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Slow defensive start dooms Seminoles in 48-16 loss to Louisville

Oct 24, 2020; Louisville, Kentucky, USA;  Louisville Cardinals running back Javian Hawkins cuts...
Oct 24, 2020; Louisville, Kentucky, USA; Louisville Cardinals running back Javian Hawkins cuts through the hole during the first half at Cardinal Stadium. Jamie Rhodes-ACC Pool(Jamie Rhodes | Atlantic Coast Conference)
Published: Oct. 24, 2020 at 3:48 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida State surrendered 28 straight first-half points to the Louisville Cardinals as the Seminoles fell, 48-16, Saturday afternoon in front of 11,465 fans at Cardinal Stadium.

The win is Louisville’s first against FSU since 2017 and the Cardinals have won three of the last five meetings between the two programs.

Florida State has gone 87:25 of game time since scoring second half offensive points, dating back to the third quarter of the loss to Notre Dame.

The Noles couldn’t have started the game hotter offensively, marching 65 yards in two and a half minutes to score the first touchdown of the game.

Camren McDonald set the FSU scoring drive up with a 30-yard reception on the first play of the game, dragging multiple Louisville defenders for a majority of the run to set the Noles up at the Cardinal 35 yardline.

Six plays later, Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis scored from eight-yards out, though the play in actuality was far more difficult; a botched option play between Travis and running back Jashaun Corbin forced a fumble, which Travis recovered by bouncing the football back to him and was able to avoid Louisville defenders on his way to the endzone to make it 7-0.

The magic quickly disappeared from the Seminoles after that play, however, as the Cardinals scored 28 straight points.

UofL’s first two touchdowns came from the legs of Javian Hawkins; a nine-yard rush to tie the game at 7-7, that was set up by a 65-yard pitch and catch between Malik Cunningham and TuTu Atwell, and a 70-yard rush on the Cardinals' only play of that drive, to give the Cards a 14-7 lead midway through the first quarter.

Florida State responded with a nice drive of their own, marching to the UofL 33 yardline before the miscues began to derail the drive. Lawrence Toafili nearly picked up a first down on a rush, but an illegal block penalty called it back, and a bad drop across the middle of the field by Keyshawn Helton led to a third-and long that was not converted, forcing the Noles to punt, downing the Cards at their own six-yardline.

UofL marched down the length of the field - 94 yards - on a drive that was capped by Cunningham’s first touchdown pass of the game, finding Ean Pfeifer for a 13-yard scoring play to give the home squad a 21-7 lead.

Cunningham connected with Atwell again, this time for 57 yards and finding the endzone, to give the Cardinals a 28-7 lead before the Seminoles found the scoreboard again.

FSU answered the 28-point run with the longest drive of the first half, spanning 6:32 of game time, and running 15 plays to gain 76 yards.

Travis recorded his second touchdown of the game, and his first passing one of the afternoon, to cap the long drive, finding Ontaria Wilson in the endzone from four-yards out on fourth-and-goal, bringing the Noles within 28-14.

The Seminoles then caught a rare first-half break on the ensuing possession: The Noles called a timeout on a Cardinal third-down but it backfired, as it appeared Cunningham and connected with Marshon Ford for a 43-yard touchdown.

But, after a video review, it was determined that Ford was down just shy of the goal line, giving UofL a first-and-goal from the half yard line, but a penalty pushed them out of the redzone and FSU forced UofL to settle for a field goal for the first time on the day, leading to a 31-14 game.

Both teams ended the first half missing field goals on their final drive of the half: FSU missed from 50-yards out, while UofL had a 52-yard attempt get blocked as time expired.

The final drive of the first half marked the first drive of the game the Cardinals failed to register a point.

UofL opened the second half with a three-and-out, but found the endzone on their next drive, a 10-yard rush from Hawkins, to make it a 38-14 game.

FSU’s only second half points came via a safety, after turning the ball over on downs after marching 78 yards in 13 plays, the last of which was a UofL goalline stuff of Travis.

Cunningham took too long to make a decision from about five yards deep in the endzone on an option play and was wrapped up, pulling FSU within 38-16.

From there, the Cardinals scored the games final 10 points - a 34-yard field goal and Atwell’s second touchdown of the game from two-yards out - to take a 48-16 lead.

After getting stuffed at the goalline, FSU totaled just 93 total yards in their final five drives of the game; in that same span, the Noles threw one interception, punted once and turned the ball over on downs three times.

Travis finished the game completing 14 of his 31 attempted passes for 141 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He added just 47 yards on 12 carries.

Cunningham tossed two touchdowns, completing 16 of his 24 passes for 278 yards.

Hawkins led all rushers with 173 yards on 16 touches - an average of 10.9 yards per carry - for three touchdowns, a game best.

Despite FSU’s offensive struggles, they were still able to combine to rush for 265 yards against a Cardinal defense that has now allowed more rushing yards than they did the previous week in each of the last three games.

The Cardinals posted a season-best 569 total yards of offense on the Seminole defense.

Florida State is off next week before welcoming Pitt to Doak Campbell Stadium on November 7.

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