NEW ORLEANS — – Shyheim Brown blocked LSU’s extra-point attempt with no time left to give Florida State a 24-23 victory Sunday night, spoiling Brian Kelly’s debut as Tigers coach.
Despite a slew of mistakes including a muffed punt with 2:15 left, LSU came within the extra point of tying it in the wild finish.
With LSU fans celebrating an apparent two-touchdown comeback in the final 4:07 – and Florida State fans bracing themselves for what could have gone down as an infamous implosion – Brown deflected Damian Ramos‘ kick, touching off a Florida State celebration during which players wildly rushed the field.
Jordan Travis passed for 260 yards and two touchdowns for Florida State.
Travis’ scoring passes came on a 39-yard throw to Ontaria Wilson on a flea flicker and a 27-yard pass that Wilson corralled with one hand while being interfered with. Travis also rushed for 31 yards on a combination of designed runs and scrambles, repeatedly leaving LSU pass rushers grasping air as he spun or darted away from pressure.
Tens of thousands garnet and gold-clad spectators helped sell-out the Superdome, virtually negating what could have been a home advantage for LSU in a game played just 80 miles from its Baton Rouge campus. And they left happy after Florida State (2-0) – coming off four straight losing seasons – prolonged a promising start to coach Mike Norvell’s third season in charge.
This game was arguably more meaningful to Norvell than Kelly, who was lured from Notre Dame with a decade-long, $100 million contract designed to give him time to remake LSU football in his image. Kelly’s staff includes only one assistant from last season, while 16 transfer players were brought in to patch up a roster in flux.
One of those transfers was former Arizona State QB Jayden Daniels, who started after a tight competition in camp with Garrett Nussmeier. He completed 26 of 35 passes for 209 yards and two TDS, both to Jenkins. Daniels also rushed for 114 yards.
Another transfer, running back Noah Cain (from Penn State), scored LSU’s first TD from a yard out on fourth down late in the third quarter to make it 17-10.
Travis marched the Seminoles right back to the end zone, highlighted by a 15-yard completion to Johnny Wilson as the elusive QB jumped away from closing defenders. DJ Lundy finished the drive with a 1-yard TD run to make it 24-10 with 9:04 to go.
LSU took its only lead, at 3-0, on its first possession. But that drive stalled shortly after first-year center Garrett Dellinger‘s shotgun snap over Daniels’ head on second and goal from the FSU 5.
Florida State’s lead was just 7-3 at halftime after both teams blew red-zone opportunities.
LSU’s line didn’t look ready when the ball was snapped on a field goal attempt, and Jared Varse knifed in past left tackle Cameron Wire to block Damian Ramos’ kick.
The Seminoles couldn’t cash in on Malik Nabers first of two muffed punts, which FSU recovered on the LSU 16. Norvell kept the offense on the field on fourth and 2 from the 8, and Travis’ pass to the far corner of the end zone fell incomplete.
Florida State: Travis’ numbers could have been better if not for some key drops. His combination of scrambling and passing ability gave LSU’s defense fits that showed up more in the Seminoles’ 392 net yards than in the final score. But the Seminoles inability to put away a game in which they were the superior team will have to be fixed.
LSU: The offensive line remains a work in progress and at times looked like a liability in the Tigers’ opener. Daniels was the Tigers leading rusher by 91 yards. Meanwhile, LSU might have to find a punt returner other than Nabers. LSU was fortunate that the Seminoles squandered both of his muffs.
LSU: Starting defensive end Maason Smith left the game in the first quarter with a left knee injury. His knee appeared to buckle as he came down awkwardly from hopping near when the tackle was made.
LSU lost a second defensive end when Ali Gaye was ejected for a targeting foul against Travis as the QB released a his touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Florida State: Visits Louisville to open its ACC slate on Sept. 16.
LSU: Hosts Southern on Saturday night.