Kelly: Seminoles rediscovering how to win close battles

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 17: Defensive Tackle Cory Durden #16 of the Florida State Seminoles...
TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 17: Defensive Tackle Cory Durden #16 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates a sack during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Doak Campbell Stadium on Bobby Bowden Field on October 17, 2020 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Character Lines) cele(Don Juan Moore | Don Juan Moore)
Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 1:11 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - 1,477 days.

That’s the time that separated Florida State and North Carolina’s last two meetings on the gridiron, but somehow the divide between those two dates feels like eons.

In 2016 it was the established FSU squad surging in the fourth quarter to eventually lead the reigning ACC Coastal champs only to be cut off by a last second UNC field goal. If those circumstances sound like a Bizzaro World version of Saturday’s proceedings they absolutely should and while not a direct one-to-one comparison there’s plenty to take away from that.

Before that day in 2016, Florida State had not lost to ACC competition at Doak Campbell Stadium since 2011 against Virginia and was riding an overall 22-game home winning streak dating back to a loss against Florida in 2012. The Seminoles had done a lot of winning in the time between the start and end of those streaks and were excellent in high pressure situations. No deficit was too large to overcome, no moment too big to seize.

But with the benefit of hindsight the Tribe’s loss to the Heels was truly a sign the glory days of the Jimbo Fisher era were over. The team that always found a way to win, especially on home turf had found a way to lose and since that day 'Noles have been just 8-9 in one score games...

Until Saturday that is.

But face it, the script looked familiar. The Garnet and Gold were once again off to a hot start, allowing their opponent to roar back, missing the big play, failing to extend late drives, and aiding the enemy with a bad turnover and costly penalties. Unlike the ghosts of Georgia Tech, Virginia, Boise State and the like however FSU flipped the script. It started “here we go again in the face” and told it no. The Seminoles seemed to learn how to win again Saturday night. Willing to pay whatever cost.

“It’s been challenging,” said Head Coach Mike Norvell of the road to upsetting number five UNC. “It’s been challenging in every aspect and they just continue to respond. I’m really proud of those guys and to see that reaction and to see them in the locker room with the celebrations was pretty special.”

Willing to fight for each other

“There was no one that was going to get me off the field there,” remarked Quarterback Jordan Travis who remained in the game late with an apparent shoulder injury. “I was going to go in there with my boys. They were fighting for me so I was going to fight for them and I’m very thankful we got the win.”

“We just kept building off one another whenever,” said Offensive Lineman of his improving unit. “[If I] made a mistake my brothers, Dontae [Lucas] or another offensive lineman was there to pick me up.”

Winning is not easy. It’s why we celebrate those teams and athletes who do it so often. The ‘Noles spent the first half of the 2010’s trying to invent new ways to win and back half discovering new ways to lose but on Saturday, Florida State once again found how to escape the pressure cooker and in turn just how much fun football is supposed to be.

It was far from perfect and it will more than likely remain that way for the immediate future but FSU found it’s signature win and safe footing on Norvell’s climb to put the Seminoles back on top.

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