Rodemaker rallies Florida State to 35-31 win at Louisville

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Florida State at Louisville
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Pressed into duty on the road Friday night due to an injury, Tate Rodemaker lifted Florida State to yet another improbable victory.

This time, the Seminoles didn’t need a blocked extra point with no time left to win as they did two weeks ago against LSU. Instead, they relied on their backup quarterback to lead the way in a 35-31 come-from-behind victory over Louisville.

The sophomore came in after Jordan Travis suffered a lower left leg injury with a little more than four minutes left in the second quarter and Florida State down 21-14. All the Valdosta, Georgia native did was lead the Seminoles to three, 75-yard second-half scoring drives. The last came with 7:54 left with a sensational 2-yard catch in the end zone by Johnny Wilson that put the Seminoles (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) up for good.

Rodemaker, who finished 6-for-10 passing for 109 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, said his mindset upon entering the game was to treat it like his work during the week.

“The first half I just kind of got thrown out there,” Rodemaker said. “The second half was, I just went out there and played my game. I just told myself, `This is like practice and I’d been doing it all week.’ I just transferred it over to the game.”

Florida State gained 260 of its 455 yards with Rodemaker taking the snaps. Treshaun Ward added 126 yards rushing on 10 carries for the Seminoles. Wilson finished with seven catches for 149 yards and both touchdowns from Rodemaker.

Florida State coach Mike Norvell said his team “willed” itself to the win, and that was due in large part to Rodemaker’s performance.

“That was an example of what this team is built on,” Norvell said. “It was a special night. That is one that I will remember forever. That was an incredible atmosphere. We’ll talk about that heart and that identity.”

The Cardinals (1-2, 0-2) lost despite racking up 495 yards on offense. Malik Cunningham threw for 243 yards on 21-of-34 passing with a touchdown and an interception. The fifth-year senior also added 127 yards rushing and two scores on 17 carries.

Hindering the Cardinals’ effort were three turnovers, including a second-quarter fumble by Cunningham on a botched handoff at the Seminoles 12 early in the second quarter. Louisville, which held four leads in the game, also committed 11 penalties for 81 yards.

“It’s just very hurtful and disappointing, you know, not being able to win this game,” Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said. “I felt Florida State is a good football team, but we were right there and going toe to toe and in control of the game until late.”

The Cardinals had a chance to win the game after Ryan Fitzgerald missed a 36-yard field goal with 1:44 left, but Kevin Knowles II picked off a Cunningham pass at the Florida State 38 with 37 seconds left.

TRAVIS INJURY

Friday’s game was a battle of attrition, with Travis’ injury being the most prominent injury. He left the game with just more than four minutes left in the first half after being sacked by Louisville defensive end Yaya Diaby, who had grabbed Travis by the legs on the play.

Travis walked off the field with trainers and went under the stadium. In the second half, he was on the sideline with crutches and a boot.

Before the injury, Travis, who started his college career at Louisville, had started hot, completing his first 11 passes. He finished with 157 yards, two scores and a pick on 13-of-17 passing.

Norvell said the team will evaluate Travis when the Seminoles return to Tallahassee.

BIG PICTURE

Florida State: Losing Travis for any length of time could be a big blow for the Seminoles. However, for at least Friday night, Rodemaker’s heroics were enough to lead the comeback.

Louisville: It may be hard to call the third game of the season a must-win, but given the way the Cardinals season started, Friday’s game was one they really needed. The defense that showed up in the second half of the win at Central Florida last week failed to show up when needed in the second half on Friday.

UP NEXT

Florida State returns home for a primetime game Saturday night against Boston College.

Louisville hosts South Florida next Saturday afternoon.

ACC, SEC reap benefits from transfers moving between leagues

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The plan wasn’t for Georgia Tech to lose top running back Jahmyr Gibbs as a transfer to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference. Yet the Atlantic Coast Conference school has found its share of help from the SEC, too, in the form of seven transfers.

It’s a common theme for schools in those leagues amid freer movement through the transfer portal: players shifting from one power conference to the other, often to stay close to home and within an overlapping Southern footprint.

“I think it is kind of a natural move,” said Virginia receiver Keytaon Thompson, who has played two seasons for the ACC’s Cavaliers after spending three seasons at Mississippi State in the SEC.

Gibbs offers a high-profile example for the upcoming season in his move from the Yellow Jackets to the Crimson Tide after ranking third in the Bowl Subdivision ranks by averaging better than 150 all-purpose yards per game.

He’s one of seven players to do so this year among 247sports’ Top 150 ranking of transfers for the upcoming season. That list includes:

Alabama receiver Tyler Harrell (from Louisville), Louisville running back Tiyon Evans (from Tennessee), Ole Miss defensive end Jared Ivey (from Georgia Tech), Miami running back Henry Parrish Jr. (from Ole Miss) and Kentucky receiver Tayvion Robinson (from Virginia Tech).

The movement has been fruitful for both leagues.

Last year’s Associated Press all-ACC football honors included SEC transfers in Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II (from Georgia) as defensive player of the year and North Carolina running back Ty Chandler (from Tennessee) as a second-team pick. On the SEC side, Georgia defensive back Derion Kendrick was a second-team selection after transferring from Clemson.

Florida State defensive back Jammie Robinson started his career at South Carolina in the SEC. He said he didn’t really see major differences in competition between the leagues after earning AP all-ACC second-team honors last year.

SEC teams “are going to ground and pound and run the ball down your throat,” Robinson said during the ACC’s preseason media days in Charlotte, North Carolina. “In the ACC it’s kind of different. They’re going to more spread and more (run-pass options) and stuff like that. When I got to the ACC, that’s how I was trying to better my man coverage skills.”

More broadly though, the leagues offer logical landing spots for players seeking to move closer to home.

That was a factor for quarterback Hendon Hooker as he left Virginia Tech after the 2020 season marred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, the Greensboro, North Carolina, native opted for another neighboring-state program in Tennessee – an example of why second-year Volunteers coach Josh Heupel called that regional footprint “extremely critical to us at all times.”

“I definitely had some options to go a little further away from home,” Hooker said during the SEC’s preseason media days in Atlanta. “Me being the family man I am, I would want my family to be at every game. So being four hours away from home is a blessing.”

Fourth-year Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins has an up-close view of the interleague movement from Atlanta in territory both leagues claim as their own.

While losing Gibbs and Ivey, the Yellow Jackets added defensive back Ahmari Harvey (Auburn) and offensive lineman Pierce Quick (Alabama) as midyear enrollees. In addition, Kentucky offensive lineman R.J. Adams and Auburn defensive back Eric Reed Jr. have joined the program.

“There’s a (base) about five, five-and-a-half-hour radius of your campus that you focus on in recruiting,” Collins said. “I think the same thing happens in the transfer portal as well, but then you expand that because they might have gone at a distance and now they want to come back home for whatever reason. I don’t think that’s too uncommon.”

It also goes back to those years-ago recruiting battles for North Carolina coach Mack Brown. The leagues have four overlapping states in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky. That creates plenty of battles for high school recruits as both leagues mine that fertile territory, and those ties linger when a player decides later to transfer.

“What I’m seeing more is (coaches) are really looking at guys they lose in recruiting, that they think they could’ve gotten because they were very interested,” Brown said. “And then when they leave their other school because they’re unhappy, they’re going to come back home.”

And no one seems to expect the moves to slow anytime soon.

ACC: Pitt, Wake Forest out to keep momentum, Clemson hits reset

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlantic Coast Conference changed significantly last season with Pitt winning the league title, Wake Forest taking the Atlantic Division and conference powerhouse Clemson largely out of the mix by mid-October.

Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi and Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson believe their teams worked hard this spring to stay on top. Pitt defeated Wake Forest 45-21 in the ACC title game, ending Clemson’s run of six straight championships.

Narduzzi spent the spring seeking a successor to Kenny Pickett, who was expected to be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the NFL draft.

“I was happy we got a lot of work done,” Narduzzi said. “We saw enough in 14 practices that we know who we are and I’m happy.”

The Panthers watched as Nick Patti competed with Southern Cal transfer Kedon Slovis for the starting spot. Slovis, who threw 30 touchdowns as a Trojans’ freshman, called it a “no-brainer” joining his new team.

Wake Forest, the first team other than Clemson to win the Atlantic since Florida State in 2014, won a program record-tying 11 games last year. Clawson took some offseason steps to improve a defense that was 10th in the ACC in points (28.9) and yards (413.2) allowed last season.

Clawson hired Brad Lambert as defensive coordinator. Lambert was linebackers coach at Wake Forest under Jim Grobe in 2006, the only other time the Deacons were 11-3.

“I’m encouraged by some things, and I’ve got a pit in my stomach about others,” Clawson said. “Were we better on defense because we are better on defense? Or because we did not play as well on offense.”

He will know for sure in about five months.

CLEMSON BACK?

Tigers coach Dabo Swinney was pleased with what he saw this spring, especially with starting quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who struggled early with injuries and off-target throws.

Uiagalelei went 17 of 36 for 175 yards in the Tigers’ spring game earlier this month. Still, his body of work was more than good enough to keep him the starter over freshman Cade Klubnik.

Uiagalelei “has had a great spring,” Swinney said. “He has not done anything to not be the starter. Cade is a really talented player. We got two guys, I think, that can win at a high level, just like when Trevor (Lawrence) and DJ were coming out of the spring” in 2020.

It helps that receiver Joseph Ngata has had a injury-free spring. He finished with four catches for 50 yards in the spring game.

NEW FACES

All four new ACC coaching hires after last season came in the Coastal, highlighted by Miami bringing in Oregon’s Mario Cristobal for Manny Diaz. Cristobal was a former Miami offensive tackle who was part of two national title teams. He’s charged with bringing “The U” back to prominence.

The first spring under Cristobal ended April 16 with a commitment to the little details that the new coach regularly preached will determine how far the Hurricanes go this fall.

“There’s no more excuses,” quarterback Tyler Van Dyke said.

The other first-year coaches are former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko taking over at Duke for longtime coach Dave Cutcliffe; ex-Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry succeeding Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech; and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott moving to Virginia after Bronco Mendenhall‘s surprising move to step away.

The Cavaliers had the ACC’s final spring game this past Saturday and Elliott saw what he expected four months in.

“I thought that the majority of the guys were going to buy in, but I was still going to have a couple that were skeptical and kind of one foot in the water,” Elliott said. “And I’ve got a couple of those.”

CLOSING IN

In the Atlantic Division, Boston College, Louisville and North Carolina State all have experienced, play-making quarterbacks.

The Eagles hope for a healthy Phil Jurkovec, the Notre Dame transfer who played just six games last year due to a broken bone in his throwing hand. He completed 8 of 17 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown in the Boston College spring game.

Louisville’s Malik Cunningham threw for 2,941 yards and ran for 1,034 yards last season. The Cardinals have had losing seasons in three of the previous four years and are hoping Cunningham can lead a turnaround.

The Wolfpack feature Devin Leary, who threw 35 touchdowns last season to break Philip Rivers’ school record. Along with finding receivers, Leary has just five picks in 431 attempts.