CHARLOTTE — In almost three whole games after a catastrophic injury to their offensive leader threatened to derail its perfect season, the Florida State Seminoles football team gave a number of reasons for college football fans and, most importantly, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, to doubt how good their offense would match up against some of the other best teams in the country when the stakes are at their highest.
The Seminoles’ defense, on the other hand, has proven all season that their unit almost has no peer, and if the old adage is true that defense wins championships, then Florida State’s inclusion in college football’s final four should be more of a certainty than a doubt after a conference title-sealing victory.
Florida State turned in its best defensive effort of the season when it needed it most, racking up seven sacks and a key interception in the end zone early in the fourth quarter to help the No. 4 Seminoles ease past No. 14 Louisville 16-6 in the ACC Championship Game inside Bank of America Stadium on Saturday night. Down to its third-string quarterback, true freshman Brock Glenn, Florida State relied on the running back tandem of Lawrance Toafili and Trey Benson to shoulder the offensive load, with Toafili running for 118 yards and a third-quarter touchdown that proved to be the game-winning score.
The Seminoles earned their first ACC championship since 2014, the first year of the College Football Playoff. It lost to Oregon in the national semifinals that season, and their spot in the final four-team playoff before it expands to 12 teams next season is far from certain.
Soon after Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Travis, Florida State’s starting quarterback, went down for the season with a left leg injury against North Alabama on November 18, the scrutiny on the then-high-flying Seminoles’ offense turned up significantly. An uneven performance by backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker in a 24-15 victory in Gainesville against Florida last weekend did not do much to assure many that the Noles could still be considered one of the top four teams in the country, thought it moved up to No. 4 in the rankings after Ohio State’s defeat at Michigan last week. Earlier today, two statement wins by teams just outside of the top four and on the Seminoles’ heels in the rankings, Texas and Alabama, had statement victories in their respective conference championship game contests.
Rodemaker suffered a concussion in the game against the Gators, leading to Glenn starting tonight. As expected, the true freshman struggled, throwing for just 55 yards and misfiring on 13 of his 21 passes.
Also, as expected, the Florida State running game had the back of an inexperience quarterback. And also, the Seminoles’ defense put the clamps down, holding the Cardinals, a top-20 offense in the country coming into the game, to just 188 total yards.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday evening’s event, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Yusuf Abdullah. 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 eight pictures in total.