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Florida State wins one for interim coach, beats Boston College 38-31

The Seminoles rally from a first-half deficit, surge ahead, watch the Eagles tie the score, then pull ahead for good in the final two minutes.
Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins gets a hug from linebacker Jaleel McRae after his team beat Boston College on Saturday in Boston.
Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins gets a hug from linebacker Jaleel McRae after his team beat Boston College on Saturday in Boston. [ BILL SIKES | AP ]
Published Nov. 9, 2019
Updated Nov. 9, 2019

BOSTON — D.J. Matthews caught a short pass, faked out three defenders on his way to the sideline, then dove for the end zone, taking off from the 6-yard line before clipping the pylon to give Florida State the go-ahead score.

“It kind of reminded me of high school, doing the long jump,” Matthews said after helping the Seminoles beat Boston College 38-31 on Saturday in their first game since coach Willie Taggart was fired. “I just wanted it. I want to score for my team,” Matthews said. “I want to make plays for my team, so we can just be better.”

Matthews turned a short slant pattern into a 60-yard touchdown to break a fourth-quarter tie, and Jordan Travis followed with a 66-yard run for what turned out to be the winning score for Florida State (5-5, 4-4 ACC).

James Blackman threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns, hitting Tamorrion Terry seven times for 156 yards and one score. Six days after firing Taggart, Florida State moved to the verge of a bowl berth and preserved two-time interim coach Odell Haggins’ perfect record.

“Guys came out and played for Coach Odell. They love him,” Matthews said. “When things happened last Sunday, that’s what he did — he brought us together.”

Florida State fell behind 14-3 in the first half before scoring 21 straight points, only to watch BC (5-5, 3-4) tie it 24-all in the final minutes on Dennis Grosel’s half-yard roll-out and dive for the end zone. The Seminoles took over at their own 41 with 2:27 left, lost a yard and then Blackman found Matthews across the middle, about 5 yards away.

The receiver juked past three defenders on his way to the right sideline, then leaped for the pylon to make it 31-24.

“That was a backbreaker right there, to me,” Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. “It was just quick, and it goes for 60. That can’t happen.”

After Grosel threw an interception, Travis broke free for 66 yards to give Florida State a 14-point lead — his second TD run of the game.

“When it comes in bunches like that it can be a little bit deflating,” Addazio said. “You’ve got to bounce back from that.”

Grosel hit Kobay White from 20 yards out to make it a one-score game with 14 seconds left. But with Doug Flutie and Boston College’s 1984 team in attendance, Florida State recovered the onside kick and left no chance for a last-second miracle.

With the sun setting and the temperatures dipping into the 30s, the Seminoles drenched Haggins with a water cooler.

“They didn’t flinch,” Haggins said. “When everything happened this past weekend … they wanted to show: ‘We are Florida State. We are unconquered. We’ve got your back, Coach.’ That’s what they showed me.”

Florida State fired Taggart on Sunday, a day after a 27-10 loss to Miami, and named Haggins as the interim coach. Haggins, who also took over when Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M, is now 3-0 in two stints as a Seminoles fill-in.

Travis gained 94 yards on three runs, scoring on two of them. AJ Dillon ran for 165 yards on a career-high 40 carries for Boston College.

Haggins helped the Seminoles avoid a second straight season without a bowl berth; they need one more win, with games against Alabama State and No. 10 Florida remaining. But that’s not good enough for the school’s boosters, who are looking for a big name to come in and restore the program to national championship contention.

Boston College: The Eagles play No. 15 Notre Dame in two weeks, and absent a victory in the Catholic school rivalry game they will need to win in Pittsburgh on Nov. 30 to pick up their sixth win and qualify for a bowl.

Up next

Florida State: The Seminoles host Alabama State next weekend.

Boston College: BC is off next weekend before playing Notre Dame on Nov. 23 in South Bend, Indiana.