The first half of the Rose Bowl has unfolded exactly to script for both Florida State and Oregon: Marcus Mariota is dazzling, and the Seminoles are trailing. The Ducks lead 18-13 at the break. This is the ninth time – and fifth consecutive game – that Florida State has trailed this season.
Mariota has completed 18-of-26 passes for 157 yards with a late interception and rushed seven times for 39 yards (and evading a number of sacks in the process), while Winston has had a quiet half by comparison, hitting 13-of-21 throws for 136 yards and rushing five times for two yards. Dalvin Cook has been the engine powering the Seminoles’ attack with 12 carries for 90 yards.
Florida State forced a three-and-out on the first possession of the game and then marched 33 yards for a 43-yard Roberto Aguayo field goal, but Oregon linebacker Torrodney Prevot was flagged for a hands-to-the-face personal foul, giving the ‘Noles new life. However, the Oregon defense stiffened, thanks in large part to a Prevot sack-strip that cost Florida State seven yards, and limited only a 28-yard Aguayo field goal.
Oregon immediately responded, moving 73 yards in nine plays over just 2:11, taking the lead with a one-yard Royce Freeman plunge and then pushing the score to 8-3 with a Taylor Alie pass to Christian French. The Ducks had a chance to seize an extra large slice of momentum after forcing a three-and-out and taking over at the Florida State 40 thanks to a Cason Beatty shank, but Mark Helfrich‘s gamble to eschew a field goal while facing a 4th-and-5 at the 22 backfired as Mariota’s pass to Freeman was broken up by Ronald Darby.
The key sequence of the first half – and perhaps each team’s respective season – came at the end of the first quarter and very beginning of the second. Florida State marched from its own 23 to the Oregon one only to see the Ducks string out a 3rd down stretch play to Karlos Williams, but linebacker Tyson Coleman was offside, giving the ‘Noles new life.
But Williams was stuffed on 3rd down from the one and, with a quarter break to think about it, Jimbo Fisher called an option play on 4th-and-goal from the one on the first play of the second quarter. Winston kept and was initially ruled in for a touchdown, but the score was overturned on review. He was half a yard short.Oregon then moved 88 yards in 19 plays – needing just 4:45 – to put Aidan Schneider in position for a 28-yard field goal, turning what could have been a 10-8 Florida State lead into an 11-3 deficit.
Florida State added another field goal – settling, really, after setting up another 1st-and-goal and then committing a false start and delay of game – and Oregon answered with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, this one capped by a one-yard Thomas Tyner run.
As they’ve done all season, Florida State closed the half with a touchdown. Winston marched the ‘Noles 71 yards, and Karlos Williams punched in a 10-yard score to pull Florida State within 18-13 with 36 ticks remaining.
Oregon drove across the water to close the half instead of laying up, and the Ducks paid the price as a Mariota overthrow was intercepted by Nate Andrews. Florida State had a chance to pull even closer before the break, but Aguayo’s 54-yard try on the final play of the half clanked off the left goalpost.
Injuries have been a factor for both teams in the first half. Nick O’Leary tweaked his hamstring in pre-game warm-ups, but started the game and caught a five-yard reception on a 3rd-and-4, extending Florida State’s lone touchdown drive. For Oregon, Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen limped off after a 20-yard opening kickoff and was later wheeled to the locker room.
Florida State will receive the ball to open the second half.