3 things learned from FSU’s victory at Pittsburgh
By Bob Ferrante
Orlando Sentinel Correspondent
While not truly a defined step in Florida State’s journey in 2023, the moment wasn’t lost on those Seminoles who had been with the program through the low points: They could now celebrate a spot in the ACC championship game after a 24-7 win at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
“I almost want to cry because we’ve put so much work from my first time getting here to where we are now,” redshirt senior linebacker Kalen DeLoach said. “I appreciate all those guys who came in and bought into the process because it wasn’t pretty all the time.”
Here are three things we learned as CFP No. 4 Florida State (9-0, 7-0 ACC) begins to turn the page to Miami:
Not a thing of beauty, but FSU’s passing game was functional
Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson are clearly FSU’s top two receivers, and both were sidelined due to injury. Take them away, as well as Hykeem Williams and Deuce Spann, and the offense was far from electric.
But Jordan Travis still had a season-best 360 passing yards, and it was arguably the most impressive (considering the available personnel) of his six career 300-yard passing games. Travis connected with eight receivers, often on screens but also hitting tight ends — Kyle Morlock, Jaheim Bell and Markeston Douglas combined for 11 of the completions.
Travis also showed confidence in receiver Ja’Khi Douglas. The 5-foot-9 redshirt junior had 6 catches for 115 yards, his first career 100-yard game.
“I was so proud of Ja’Khi,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “Anybody that is around him, they know the type of young man that he is. They know the work and the passion in which he plays. … It was big plays in big moments.”
Receiver injuries are major question mark
For FSU to maintain its spot as one of the top teams in the nation, the injury status of Coleman and Wilson is critical. It’s one thing to find solutions against a struggling Pitt, but it’s another for rivalry games against Miami and Florida.
FSU was as shorthanded at receiver as the program has been for a game in recent years. Going into Saturday, Darion Williamson was statistically the leading receiver (6 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD) who was available.
Wilson has missed two games following a hit he took against Duke. Coleman also missed Saturday’s game, although he and Wilson were on the sideline throughout the afternoon.
“It’s just unfortunate in the last game there’s an injury that kept him out,” Norvell said. “We’re very hopeful that he’ll be back extremely soon.”
Norvell also said Williams “is getting better” and that Spann is on the way back. Kentron Poitier was in on a handful of plays. He was targeted three times but did not have a reception.
FSU’s defense held up
In a city that loves blue-collar effort, FSU’s tenacity delivered by producing a season-high three takeaways — including Fentrell Cypress’ forced fumble and recovery in the end zone after he was beaten on an 82-yard pass. Freshman Conrad Hussey had an interception and forced a fumble in the fourth quarter. Pitt also punted nine times.
FSU’s defense held up on third down, too. The Seminoles didn’t allow Pitt to convert on a third-down conversion (0 for 11) and gave up just the one fourth-down conversion.
Pitt quarterback Christian Veilleux was largely ineffective, completing just 15 of 35 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown and the Panthers were held to 89 rushing yards on 24 carries.
“Very impactful throughout the contest,” Norvell said. “Unbelievable on third downs.”