Florida State is a mere 30 minutes away from officially avoiding its worst season in over four decades.
In an uneven (to say the least) first half of the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl, a trio of James Blackman touchdown passes proved to be the difference as FSU has taken a 23-6 lead on Southern Miss (8-4) into the halftime locker room. The freshman hit Auden Tate for a 20-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter to give the Seminoles their first lead of the game, then connected with Cam Akers eight minutes later on a 14-yard catch and run that pushed the lead to seven.
A 29-yard Ricky Aguayo field goal midway through the second pushed the lead to double digits for the first time, while Blackman’s third scoring toss, this one to Tate from 10 yards out just with 1:33 left, accounted for the rest of the scoring in the half
Blackman finished the half completing 10-of-16 passes for 137 yards to go along with the touchdown passes. He also added 27 yards rushing on five carries. Akers, who is seven yards shy of breaking Dalvin Cook‘s school record for single-season rushing yards by a freshman (1,007), led all ball carriers with 71 yards on the ground on nine carries.
The FSU defense held the Southern Miss defense to just 138 yards, with quarterback Kwadra Griggs‘ five-yard run accounting for the Golden Eagles’ only first-half points.
Especially early on, the game had the look of one in which neither team had played in a few weeks.
In the first quarter, Southern Miss was flagged four times for offsides while FSU was hit with a pair of 15-yard penalties, including roughing the punter, that greatly aided the Eagles on an opening drive that ended with a touchdown. Additionally, both teams missed a point after attempt each.
Should the 6-6 Seminoles fail to hold their lead and lose, it would mark the first time since 1976 that FSU finished a season with a sub-.500 record. That year’s ‘Noles team finished 5-6 in Bobby Bowden‘s first season in Tallahassee.