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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Observer

Everett Golson, Jameis Winston bring game down to wire

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Zach Llorens / The Observer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Much of the allure of Saturday’s matchup between Florida State and Notre Dame centered on the nation’s No. 2 team facing No. 5, but just as much intrigue came from the dueling No. 5s on the field.

Jameis Winston versus Everett Golson — two possible Heisman contenders and two quarterbacks who were supposed to make or break their teams.

And when both gunslingers stepped up to force the game to come down to the very last play, the most-watched and arguably best game of the season so far resulted.

“These guys going back and forth — somebody called and left me a message and said this is Ali-Frazier,” Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “This is a slugfest, Thriller in Manila, standing toe to toe. That’s what it felt like.”

For the Seminoles, Winston completed 23 of his 31 pass attempts for 273 yards.

He only notched 92 yards in the first half on eight completions, including an 11-yard touchdown strike to freshman receiver Travis Rudolph.

Zach Llorens / The Observer
The Notre Dame defense was able to get to Winston and hold back the Florida State offense as a whole. The Irish allowed just 19 rushing yards and five first downs, and the Seminoles, who failed to convert any of their four third-down opportunities, punted three times.

However, Winston brought the heat in the second half.

“I think they came out with the attitude that they weren't going to not score,” Irish sophomore defensive lineman Isaac Rochell said of Florida State after halftime. “I think there was a huge shift in their attitude. You could tell on the field their players were more engaged in the game.”

After his team began the third quarter down 17-10, Winston led three drives that ended with points for the Seminoles. One of those came in the fourth quarter to set up senior running back Karlos Williams’ one-yard touchdown scamper, which vaulted Florida State ahead for the first time in the game at 31-27.

“He’s a competitor,” Fisher said of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. “He can compartmentalize and focus. And he can see. He has a drive to win. Drive for greatness. Not because of him but for his team. He really does.”

While Winston rested on the sidelines, Irish senior quarterback Golson picked up 313 passing yards, connecting on 31 of his 52 throws.

Golson fired two touchdowns to Irish sophomore receiver Corey Robinson, the first on a one-yard pass in the first quarter and the other on a nine-yard pass in the second. The senior threw his third score to Irish sophomore receiver Will Fuller in the third quarter on an 11-yard completion.

“Their quarterback is a heck of a player,” Fisher said.

On the final Irish drive of the game, Golson was sacked on third-and-12 at midfield. However, he then found Robinson on fourth-and-18 to give Notre Dame another chance to retake the lead with just over a minute left.

“The stadium got real loud and I knew this was it — we’ve got to make a play and I thought he was going to come to me, and I just put myself in the best position to get open,” Robinson said. “Luckily, I made the play and extended the drive.”

Golson also extended his streak of games with a turnover to four, tossing a second-quarter pick to Seminoles freshman linebacker Jacob Pugh. Florida State could not capitalize on the miscue, as Winston followed that up on the next play with an interception to Irish senior linebacker Joe Schmidt.

However, it was Golson’s second interception of the night that made the difference in the game.

On fourth-and-goal from the Seminole 18-yard line with 13 seconds left, he heaved up a do-or-die pass that Pugh grabbed to seal the Seminoles’ win.

That play followed what would have been Golson’s third touchdown pass of the game Robinson, but the score was negated by an offensive pass interference call against Fuller.

Winston’s team may have left Doak Campbell Stadium with the 31-27 win, but Irish head coach Brian Kelly said the quarterback in blue and gold outshined the one in garnet and gold.

“I thought our quarterback played better than [Winston] tonight, just didn’t show up on the scoreboard,” Kelly said.