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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Game recap: Florida State football suffers first loss of season to Wake Forest

SportsGame recap: Florida State football suffers first loss of season to Wake Forest

For the first time since 2018, a ranked matchup will be played at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday.

No. 23 Floridspan Stspante (4-0, 2-0 ACC) hosts No. 22 Wake Forest (3-1, 0-1) at 3:30 p.m., with ABC nationally televising the game.

The Seminoles appeared in the AP Poll and AFCA Cospanches Poll after having their first undefeated September since 2015. They are now one of just two teams in the country – joining Syracuse – with three wins over Power Five opponents.

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The Demon Deacons are coming off their first loss of the season, suffering a 51-45 double-overtime defeat to Clemson at home last Saturday. Wake Forest downed Virginia Military Institute (44-10), Vanderbilt (45-25) and Liberty (37-36) to start the season.

Quarterback Sam Hartman and wide receiver A.T. Perry will be a couple Demon Deacon players to watch. Hartman is widely considered to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country and ranks No. 9 nationally in passing efficiency. Perry recorded seven catches for 155 yards and a touchdown in Wake Forest’s 35-14 win over FSU last season.

The Big Bend and Florida Panhandle were safe from Hurricane Ian. A sunny afternoon with zero chance of rain and temperatures in the mid-80s is expected for this game.

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7:05 p.m. | FSU loses first game of season to Wake Forest

FSU is no longer undefeated.

The No. 23 Seminoles (4-1, 1-1 ACC) suffered their first of the season, falling 31-21 to No. 22 Wake Forest (4-1, 1-1) at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday.

Demon Deacon quarterback Sam Hartman finished 22 of 34 for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver A.T. Perry (eight catches for 91 yards and a touchdown) and running back Justice Ellison (18 carries for 114 yards and a score) led Wake Forest in receiving and rushing, respectively.

FSU quarterback Jordan Travis went 23 of 35 for 281 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Treshaun Ward (13 carries for 87 yards) and receiver Johnny Wilson (six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown) led the Seminoles in rushing and receiving, respectively.

6:10 p.m. | FSU, Wake Forest trade touchdowns before fourth quarter

FSU had a chance to make this a one-possession game heading into the fourth quarter.

The Seminoles cut the deficit to 28-13 with 7:03 left in the third quarter after wide receiver Mycah Pittman caught a six-yard touchdown on a pass from quarterback Jordan Travis. Then FSU quickly got the ball back, forcing a three-and-out with the help of back-to-back sacks from defensive linemen Patrick Payton and Joshua Farmer.

But on their next possession, the Seminole offense sputtered in opponent territory. Left tackle Darius Washington was called for two critical penalties – a false start and holding – before giving up a seven-yard sack on third-and-19.

To have a chance to win this one, FSU likely must have a perfect fourth quarter.

5:15 p.m. | FSU struggles in second quarter, enters halftime down 14

FSU had a fairly disastrous second quarter and heads into halftime trailing 21-7.

Quarterback Sam Hartman threw two touchdown passes – one a four-yarder to wide receiver A.T. Perry and the other a 20-yarder to receiver Donavon Greene – on Wake Forest’s first two possessions of the quarter.

The Seminoles had a couple costly miscues. Quarterback Jordan Travis lost a fumble, which led to the Demon Deacons capitalizing with Greene’s score. Kicker Ryan Fitzgerald missed a 29-yard field goal to end the half.

Hartman completed 14 of 24 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Justice Ellison leads all rushers with 89 yards on 13 carries. Perry has five catches for 52 yards and a score.

Travis went 9 of 16 with 115 yards and a touchdown. Running back Treshaun Ward turned seven rushes into 54 yards, while receiver Johnny Wilson has three catches for 52 yards. Receiver Mycah Pittman tallied two receptions for 36 yards and a score.

Overall, Wake Forest outgained FSU 267-192 in total yardage while running more plays (50 vs. 31) and accumulating more time of possession (18:41-11:19). The Demon Deacons went 7 of 11 on third down and 2 of 2 on fourth down.

4:20 p.m. | FSU vs. Wake Forest enters second quarter tied at 7-7

FSU had another fast start.

The Seminoles made it look easy on their opening six-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. Wide receiver Mycah Pittman scored his first touchdown at FSU – and his first since 2019 – on an 18-yard pass from quarterback Jordan Travis with 12:56 left in the first quarter.

Through four-plus games this season, the Seminoles have now scored on eight of their nine possessions to start a first or second half. FSU has totaled seven touchdowns and a field goal on those eight scoring drives.

Wake Forest answered, though, with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Running back Christian Turner finished the possession, rushing for a one-yard touchdown after narrowly crossing the goal line on a fourth-and-goal with 4:25 left in the quarter.

After their hot start, the Seminoles began to struggle up front. Darius Washington earned the start at left tackle, while usual starter Robert Scott Jr. has yet to play. FSU punted on its next two possessions, which included a three-and-out.

3:41 p.m. | FSU vs. Wake Forest officially underway

FSU will receive the opening kickoff after Wake Forest won the toss and deferred.

The weather at kickoff is 85 degrees and sunny without a cloud in the sky. There are northwest winds blowing at 10 miles per hour.

3:05 p.m. | Pregame warmup watching

The FSU football team just took the field in full pads.

Defensive end Jared Verse and left tackle Robert Scott Jr. were among fully padded players to take the field.

Verse has a brace around his left knee and seems to be moving well. Scott looks more limited in his movements. He has a brace around both knees, and both of his ankles are heavily taped.

FSU announced Darius Washington, not Scott, as its starting left tackle during pregame warmups. Left guard Dillan Gibbons, center Maurice Smith, right guard D’Mitri Emmanuel and right tackle Jazston Turnetine were the other starters. Verse also was not listed as a starter.

The Seminoles will definitely be without at least one starter. Defensive tackle Fabien Lovett is not dressed out and still has a boot around his right foot.

Starting defensive linemen Derrick McLendon II and Robert Cooper are participating in pregame warmups and look healthy enough to play. They permanently exited the Boston College game last Saturday with apparent injuries. 

Linebackers Tatum Bethune and Amari Gainer are participating in pregame warmups and seem to be moving well. Bethune suffered an apparent arm injury against Louisville and played only 15 snaps against Boston College. Gainer missed the last three games after suffering a lower body injury in the Aug. 27 season opener against Duquesne. 

Receivers Darion Williamson, Winston Wright Jr. and Ja’Khi Douglas, backup center Thomas Shrader and reserve tight end Jackson West don’t appear to be available to play.

2:04 p.m. | Marching Chiefs update

David Plack, FSU’s director of athletic bands, shared an update about the Marching Chiefs via Twitter earlier Saturday. 

He connected with the Democrat around 2:50 p.m., saying around “40 students” will miss today’s home game. 

“Not quite as many as we expected but speaks to the commitment of our students,” Plack said via text. 

1:30 p.m. | Pregame injury updates

All eyes will be on FSU defensive end Jared Verse during pregame warmups.

College GameDay on ESPN reported Saturday morning that Verse will dress out and attempt to play against Wake Forest, labeling him as a game-time decision.

Verse, who leads the Seminoles with three sacks, suffered an apparent left knee injury in the first half against Louisville on Sept. 16. The University at Albany transfer remained sidelined against Boston College last Saturday.

FSU having its best pass rusher back obviously would be quite the development. Especially when considering how Wake Forest features one of the nation’s most potent offenses, ranking No. 14 nationally in scoring.

If Verse is not available to play, defensive end Dennis Briggs Jr. would likely start in his place. The redshirt junior started against the Eagles. Backups Patrick Payton and Leonard Warner III also received more high-leverage opportunities.

Two other starters – left tackle Robert Scott Jr. (lower right leg) and defensive tackle Fabien Lovett (lower right leg) – will be worth monitoring as well. Both players were seen wearing a boot around their right foot during pregame warmups before Boston College. Neither of them played against Boston College.

Scott went down with his injury against Louisville. Lovett suffered his injury on the final possession against LSU on Sept. 4.

Without Scott, the Seminoles used Darius Washington and Jazston Turnetine as their starting left and right tackles against the Eagles, respectively. Backup defensive tackles Malcolm Ray, Jarrett Jackson and Joshua Farmer have seen more time with Lovett out.

Linebacker Amari Gainer, who leads FSU in career tackles, practiced this week and could play against the Demon Deacons. He missed the last three games after he permanently exited the Aug. 27 season opener against Duquesne with a lower leg injury.

Defensive end Derrick McLendon II, defensive tackle Robert Cooper and wide receiver Darion Williamson permanently left the game against the Eagles with undisclosed injuries. Seminole head coach Mike Norvell said in his Monday press conference that he was “hopeful” Williamson would be available to play against Wake Forest.

Wide receivers Winston Wright Jr. (car accident) and Ja’Khi Douglas (unspecified injury) have yet to play this season but are expected to return at some point. Douglas was a limited participant in pregame warmups before the Boston College game.

Backup tight end Jackson West has not played in a game yet this season for unspecified reasons. Backup center Thomas Shrader saw action against Duquesne but has yet to play in a game since. He did not dress out against the Eagles.

Offensive linemen Bless Harris and Kayden Lyles, linebacker Stephen Dix Jr. and walk-on running back CJ Campbell are out for the season with undisclosed injuries.

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