RECAP: Florida State rebounds from double-digit deficit to defeat Oklahoma in 2022 Cheez-It Bowl
There was plenty to be optimistic about No. No. 13 Florida State entered Thursday night’s Cheez-It Bowl match against the Oklahoma Sooners (6-7 3-6 Big 12.). There was plenty of optimism surrounding No. The Seminoles entered this game with a winning streak, while the Sooners were wiped out by a multitude of injuries and opt outs.
However, this didn’t mean Florida State could rest on its laurels and allow Oklahoma to take Florida State lightly in Orlando.
The Sooners took a double-digit lead in the first quarter and capitulated in the second. As the frame progressed, Florida State finally saw the light.
Over the final two quarters, the Seminoles outscored Oklahoma by 32-18 to earn a win of 35-32. This win was Florida State’s tenth season-highest and the first bowl victory for the program since 2016.
Oklahoma won the first coin toss, and the Seminoles deferred to halftime. The Seminoles got the ball first.
The offense found a rhythm quickly when Florida State’s first drive started at its own 25, and it began at the 25. Jordan Travis, facing a third down, escaped a sack to scramble up the right side for 16 yard. To move the Seminoles into Oklahoma territory, he connected with wide receiver Johnny Wilson 26 yards. Treshaun Ward, running back, ran up the middle and broke multiple tackles to make FSU a goal-to-go situation. The offense settled for a 23-yard field goal after two unsuccessful runs and a deflection in FSU’s end zone.
The Sooners were quick to respond to the Seminoles. Dillon Gabriel hit Brayden Willis, tight end, on 3rd & 6, who beat Kalen DeLoach, linebacker in converage for a first down. After he had broken up a Marvin Mims Jr. pass, cornerback Renardo Green stopped a touchdown from the sideline. Gabriel was able to convert the play on the next play and then found wide receiver Jalil Farooq to score the touchdown on 2nd and 21. With 7:01 left in the first quarter, Oklahoma led 7-3.
After a touchback, the Seminoles took control at their own 25, Lawrance Toafili, running back, found a hole and first down on their first play from scrimmage. However, a false start forced the offense to return. Travis brought the unit closer to the line of gain with a completion to Markeston Douglas. But, Trey Benson, the running back, was stuffed on back-to-back plays and Florida State turned over the ball on downs just above midfield.
The defense responded by Renardo Green, cornerback, making a tackle for loss. Gabriel fell on the turf and hit his head before he threw a pass that made it third and 19. Florida State applied pressure to the Sooners to force an incompletion.
After a touchback on their punt, the Seminoles were soon back in action at their 25. FSU produced a quick three-and-out of their own, sending punter Alex Mastromanno out for a 46-yard kick that was returned to the opposing territory by Oklahoma’s Marvin Mims.
The Sooners were leading 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. They had a 1st-and-goal scenario ready for them at the start of the second frame. In the first quarter, Oklahoma outgained Florida State by 106 to 99 yards in total offense. The Sooners had nine first downs, converted 4/5 of their third down attempts, while the Seminoles had only four and were a combined 1/5 in third and fourth down.
Oklahoma struck again quickly as Gabriel scored on a quarterback keeper to start the second quarter. With 14:31 remaining in halftime, the Sooners suddenly led 14-3. Travis felt some pressure and found Johnny Wilson again, this one for 31 yards. But he tried too hard on the next play and was sacked. The Seminoles attempted to go for it on 4th, 8 but tight end Cam McDonald saw a pass bounce off of his hands for another down.
Oklahoma saw an opportunity to push the Seminoles even further behind their heels and turned up the pace. On 3rd, 15 Gabriel went deep and hit Mims with a red zone pass. Omarion Cooper, the cornerback, was beaten down the sideline by Mims on the play. After Gabin Sawchuk ran back, a touchdown was scored in the middle. However, a holding penalty took the points off of the board. Jared Verse, Derrick McClendon and a tackle for loss resulted in the Sooners trying a 46-yard field goal.
The kick went wide left and Florida State took advantage to get back in the game. Benson broke two arm tackles to gain 11 yard and a first down. The Seminoles used play action to release wide receiver Ontaria Wilson, who gained 14 yards to the opposite field. Travis then hit Johnny Wilson for 23 yard. Ward bounced outside to get offense into the red zone. Travis made a difficult throw to connect with Ontaria in the end zone for a sixteen-yard touchdown. The Seminoles had a difficult extra point attempt when tight end Wyatt Rector passed on to Brian Courtney for a 2-point conversion.
Florida State was able to convert the missed field goal into an easy 15-point swing, reducing the deficit to 14-11 with just 7:18 remaining in halftime.
After sacking Gabriel, defensive end Leonard Warner caused a fumble on the next possession. However, Florida State was unable to resolve it. Safety Jammie Robinson tackled Gabriel again during a blitz. Oklahoma decided to rush Gavin Sawchuck on the 3rd and 21. It turned it into 17 yards. The Sooners punted back at Florida State, as Mycah Pittman fair received the kick at his 12.
After Johnny Wilson and Travis hooked up for the fourth consecutive time, the Seminoles had a chance to lead at the half. This time, it was for 30 yards. But, an incompletion and a short run brought up third and 8. The Sooners sent Travis to the house for a sack in order to force a punt.
Joshua Farmer, a defensive tackle, netted the defense another stop to start the drive. However, a face mask penalty allowed the Sooners to get a free first down. With less than a minute remaining in the half, the Sooners moved into scoring territory and attempted a 41-yard field kick.
Travis scrambled for 25 yards to give Florida State a last chance. Ryan Fitzgerald failed to make a field goal from 54 yards out. Oklahoma led 17-11 at the break.
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The defense of Florida State opened the final quarters on a mission. McClendon made the tackle for loss on the first play of scrimmage, and DeLoach made the tackle for loss later in that drive. True freshman cornerback Azareyeh Thomas saw Gabriel’s eyes on the third and long play and moved vertically to deflect a pass.
The Seminoles took over at their own 6 and began to find consistency in offense. Travis threw to Ontaria Wilson, who made a great catch to keep the drive alive. Johnny Wilson broke through deep, and it looked as if Florida State would score a touchdown. Travis was able run for the conversion on his own, but the ball was dropped.
Travis seemed to have injured his left ankle during the drive, but he continued playing for the Seminoles without any problems. For big connections on third downs, he found Malik McClain as well as Johnny Wilson. Travis kept his cool in the pocket and hit Ontaria for 19 yards to get into red zone.
Florida State was able to punch into the end zone, taking its first lead of 18-17 since the beginning of the game, when Ward scored a touchdown out of the wildcat. Ward was able to pass through the Sooners’ defense because linebacker DJ Lundy cleared the middle.
Oklahoma didn’t blink when Gabriel hit Willis for 31 yards. Robinson, who was also on the ground at Florida State, was also dragged by the tight end. Dennis Briggs and Bethune combined for a sack that brought up long and third. The Sooners failed on a run, but decided to go for it on fourth-and-6. The play ended in a turnover on downs, as Gabriel’s pass was almost intercepted by Kevin Knowles.
On the next possession, the Seminoles had an opportunity to extend their lead over the Sooners. Johnny Wilson, facing third and long, rushed up in traffic to catch a pass that was 17 yards. A pass intended for Douglas was thwarted by FSU with another third on the plate. Florida State decided to go for it, and Travis’ throw at the Oklahoma 30 was intercepted.
Florida State led at the end of the third frame, but not for very long. Gabriel ran deep and connected with Mims 31 yards to make it into Seminole territory on the first play in the fourth quarter. Sawchuk ended the drive by running right up the middle to bring the Sooners back to the top. With 13:22 left, Oklahoma had a 25-18 lead when Gabriel hit Willis in traffic.
The fourth quarter sawsaw continued into the ‘Noles’ next possession. Travis hit Ontaria Wilson and Douglas for back-to-back first downs, before tossing outside for Williamson for 15 yards. Ward was able to score a 38-yard touchdown run up the right sideline after Williamson had already defended two defenders. With 11:05 remaining in the game, Florida State tied the game at 25.
Oklahoma gained the next possession with a huge win on a Drake Stoops jet sweep. The Sooners faced a 3rd-and-1 and decided to run Sawchuk to the ground. Cooper delivered a big hit that forced a fumble. Robinson recovered it when the dfense made a timely turnover.
The Seminoles tried to turn momentum into points quickly when Travis threw short on a screen pass to Benson, who ran for 33 yards. Florida State used some cleverness on offense to get Markeston Douglas out of the middle for a touchdown catch of 17 yards. FSU broke the tie to take the lead, 32-25 with 7:22 remaining.
The Sooners displayed maturity on offense and didn’t panic despite being trailing in the game. Gabriel scrambled to convert on third down, before using his legs to make another big gain. Although Patrick Payton, the defensive end, stuffed Barnes, Gabriel found Farooq for 28 yard. Robinson stopped him scoring with a last-ditch tackle. It didn’t matter because Barnes ran in unassisted to tie the game at 32.
Florida State won the final chance to win the game in regulation. After a quick run by Benson, Travis went deep to connect with Bird Man, his favorite target of night. Johnny Wilson threw a 58-yard pass that put the Seminoles in scoring position. After a few Benson runs that didn’t gain much yardage FSU brought Fitzgerald out for a kick. Fitzgerald was 32 yards out.
With 55 seconds left, the ‘Noles led 35 to 32. Oklahoma had its last chance with its 25. The Sooners’ hopes were shattered by a false start and a holding penalty. As time ran out, Briggs fired Gabriel and the Seminoles won the victory.
The Seminoles had 587 yards total offense, 418 yards in the air and 169 yards on ground. Travis ran seven times for 50 yards and was 27/38, a record for Travis’ career. He also had two touchdowns (and one interception) and ran a career-high 418 yard with two touchdowns. Johnny Wilson caught eight passes for 218 yards.
FSU held Oklahoma to 496 yards total offense. This included 243 yards in the air and 253 on the ground. Six sacks were recorded by the defense, along with 11 tackles for loss. Safety Jammie Robinson was the team’s leader with 13 tackles, 1 tackle loss and 1 sack. Ten players accumulated a tackle for lost or a bag.
Florida State enters 2023 offseason with significant momentum.
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The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.