Orlando, Florida may be home to the happiest place on Earth, but No. 11 Ole Miss (0-1) is leaving town with nothing but disappointment. The Rebels blew a 22-point lead against No. 4 Florida State (1-0) in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando. The Seminoles ripped off 33 straight points on their way to a 45-34 victory. It was the largest come-form-behind victory in Florida State history.
Freshman quarterback Deondre Francois went through some growing pains in his first start for Florida State at quarterback, but gained some confidence in leading a late touchdown drive in the first half and came out looking like a brand new player in the second. Francois passed for 420 yards and two touchdowns without an interception or a fumble (one fumble by Francois was overruled upon video review). He looked like a freshman starting his first game in the first half, because he was a freshman starting his first game in the first half. And he was going up against a solid Ole Miss defense, which crumbled in the second half as Florida State gobbled up a decisive edge in the time of possession department.
Ole Miss did have success running an up-tempo offense against Florida State early on, which played a part in building a 28-6 lead in the first half, but the wear and tear on the defense showed in the second half as Florida State looked like the fresher of the two teams. The Rebels saw Chad Kelly look confident and living up to the hype of being the best quarterback in the SEC with three touchdowns in the first half, but he also cooled off in the second half and was picked off three times in the game, the last coming with under three minutes remaining in the game to essentially put to rest any hope of a win for Ole Miss.
THREE QUICK THOUGHTS
1. You cannot turn the ball over against Florida State and expect to win. Ole Miss did so three times, with a trio of interceptions thrown by Kelly among them. Florida State is not going to dig holes too often this season the way they did Monday night, and there are only a small handful of offenses that will be able to hang with Florida State and have the potential to overcome a deficit in the turnover margin (Clemson, Louisville… Miami?).
2. One observation to take from Sunday night’s Texas-Notre Dame game is the Longhorns could be turning a corner but must still learn how to finish a game. Texas had a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter before seeing Notre Dame battle back and eventually get the game to overtime. Texas escaped with the win, but it was a lesson that could be learned in Austin. The same experience must be earned in Oxford. Ole Miss was in command of the game shortly before halftime, when Florida State scored a late touchdown to gain some momentum at the break. The Seminoles then went on a tear with a 24-0 run in the third quarter and a 33-0 run overall before the Rebels got back on the board, going from up 28-6 to down 39-34. Perhaps this can be an assessment of the coaching. Jimbo Fisher held a decisive edge while Hugh Freeze will have some questions that need answers.
3. Dalvin Cook turned in a fine effort, even if he did have the bonehead play of the game. Cook was mere yards away from reaching the end zone in the second quarter on a pass play but for some reason switched the position of the ball in his hands before he crossed the goal line, uncontested. The ball dribbled loose out of bounds and instead of a touchdown, Florida State was reduced to settling for a field goal. All was forgiven later, as Cook ended his night with 192 all-purpose yards, including 101 receiving yards.
Florida State opens its home schedule next week against Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers gave North Dakota State a solid test in the FCS opener two weekends ago and demolished Kentucky State at home this past weekend. As good as they may be in the FCS ranks (and they are really good), Florida State should manage to avoid any real threat of a massive upset in Tallahassee. Ole Miss also gets an FCS opponent next weekend at home when they host Wofford. Wofford opened its season with a 21-7 road victory at Tennessee Tech on Thursday night. After getting by Wofford, Ole Miss has two pivotal game sin SEC play at home against Alabama and Georgia. Then comes a revenge game against Memphis. Memphis upset the Rebels last season.