ORLANDO, Fla. — – Sitting in his hotel room the night before Florida State’s season opener, Jordan Travis imagined how it would go against LSU.
Big plays? Yes. Touchdowns? Sure. A blowout? Absolutely.
“I envisioned all of this,” he said.
Travis accounted for five touchdowns, including three to Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman, and the eighth-ranked Seminoles throttled No. 5 LSU 45-24 on Sunday night in the most anticipated matchup of college football’s opening weekend.
The Seminoles delivered a dominant second half to extend their winning streak to seven and established themselves as an early season favorite to make the College Football Playoff.
“I told them before the day that they’re built for a time like this, this stage, two top-10 teams in the country,” coach Mike Norvell said. “That second half, that was a glimpse of what this team can do and where I think it can go.”
They won this one primarily on fourth down.
FSU stopped the Tigers twice on fourth down in the first half, including once at the goal line, and scored the go-ahead touchdown one play after Travis connected with Lawrance Toafili for 41 yards on fourth-and-2. Travis ran in on the ensuing play to put the Seminoles ahead 24-17 and send most of the 65,429 in attendance into a frenzy.
Roughly 80% of those on hand were draped in garnet and gold. They got exactly what they wanted: a blowout to kickstart the program’s most hyped season in nearly a decade. LSU was a 2 1/2-point favorite.
FSU won its final six games last season and then surprisingly returned nearly everyone for coach Norvell’s fourth season, including Travis, standout receiver Johnny Wilson and stud pass rusher Jared Verse.
But the star of the opener was Coleman, who left East Lansing, Michigan, for greener grass in Tallahassee. He finished with nine catches for 122 yards, including scoring plays of 40, 21 and 7 yards.
“Really just thankful for the opportunity and coach saying yes to me and believing in me,” Coleman said.
Added Norvell: “I’m grateful for me saying yes, too.”
Wilson added seven receptions for 104 yards and would have had better numbers had it not been for two drops.
Travis was at his best in the second half, connecting on 11 of 13 passes as the Seminoles took the lead for good. He sent most of the LSU faithful to the exits when he found South Carolina transfer Jaheim Bell down the sideline for a 44-yard score with 7 minutes remaining.
Travis completed 23 of 31 passes for 342 yards and the four TDs. He and Coleman hooked up for a 40-yarder to start the scoring, added a 21-yarder late in the second to tie the game at 14 and then connected on a 7-yard fade in the fourth.
Jayden Daniels wasn’t nearly as effective for LSU in a showdown of two of the top three preseason Heisman Trophy favorites. He was 22 of 37 passing for 347 yards, with an interception and a 75-yard score in the waning minutes. He ran 15 times for 64 yards and was on the receiving end of the hit of night: FSU’s Tatum Bethune hammered him to the ground after he attempted to leap another defender.
“This was a total failure on a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint that we have to obviously address,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “I know adversity is always going to strike at some time in this game. This is our first real piece of adversity that we have to address, and I’m confident our guys and our coaches will rally in the manner that they need to.”
Florida State probably would have trailed by double digits in the first half had it not stopped the Tigers twice on fourth down.
After Daniels connected with Tre Bradford for 55 yards on the first play of the game, LSU had six shots to score from inside the 5-yard line. The Tigers never got close, with Daniels misfiring twice and then getting sacked on fourth down.
The Tigers were in the red zone again in the second quarter, but Daniels was sacked on a fourth-and-1 play from the FSU 13.
Two drives deep into Seminoles territory, no points.
FSU had its own issues. The ‘Noles struggled to run the ball early, kept getting beat up front and were flagged for three personal fouls. Adding to their woes, Wilson dropped two passes with dozens of NFL scouts in the press box for the top-10 matchup.
But they regrouped at halftime and looked like a championship contender the rest of the way.
“It’s really impressive,” Norvell said. “I told our guys to go out there and be them. They don’t have to go be anybody else or get caught up in the moment. Just go out and play the way we know we’re capable of playing. I thought they did an exceptional job.”
LSU: Kelly has plenty to fix defensively as the Tigers move forward. They surrendered 494 yards and were ineffective on third down, allowing the Seminoles to convert 9 of 14 on the all-important down.
Florida State: The Seminoles have been building toward this season for years, with Norvell stockpiling talent through the transfer portal while developing youngsters who have spent time in the program.
Florida State could move into the top five when the next Associated Press poll is released Tuesday.
LSU hosts Grambling State of the Football Championship Subdivision on Saturday.
Florida State hosts Southern Miss of the Football Championship Subdivision on Saturday.