CHARLOTTE, NC — Third-string quarterback Brock Glenn led the Seminoles to hope No. 4 Florida State won the ACC Championship Saturday night, beating Louisville 16-6, enough to earn them a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“I don’t think there was a conversation,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said during his postgame press conference. “It’s a team that deserves it. It’s a team that’s earned it. It’s a team. It’s a team that’s consistently shown what it takes to win.”
Even without veteran starter Jordan Travis, who is out for the season with a foot injury. Tate Rodemaker was out for Saturday’s game with a concussion, though he was without backup.
Without them, Glenn got the start and looked like a true freshman in school in January, going 8-of-21 for 55 yards — the 2nd-fewest in the conference championship in the last 20 seasons. Still, Florida State overcame injuries to their first two quarterbacks to win their first ACC title since 2014 — a triumphant moment for coach Mike Norvell, who took the program from rock bottom in 2020 and rebuilt it.
That Florida State won the title without Travis — its head coach instrumental in turning the program around — is a testament to the work the entire team has put in to bring the program to this point. As the final moments ticked away, the crowd chanted “FSU! FSU!” started chanting.
“We beat a top-15 team with a true freshman quarterback,” Norvell said. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care what people think. We’re winning. I believe in this team. I believe in what they can do. I believe in who they are.
“So I don’t care what other people’s opinions are. I know who I’m going to coach, and because they’ve been doing it for the last four years, they’re going to fight for everything they’ve got, and I promise that whatever the next opportunity is, they’ll come.” Will it be good enough for a playoff group?
ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said he believes it should.
“Finishing the regular season undefeated and now winning the ACC Football Championship game is a historic accomplishment,” he told ESPN. “Florida State is one of the top four teams in the nation and has no doubt a spot in the College Football Playoff. History shows that the CFP Committee continues to honor Power 5 undefeated champions like Florida State. This is a fantastic. year for FSU and the entire ACC, and we have high hopes for the team. , and we expect FSU to be recognized as one of the four best and most deserving teams among playoff participants.”
The Seminoles’ offense struggled to move the ball Saturday — its most effective play came with Wildcat running back Lawrence Tofili, who finished with 118 yards and one game to give the Seminoles the spark they needed. Norvell said the Wildcat package added late in the week and tried to get an edge on a good run defense. “I tried to be ready for my moment and try to do it if it had to be done.”
While all attention is on the quarterback — is Florida State good enough to clinch a playoff spot, though Rodemaker is expected to be fully recovered and 100 percent healthy for the bowl game — perhaps the team will look at what the Seminoles did with the defense in this game. Florida State was suffocating, stifling Louisville’s offensive line for most of the game. The Seminoles finished with a season-high seven sacks, 14 tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries and nine pass breakups en route to stopping one of the best rushing offenses in the ACC.
Defensive tackle Braden Fiske — the player a Louisville assistant pointed out during pregame warmups was the player they were most worried about — had nine tackles, a career-high three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.
“I was waiting for my opportunity to come. I knew it was coming. I was excited for the opportunity and when it finally happened, it was there,” Fiske said.
On why he believes Florida State should make the playoffs, Fiske said, “13-0 speaks for itself. I’ve been asked, that’s all I’m going to say. I’ll let them decide, but if you’re going to talk about great teams, 13-0 is one of them. “
Florida State has won 19 straight games, second only to Washington (20).
Louisville had its chances, but couldn’t capitalize. Sixth-year starting quarterback Jack Plummer struggled badly, throwing receivers 14-of-36 for 111 yards and an interception.
Twice in the second half Louisville drove the ball inside Florida State’s 15-yard line. Twice the Cards failed to score a touchdown. On first down, Louisville drove down to the 7, but Jamari Thrash tackled for a 9-yard loss and settled for a field goal. The second time, Louisville was set up in great position after pressuring quarterback Alex Mastromanno, who couldn’t even get the ball and had to drop to the ground and cover the ball. Louisville started Florida State at 12. But Tatum Bethune intercepted Plummer in the end zone to end the drive.
The Louisville defense had its chances. Florida State went on a 10-0 run in the third quarter twice on the same drive, giving up interceptions that would have given Louisville prime field position inside the Florida State 30. Jaylin Alderman and Ben Perry had the ball in their hands but couldn’t. protect it.
Florida State has five turnovers this season in the entire nation. Even with a new quarterback, the Seminoles somehow avoided giving the ball away. Florida State has allowed negative yardage in back-to-back games in the fourth quarter. They are the first team to do this in at least the last 20 years.
So now, it’s a waiting game for the ACC champions. An undefeated Power 5 champion has never been eliminated from the playoffs. Even with a third-string quarterback, that was enough for Florida State to finish 13-0 — with two wins against SEC opponents. Its defense made a solid statement not only Saturday night, but also in last week’s win over Florida.
“We can stack our defense against any offense in the country,” FSU AD Michael Alford told ESPN. “Also, given a month to prepare, our offense will be ready. That’s why we play the game. Otherwise, we’ll sit around and see who the dissenters pick and leave the committee. Because if they leave FSU, they’ll significantly damage the legitimacy of the CFP.”
Florida State defensive end Jared Vers said: “The committee is going to do what needs to be done. We’re a Power 5 champion. We showed we have a defense that can shine with anybody in the country. What needs to be done, will be done.”
As for whether Florida State can compete with anyone who makes the playoffs, Vers added, “Anyone they put in front of us is a rude awakening.
Behind Verse, Fiske and others, the defense showed its full potential Saturday night, but there is concern that it won’t be enough for the selection committee.
Florida State may not have Travis, but it has a team dedicated to finishing for him. Will the group allow it to be done?