For a game on New Year’s Day, the Rose Bowl is at least tied for the top spot to play a college football game. This one between FSU and Oregon was somewhat historic since it was the first semi-final in the new system to determine a National Champion. Since FSU was here just last year for the national title game, it made sense that the Ducks fans outnumbered the Noles, significantly. In the parking lot it looked like it was 100-1, but in the stadium, it was more like 5-1.
No question FSU was the bigger team and they were Oregon’s equals in terms of speed, but the Ducks were relentless and equally talented, especially at the skill positions. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota showed good touch on his passes, good speed when running and good leadership for an offense that was as up-tempo as anything anywhere.
FSU meanwhile looked out of sync in the first half, unable to take advantage of red zone opportunities, passes that were slightly off and tackling that was sub-standard. Still, right at the end of the half, the Noles made a good stop on defense and went down for a score to make it 18-13 Oregon at halftime. FSU might have pulled within two but Carlos Aguayo’s 55-yard attempt hit off the left upright to leave a five-point deficit.
Down by five isn’t a problem for the Seminoles at halftime, it’s a familiar spot for the 2014 team, plus they were getting the ball to start the second half. But driving the ball into Oregon territory, Dalvin Cook had the ball taken away from him and the Ducks drove right downfield to score a TD and take a 25-13 lead.
Undaunted, FSU drove down the field with a combination of Winston passes and finally used the bootleg to score a TD of their own to make it 25-20.
That’s what people thought this game would be like, up and down and up and down. Oregon didn’t disappoint, taking five plays and one slip by a FSU defensive back to score from 81 yards out to take a 32-25 lead.
And that’s where FSU imploded, Cook fumbled and the Ducks recovered. Using the bubble screen that the ‘Noles refused to cover with three defensive backs, Oregon marched down the field, Mariota hitting a wide open wide receiver (Darren Carrington, son of the former Jaguars DB of the same name) for a TD to take a 39-20 lead with four minutes to play in the 3rd quarter. The Noles continued their implosion with Jameis Winston trying to do too much on a third down, only to fumble and have Oregon return it for a TD and a 45-20 lead. A tipped ball was intercepted by the Ducks that lead to another score to make it 52-20 as the torture continued for the Noles and their fans. Then they scored again to make it 59-20.
Overall, Oregon was as good as advertised and perhaps more physical than they’ve been in the past. Florida State didn’t play well, looked out of sync early and cost themselves dearly with turnovers. And the Ducks were opportunistic, never letting the Noles get away with a mistake.
This kind of stuff sometimes happens in big games. How many times have we seen blowouts in the Super Bowl? It doesn’t diminish what the Seminoles have done over the last two years. They just ran into a better team.