Noles Get by Syracuse
"We were very fortunate tonight," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "It was like Murphy's Law out there for us – everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. That's our fault."
Syracuse knew they would need to take every possible advantage to have a chance at pulling an upset against No. 8 Florida State. Unfortunately for the Orange, they returned nearly every advantage they laid claim to.
Propelled by some new offensive wrinkles and an enthused Homecoming night crowd, the Orange (3-3) played inspired football against the anxious Seminoles (4-1) but ultimately succumbed to their own mistakes.
Syracuse botched two makeable field goals, turned the ball over at the FSU goal line and dropped a surefire interception but outplayed the Seminoles otherwise. SU held a 10-3 advantage into the latter stages of the third quarter.
FSU finally came from the canvas with a pair of gritty touchdown runs by Leon Washington. The junior tied the game with a 20-yarder on a toss right and gave the Seminoles the lead with a 45-yard score with 13:29 to play.
"He was all we had," Bowden deadpanned.
"We were running harder in the second half and we were finally able to take it over," said Washington, who eclipsed the century mark for the second straight week. "I'm just happy the coaches stuck with [the run]."
A 39-yard field goal by Collin Barber made it 17-13 but the Seminole running game ground the clock from there. FSU couldn't manage a game-sealing score, but its defense swarmed the Orange to give Washington and Lorenzo Booker countless chances to bury the clock.
"We came together as a defense after halftime," defensive tackle Travis Johnson said. "They had us on our heels in the first half but we were able to respond."
The resurrected FSU defense – noticeably lost in the first half - seemed to have Syracuse stymied with 11:52 to play. Attempting a fourth-and-one from their own 45, the Orange imploded once again – false start and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties negated the opportunity.
FSU's Chris Davis then muffed the ensuing punt to set up the Barber field goal, the final score of the game.
Syracuse, tough, cheated itself of an even bigger advantage. Barber missed two first-half field goal tries and leading rusher Walter Reyes fumbled the ball away on the FSU 5 late in the second half in a momentum shifting change of events.
Reyes, who was held to just 27 yards on the evening, was stripped by Charles Howard in his attempt to extend the Orange lead to a pair of touchdowns.
"We knew we had to make something happen," Johnson said. "That was the turning point."
Washington turned in 168 yards on 21 carries. Booker added 86 more.
"If we run the ball like we did tonight and the defense plays the way it did, we'll always have a chance to win the ball game," Washington said.
The Seminoles return to Tallahassee next week for a conference showdown against No. 10 Virginia. The Orange has a week off to prepare before facing No. 16 West Virginia on the road.
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