played one other season opener at a neutral site: a 35-13 win against Boise State in 2014.