PITTSBURGH — It took a little more than 30 minutes of playing time for the Florida State Seminoles, playing without a couple of their stars due to injury, to shake off both their inconsistency and their opponent, looking to make amends a week after one of their most embarrassing losses in school history. The halftime break did the Seminoles a lot of good, and their second half performance was more than enough to place them one step closer to reclaiming what was once a seasonal birthright: Atlantic Coast Conference supremacy.
Quarterback Jordan Travis ran for a score in the first half before throwing a touchdown pass in the third quarter to provide No. 4 Florida State some breathing room in a 24-7 victory over Pittsburgh inside Acrisure Stadium on Saturday afternoon. One possession after Travis’ touchdown pass, running back Trey Benson rumbled for a 55-yard touchdown up the middle to salt the game away, and the Seminoles’ defense pitched a second-half shutout for the third time in their last four games.
The win clinches a spot in the ACC Championship Game for the Seminoles, who last played in Charlotte for the conference crown in 2014.
Travis, one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy, played without his top two receiving targets, Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson, both out due to injury, and the effects of their absences showed during the first half for Florida State as it went scoreless in the game’s first 15 minutes for just the second time this season. The Panthers, who were coming off a 58-7 defeat in South Bend at the hands of Notre Dame, got on the board first midway through the second quarter, as Bub Means won a jump ball in the end zone on a pass from Christian Vellieux that covered 22 yards.
The Seminoles responded with a 75-yard scoring drive, with Travis sneaking into the end zone from a yard out to tie the score. Ryan Fitzgerald added a 32-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to give Florida State a 10-7 lead going into intermission.
Despite the Panthers staying in touch with one of the top teams in American, their mistakes cost them chances to get closer. A holding penalty at the end of the first half cost them a chance at a long field-goal attempt that would have tied the score, then an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty committed when Pittsburgh drove just inside the Seminoles’ 30-yard line forced Pittsburgh to punt when it once again could have tried a field goal to tie.
The Panthers’ punt turned into a Seminoles’ touchdown 11 plays later, with Travis’ pass to tight end Markeston Douglas covering 22 yards and a touchdown for a 17-7 lead.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday afternoon’s contest, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Phillip Peters. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 47 pictures in total.