FSU handles its business, again, with dominant road win at Syracuse

Florida State wide receiver Malik McClain (11) avoids a tackle by Syracuse defensive back...
Florida State wide receiver Malik McClain (11) avoids a tackle by Syracuse defensive back Jeremiah Wilson (24) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Syracuse, N.Y.((AP Photo/Joshua Bessex))
Published: Nov. 13, 2022 at 12:14 AM EST
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SYRACUSE, NY. (Noles247) - Florida State went to New York on a business trip. Seminoles wide receivers bullied defensive backs, their defensive front dominated, quarterback Jordan Travis was nearly perfect passing the ball, and FSU was able to clear the bench for its third game in a row.

Business was indeed handled on Saturday evening. FSU (7-3, 5-3 ACC) finished up ACC play with a 38-3 win over Syracuse (6-4, 3-3 ACC) in the JMA Wireless Dome, controlling every asset of the game. FSU out-gained Syracuse 420 yards to 160 yards and forced 6 three-and-outs.

Owie.

The two plays that best sum up FSU’s decisive road win, and helped set the tone, came from wide receivers Malik McClain and Johnny Wilson. Both of the big wideouts scored in similar ways – from 15 yards out and 24 yards out, respectively – as Travis threw short smoke screens to both targets based on Syracuse playing off coverage.

McClain’s catch required him to jump to gather the ball, but he had so much space that he gathered himself and squared up Syracuse freshman corner Jeremiah Wilson, throwing a firm stiff-arm at the rookie to cause him tripping to the ground. Johnny Wilson’s score wasn’t much different as he flung a DB off him. The scores gave FSU a 21-3 lead midway through the second quarter.

FSU’s first score came from Travis, who ran for three yards on the opening drive. It was the first of five touchdowns on the day for Travis, who was remarkably efficient with 21-of-23 passing for 155 yards and 3 passing touchdowns, giving him three straight games of 3 touchdown passes. His fifth score of the game came on a reverse pass on 4th and goal from Wyatt Rector as the tight end found Travis wide open in the end-zone. Travis was out of the game by the third quarter, something that’s become a recent trend for the Seminoles.

The Seminoles also rushed for more than 200 yards in their fifth-straight game, the first time this has happened since 1995. Trey Benson led the way in his bruising, battering-ram fashion. Benson had a career-high 163 yards, marking the third game in a row he eclipsed 100 yards. In total, FSU had 230 yards on the ground.

FSU’s defense was equally physical and effective. The Seminoles set the tone with three consecutive three-and-outs, providing an appetizer.

It didn’t matter if FSU went with its base nickel or its dime package with Jammie Robinson moving to a hybrid linebacker spot, the unit was fierce at all three levels. Fabien Lovett and Robert Cooper were engulfing blockers, edge defenders Jared Verse and Patrick Payton each got first-half sacks, linebackers Kalen DeLoach and Tatum Bethune were swarming, and cornerback Renardo Green was disruptive with perimeter tackling and sticky coverage. The Orange got starting quarterback Garret Shrader back in the mix after he’d been in-and-out of the lineup the last few weeks, and the defense made his return hellish.

In total, FSU’s defense controlled the line of scrimmage – they had seven tackles for loss and 2 sacks in the first half to help build a 24-3 lead – and limited Syracuse from getting comfortable in any area. The Orange had just 65 yards passing.

Perhaps the best drive of the day for the defense came in the second quarter after Travis was sacked and lost the ball. Syracuse recovered and took over at FSU’s 23. Reserve defensive tackle Josh Farmer had two tackles-for-loss in a row as he sniffed out some perimeter concepts, and then Verse had a sack to push Syracuse out of field-goal range. Syracuse was trailing 14-3 at the time and had a chance to put some pressure on FSU.

Instead, a team that’s becoming increasingly confident and professional in its approach responded to shut down any chance at Syracuse building momentum.

The win brings FSU to three in a row, with all three victories (41-16 over Georgia Tech, 45-3 over Miami) being blowouts.

FSU turns its focus to Louisiana next week at noon before its regular-season finale against Florida.