EditorsNote: Changes AJ to A.J. in fourth graf
Florida State scored 15 points in 50 seconds late in the fourth quarter to escape a huge upset bid by FCS foe Samford and win 36-26 for their first victory of the year.
The Seminoles (1-1) took a 29-26 lead — their first of the game — with 4:03 left in the fourth quarter when quarterback Deondre Francois found tight end Tre’ McKitty for a 5-yard score and then were successful on the two-point conversion.
The Bulldogs (1-1) were driving and nearing potential game-tying field goal range when quarterback Devlin Hodges was picked off by Seminoles defensive back Levonta Taylor, who returned it 63 yards for the game-sealing score.
Hodges threw for 475 yards and two touchdowns, but he was picked four times — twice by Florida State defensive back Kyle Meyers, one by A.J. Westbrook and once by Taylor. Samford receiver Kelvin McKnight had a monster game in a losing effort with 14 catches for 215 yards and two scores.
Francois finished 31 of 46 for 320 yards and three touchdowns — two to receiver Tamorrion Terry. Francois also rushed for a touchdown. Florida State running back Cam Akers led the team in receiving and rushing with seven catches for 38 yards and 14 rushes for 76 yards.
Bulldogs linebacker Aaron Harris paced the defense with 13 tackles. Florida State defensive back Hamsah Nasirildeen led the Seminoles with a team-high 12 tackles.
The Bulldogs led 23-21 at halftime after a fast and furious first half.
Samford struck twice in the first quarter to grab a quick 13-0 lead and stun the Seminoles’ home crowd. Hodges hit receiver McKnight for a 54-yard bomb for a touchdown on the Bulldogs’ first play on offense, then Samford’s very next drive went seven plays and 75 yards, ending with a two-yard touchdown run by running back Roland Adams.
But Florida State would answer quickly with two scores. First, Francois hit receiver Terry for a 27-yard passing score to cut Samford’s lead to 13-7. It was the Seminoles’ first touchdown of the year after last week’s 24-3 loss to No. 12 Virginia Tech to open the season.
Mitchell Fineran made the Samford lead 16-7 with a 30-yard field goal, then Francois scored the second Seminoles TD on his own with an 8-yard run to trim the Bulldogs’ edge to 16-14. Both teams would tack on another score before halftime with Hodges hitting McKnight for another passing score and Francois hitting Terry for his second receiving touchdown of the game.
The last time the Seminoles and Bulldogs played prior to Saturday was 2010 — a 56-0 Florida State shutout win.
FSU improved to 24-0 all-time against FCS opponents. But the Bulldogs came into the game ranked No. 9 in the FCS Top 25.
The kickoff to Saturday’s game was delayed 1 hour and 45 minutes by weather.
Florida State hits the road for its next game Saturday at Syracuse. Samford returns home and next hosts Mercer on Saturday.
—Field Level Media