By Arnie Leshin
Two sides to every story? Well, that might have been the case when Florida State University played host to Georgia Tech last Saturday night in the college football opener.
Perhaps the Seminole nation was following the trail of President Donald Trump, who, despite the coronavirus pandemic still existing, has been holding rallies both indoors and outdoors, with huge crowds ascloseasthis and choosing ether to wear face masks or not.
But for those watching the Southeast Conference East tilt paring the Seminoles and Yellow Jackets at Bobby Bowdin Field at Bobby Dobbs Stadium in Tallahassee, it was a sight to behold. Most voiced their complaints, it drew major criticism, including negative effect remarks, although some felt that FSU should be praised for staging this event, and that it was wonderful to see fans in the stands for it brought a sense of normalcy.
Fans? There were an announced total of 17,598 in a venue that can hold a capacity crowd of 80,000, That was okay. It was a limited number as was expected. But where were the face masks, where was social distancing?
Florida State even allowed its band to sit side-by-side and entertain without face desks, except band members that play mouth instruments sidelined face masks, and the rest of the band did the same.
But pre-game tailgating was not permitted. But the contest that kicked off at approximately 4 p.m. under 84 sunny skies, had a delay of two hours when a lightning storm interrupted play, thus the game ran for five hours and two minutes and was a not a happy debut for new Seminole head coach Mike Norvell, for not only did he lose 16-13, but it was the fourth straight time that the program lost its season opener.
With all this, it was a good game. FSU held a 10-0 lead after one quarter following a 3-yard pass to Keyshawn Helton in the end zone and Parker Grothan kicked the extra points at only 1:36. Seven minutes later, Grothan booted a 37-yard field goal, and it remained 10-0 at halftime as the fans strolled around to mingle and ignore the threat of COVID-19.
Georgia Tech, under second-year head coach Geoff Collins, who replaced long-time skipper Paul Johnson, did not have much of a first half on the offensive end, but its defense was aggressive and the home side only added a booming 53-yard field goal kicked by Grothan in the third quarter. But the Yellow Jackets came out after the intermission to piece together a run-and-pass offense to blend in with their defense.
Quarterback Jeff Sims found receivers to move the ball, and at 13:17 of the third quarter, he connected for a 23-yard touchdown to Malachi Carter and Kelley, had back-to-back field goal attempts of 23 and 38 yards blocked, made good on the PAT and his team trailed only 13-7. But again Kelley, a heralded freshman, ran into a surging FSU defense that blocked his extra-point try following a 19-yard TD run from Jordan Mason, and it was now a 13-13 deadlock.
But Kelley had an answer. With 4:37 to go in regulation, he kicked a 32-yard field goal right through the uprights, and it was now 16-13 that held up until the final whistle.
Along the ground, Georgia Tech awakened with Mason carrying 14 times for 55 yards, and Jerry Griffin picked up 42 yards on nine runs. Through the air, Sims targeted 10 different receivers, with Carter catching six for 66 yards and Jason Camp five for 53.
James Blackman, the Seminoles’ 6-foot-5 junior quarterback, had a quality start, but the next three quarters found him avoiding a raging defense. From there, the Yellow Jackets gained the upper hand in the statistics, They rushed for 277 yards to FSU’s 198, passed for 186 yards on a 24-for-35 day for Sims, to 143 from the Seminoles
and a collapsing 23-for-45 through the air and one interception from Blackman. Overall, it was 463 total yards for the visitors and 341 for the home team, and Tech had a 24-21 advantage in first downs.
The Yellow Jackets’ storming defense came up with 3 sacks that caused a minus 28 yards, and this was all in the final two quarters. The next stop for the Atlanta, Ga., program is a home game Saturday against 14th-ranked University of Central Florida. FSU plays the same day at Boise State, with its opening game at home versus Stanford postponed.
. . . Further south in the Sunshine State, Florida Memorial University located in Miami played its first football game in 62 years and was plastered 62-0 at Keiser College in West Palm Beach. The only good that came out of this was the Lions became the only all-black school in Florida to have a football team. Otherwise, it was a disaster of a return to the field for the first time since defeating Albany State,14-8, in 1958.
First known as the Florida Normal Individual Institution, Florida Memorial now finds itself in the Mid-South Conference with Keiser and six other schools.
But there’s no doubt it wanted a better return to the gridiron. It trailed 28-0 after one quarter, 48-0 at halftime, were out-gained 467-219, and managing one first down while allowing 17.