FSU ended a strange and disappointing on a high note with a blowout win over Southern Miss in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl. Here are five things that matter.
2017 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl: FSU 42, Southern Miss 13
5. Apparently, Florida State cared
Give credit to the FSU players.
This was supposed to be a College Football Playoff season with a shot at the national title, but that all ended with a thud right away. The CFP was gone, the ACC title dream went away, and it looked like even going bowling was going to be a problem,
The coach packed up and flew away for more money, star safety Derwin James was sitting out, and it was a mid-level bowl game against a Conference USA team.
The Noles could’ve slept through this.
But FSU managed to roll through the final few games of the season, and it came into the bowl with the attitude that it wanted to win this game. It played hard, it played well. The players showed incredible toughness and character this year.
4. James Blackman
Is there a quarterback controversy now?
Deondre Francois should be the starter, but with the way Blackman grew as the season went on, and with the way he played against USM, now he at least needs to get his shot in the spring.
Francois and Blackman don’t necessarily fit what Willie Taggart likes in a quarterback, but after going 18-of-26 for 233 yards and four scores – with 29 rushing yards – he was terrific.
Best of all, he didn’t turn the ball over. The only way FSU was going to lose this was by screwing up. Blackman didn’t, and this turned into a blowout.
3. The FSU O line did its part
It was a rough season and a tough year for the Seminole offensive line. It’s a bit too much to say that the front five was the reason the season went into the tank, but the blocking wasn’t a help.
Against Southern Miss, FSU’s O line cranked up 214 rushing yards – Cam Akers tore off 94 yards and Jaques Patrick added 61 with a score – Blackman had time against a good Golden Eagle pass rush, and boom. The offense did what it was supposed to do all season.
2. Southern Miss was just there for the ride
It was a good year for the Golden Eagles, but they ran into a buzzsaw.
Ito Smith came up with a big run, Kwandra Griggs threw a touchdown pass and ran for another, but this day was all about USM. The team put up a fight, and it kept pressing even after getting down big, but a great season ended up with a clunker.
FSU played like FSU, and Southern Miss did what it could. But the defense couldn’t hold up, the offense only came up with 260 yards, and it was a rough day. Going 8-5 was a positive – this loss shouldn’t sour that.
1. The Florida State defense
Even without Derwin James in the secondary, that FSU defense was amazing. It was nasty over the last few games of the season to get to the bowl, and it played like its hair was on fire at times to easily pull off the bowl win.
It might have come out a bit sluggish, allowing a 78-yard USM touchdown drive to open things up, that was it. After that, the D gave up 182 yards the rest of the way.
The defensive front swarmed all over everything the Golden Eagles tried to do on the ground – outside of that one good Ito Smith run – and the team got off the field. USM couldn’t keep the chains moving, the FSU offense did its part, and the result was a 42-13 blowout.