Florida State again lets halftime lead slip, can't cash in late opportunities against Virginia

By: Fletcher Keel | WCTV Eyewitness Sports
September 14, 2019

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WCTV) -- For the third time this season, the Florida State Seminoles could not hold onto a third-quarter lead and saw a 17-10 lead evaporate and allowed 21 points in the fourth quarter alone to fall to the #25 Virginia Cavaliers, 31-24, on Saturday.

But, it wasn't as if the Seminoles didn't have their chances, especially in the final drive of the game.

Virginia committed four personal foul penalties to put FSU within striking distance. The first came on a 4th and 15 play from inside their own 30, which ended with a defensive pass interference call to give FSU a free first down and an added unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the UVA bench put the ball at midfield for the Noles.

Later in the drive, again on fourth down, a roughing the passer flag was thrown to put the Noles back in business and two plays later, UVA was flagged for pass interference while trying to defend Tamorrion Terry as he went for a ball thrown into the endzone.

The game ended as FSU quarterback James Blackman found Keyshawn Helton at the UVA four yardline for a first down and a direct snap to Cam Akers as time expired, but Akers came two yards short of the goal line as the Noles lost by a touchdown.

It was Virginia who struck first, kicking a field goal in the final minute of the frame to give the Cavaliers a 3-0 lead.

FSU scored their first points of the game, and the game's first touchdown, early in the second quarter, taking advantage of a 39-yard punt by UVA from their own endzone and a personal foul penalty after Cam Akers drew a late hit penalty to set up Gabe Nabers' second touchdown catch of the season, giving the Noles a 7-3 lead.

Virginia responded on their next possession, going 75 yards in six plays to take a 10-7 lead.

Inside of the final minute of the second quarter, the Noles were able to regain the lead, this one at 14-10, thanks to plays of 10 yards, 11 yards, 36 yards and 28 yards to set up a three-yard touchdown pass from Blackman to Akers.

For a full scoring breakdown from the Seminoles and Cavaliers, click here.

FSU added a field goal to the scoreboard as the only points in the third quarter, taking a 17-10 lead.

Virginia tied the game at 17-17 in the opening moments of the fourth quarter on Bryce Perkins' first touchdown pass of the game, finding Joe Reed from 12-yards out to put the cap on a drive in which Perkins went perfect (9-for-9, 67 yards) through the air.

Blackman and the Noles responded by going 5-for-5 himself through the air, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to Helton to re-give the Noles a lead, 24-17.

UVA thought they had tied the game in their ensuing possession, which went 75 yards in 11 plays and were aided by three FSU defensive penalties, ended with a Wayne Taulapapa touchdown run of two yards but a missed extra point let the Noles cling to a one-point lead, 24-23.

However, that didn't last long. FSU promptly went three-and-out on their next drive, giving the ball back to the Cavaliers, who again marched down the field with ease, as Taulapapa put the ball in the endzone for the third time on the night and, after a two-point conversion, gave the Wahoos a 31-24 lead they never relinquished.

FSU's defense played well in the opening stages of the game, but were unable to get much pressure on Perkins in key moments (especially in all three of the fourth-quarter touchdown drives). The Noles were also picked apart by Perkins and the UVA receiving corps in the second level of the defense all night long.

As a team, Virginia outgained FSU, 415-329, and beat FSU in time of possession by nearly 20 minutes (39:44-20:16).

Perkins finished going 30-for-41 through the air for 295 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

His favorite target, Joe Reed, led all players with eight receptions to go with his 83 yards and one receiving touchdown.

Blackman totaled 324 yards through the air while completing 22 of his 37 pass attempts and threw three touchdown passes, tying a school record by throwing for at least three touchdowns in a five-start span.

The Noles had trouble establishing much of a run game, as Cam Akers led the way with 18 carries and 78 yards, marking the first time he failed to reach 100 yards rushing in a game this season.

UVA used Taulapapa sparingly; despite his three touchdowns, he only logged 53 yards on 18 attempts.

For the third straight year, the Seminoles have started their season 1-2 and welcome the Louisville Cardinals to Doak Campbell Stadium next week for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

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