TAMPA — Not again.
After the shellacking Florida State received in Louisville last weekend, giving up 63 points (most in school history), the last thing coach Jimbo Fisher wanted was for his defense to surrender an 84-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game against USF.
"I just got beat," sophomore cornerback Tarvarus McFadden said after FSU's 55-35 shellacking of USF at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday. "(Rodney Adams) is a great receiver, and I'm not going to lie, he was fast."
Florida State tied the score on its first play from scrimmage, a 75-yard run by Dalvin Cook.
But on USF's next possession, the Bulls marched down the field in nine plays and scored again. FSU could have been affected by the two early daggers.
"That's not our mind-set," senior fullback Freddie Stevenson said. "We know how to handle adversity. So when that happened, we just knew he had to respond."
In a game that was a comeback for Florida State, the defense had perhaps the biggest comeback. The Seminoles' defense, which has struggled all season, looked vulnerable early against the Bulls. Maybe it was a hangover from Louisville. Maybe USF was that good offensively. The Bulls went in averaging 48.1 points per game in their previous seven games.
Whatever it was, Florida State had to overcome at least to keep alive its chance of making the College Football Playoff.
Florida State's defense had more holes in it than Swiss cheese for USF's first two possessions, but it plugged them fast. USF's next nine possessions included six three-and-outs and two interceptions.
"We played with more energy," sophomore tackle Fredrick Jones said. "That's basically it. We're not going down this road again like we did last week. Last week wasn't us. But this week we got to get our respect back from the country."
FSU, however, did not finish how it had hoped. It allowed three straight touchdowns spanning the third and fourth quarters, though the game had been largely decided. USF scored in what was basically garbage time, but Fisher was not pleased.
"(The defense) did their job for a while, then quit doing their job," he said.
"We got a long ways to go," McFadden said. "Every game we just got to keep improving. We just got to have good days of practice, and then on Saturdays we just got to carry it on into the game."