Florida State routs Southern Miss in Independence Bowl

Florida State quarterback James Blackman (1) passes under pressure from Southern Mississippi linebacker Darian Yancey (22) and defensive lineman Xavier Thigpen (32) in the first half of the Independence Bowl NCAA college football game in Shreveport, La., Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Florida State quarterback James Blackman (1) passes under pressure from Southern Mississippi linebacker Darian Yancey (22) and defensive lineman Xavier Thigpen (32) in the first half of the Independence Bowl NCAA college football game in Shreveport, La., Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Published December 27 2017
Updated December 28 2017

Associated Press

SHREVEPORT, La. — Freshman James Blackman was throwing the touchdown passes. Another freshman, Cam Akers, was gaining big chunks of yards on the ground.

Florida State might still be melancholy after a season that started with national title hopes ended Wednesday with an Independence Bowl win. But the performances from young players such Blackman and Akers in the 42-13 win over Southern Mississippi are a hint that the Seminoles could be a powerhouse again in a hurry.

FSU (7-6), playing in its 36th straight bowl game, moved above .500 for the first time all season and clinched its 41st consecutive winning season.

Blackman threw for 233 yards and an Independence Bowl-record four touchdowns, including three to junior receiver Auden Tate out of Wharton High. Akers led the Seminoles with 94 yards rushing on only 13 carries and also caught a 14-yard TD pass.

Blackman started the season’s final 12 games after sophomore starter Deondre Francois sustained a season-ending knee injury in the opener. Blackman has had some ups and downs since the promotion but saved the best for last against Southern Miss.

"It’s pretty impressive, he had to grow up really fast. He had to take the diapers off and go to work," said FSU interim coach Odell Haggins, who thanked former coach Bobby Bowden and former defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews in a postgame interview; Haggins played on the defensive line for them in the late ’80s and has been on FSU’s staff since the mid ’90s. But noticeably absent from his comments was any mention of FSU’s most-recent coach, Jimbo Fisher, who left this month after the regular-season finale to take over Texas A&M.

The Seminoles ended the season on a four-game winning streak and avoided their first losing season since 1976. Now new coach Willie Taggart takes over and appears to have plenty of talent to work with going forward. He was among an announced crowd of 33,601 in attendance.

The Golden Eagles (8-5) took a 6-0 lead in the first quarter after a 63-yard touchdown drive that was aided by two 15-yard FSU penalties, one for unsportsmanlike conduct and the other for roughing the kicker.

Southern Miss couldn’t keep the momentum, mainly because of its own mistakes, including four defensive offside penalties on FSU’s opening drive. "If you can get a little momentum going, you’ve got a chance to get this thing into the third quarter or the fourth quarter and we’ll see what happens," Eagles coach Jay Hopson said. "But give (the Seminoles) credit, they deserved to win. They made plays."

Blackman matched an Independence Bowl record with three touchdown passes in the first half to help FSU take a 23-6 lead.

Akers finished his freshman season with 1,024 yards rushing. He broke Dalvin Cook’s program record for the most yards rushing by a freshman in a season. Cook had 1,008 yards in 2014.

PINSTRIPE BOWL: Drake Kulick fought for a 1-yard touchdown run late in the fourth on his only carry and Iowa beat Boston College 27-20 in the frigid Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York to snap a five-game bowl losing streak. The Hawkeyes (8-5) had been the nation’s only team to lose a bowl game each of the past four seasons. Iowa had last won a bowl in 2010. The Hawkeyes used their first sack of the game against the Eagles (7-6) to spark the winning drive. Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson hit Darius Wade, and Parker Hesse recovered a fumble at the BC 45. Kickoff temperature was 23 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like 12.

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