Dec 31, 2022

Florida State rallies to defeat Oklahoma in final minute, 35-32


By Michaelea Neal
Florida Citrus Sports

Both Cheez-It Bowl coaches anticipated big plays on Thursday night.

Florida State had just a few more.

The Seminoles rallied past the Oklahoma Sooners, 35-32, in a firework-filled 2022 Cheez-It
Bowl, cementing a 10-win season for head coach Mike Norvell.

“It was really special to be able to finish this year with our tenth win,” Norvell said. “There were some good moments and really tough and challenging situations, but their heart, it is what showed up.”

The high-powered Seminoles offense took some time to find its rhythm, scoring only 11 points by the first half. But the ‘Noles found their footing in the second half.

Oklahoma was able to limit Florida State’s run game for the most part, holding the Seminoles to only 169 rushing yards, but mismatches on defense allowed Florida State to produce explosive pass plays.

“I think it was a combination of a couple of bad matchups, not great calls,” Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables said after the game. “We wanted to make them be efficient and drive the ball down the field, if they were going to, as opposed to big plays.”

Explosive plays from Florida State wide receivers Johnny Wilson, Ontaria Wilson and tight end Markeston Douglas were the difference in the game. Johnny Wilson had 202 receiving yards and caught a clutch 58-yard pass from Cheez-It Bowl MVP Jordan Travis to set the Seminoles up for a go-ahead field goal with 55 seconds left.

After Florida State opened the scoring with a field goal, Oklahoma scored a touchdown on its first opening drive to quiet the roar of Seminole fans that echoed through Camping World Stadium. Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw a 22-yard pass to wide receiver Jalil Farooq following a 10-yard sack by Florida State defensive end Patrick Payton.

The Sooners kept the momentum going and scored again to open the second quarter on an 8-yard rush by Gabriel.

The explosive plays were on full display for both teams, even when the drive ended without points. Gabriel threw a 46-yard pass to wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. before a missed Oklahoma field goal gave the Seminoles the ball back at their own 28.

Florida State found its pace with a drive full of passes to several receivers. The Seminoles scored a touchdown on a 16-yard pass to Onteria Wilson and successfully went for two with a nifty pass from tight end Wyatt Rector to tight end Brian Courtney.

The big plays continued when Oklahoma running back Gavin Sawchuk ran for 25 yards to the Florida State 49-yard line. The Sooners then kicked a field goal to extend the lead to 17-11 just before the half.

It still looked good for the Sooners.

Yet Florida State took back the lead after the half for the first time since its opening drive on a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Treshaun Ward to complete a 94-yard drive. Florida State then led the Sooners, 18-17.

The momentum and lead continued to go back and forth well into the third quarter.

Florida State fed off the energy of the crowd. After getting a huge fourth-down stop to end the Sooners’ next drive, Travis threw an interception to Oklahoma defensive back Billy Bowman.

Oklahoma took advantage of getting the ball back with a 31-yard pass to wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. and a 15-yard rushing touchdown by Sawchuk to take back the lead. But that didn’t last long, as the Seminoles answered with a 38-yard touchdown by Ward to tie the game.

With time starting to wind down, the Sooners next drive ended in a fumble by Sawchuk. The Seminoles capitalized off the turnover with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Markeston Douglas that wrested back the lead.

The Sooners and the Seminoles still had more explosive plays to go as Gabriel ran for 23 yards to keep the Sooners’ following drive alive. Oklahoma then scored on a 12-yard rush from running back Jovantae Barnes.

But it was the 58-yard catch by Johnny Wilson that put the Seminoles in position for kicker Ryan Fitzgerald to vault Florida State on top to stay.

“Just proud of him, proud of this team, and grateful for the opportunity that I have to be able to work side-by-side with him each day,” Norvell said.

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