Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Florida State downs Southern Mississippi 42-13 in Walk-On's Independence Bowl

FSU TB Cam Akers (3) averaged 7.2 yards
a carry against Southern Miss.
Photo by Darla S Tamulitis
La Vita Loca Photography
Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved
By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved

SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA (December 27, 2017) The Florida State Seminoles jumped out to a 23-6 lead at halftime in route to a 42-13 win over the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in the Walk-On's Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana. The 33,601 fans in attendance braved temperatures that dipped into the high 30s, to see the Seminoles raise their season record to 7-6, while the Golden Eagles fell to 8-5.

The Golden Eagles scored first on a five-yard run by Kwadra Griggs at the 11:05 mark in the first quarter. Florida State responded with 23 unanswered first half points; paced by James Blackman's three first-half touchdown passes. The throws to Auden Tate (20 yards and 10 yards) and Cam Akers (14 yards). Ricky Aguayo added three points with a 29-yard field goal and two extra points. The 20-yard pass to Tate came in the first quarter with the other two TDs and field goal coming in the second quarter. They continued their scoring assault in the second half, adding 10 additional points before Southern Mississippi could score again. The Seminoles added nine more points in the fourth quarter on another Blackman to Tate pass and a Aguayo field goal.

Blackman (shown below) completed 18-of-26 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns. With the four passing TDs, the freshman, who played his prep ball at Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Florida, broke the bowl record. In addition, junior running back Auden Tate set a new reception touchdown record with three. For his performance, Blackman was selected the Offensive Player of the Game by a vote of the credentialed media. 
When ask about improving over the last month, Blackman responded:

“It’s been a great month to be honest. Even though we’ve been through a lot, we still were able to come together and play as a team. We reacted as a team, and we were with each other and stuck together. We did what we had to do to become bowl eligible, and now we won this bowl game. I just want to thank everyone that was put around me from the coaches to the players, and everyone had great energy around me. They helped me lift up this team and helped me be in this position.” 

Red shirt senior Nate Andrews was selected the Defensive Player of the Game in his final game of his college career. The free safety for the Seminoles recorded six tackles; five of which were solo. 

“It meant a lot. All year, I really haven’t played a lot. But being back out there with those guys meant a lot. Like a lot of guys, I could have just laid down and gotten mad at all the coaches that I wasn’t playing. But I kept praying and asked God to give me an opportunity. And when the opportunity came, I was ready for it. I want to thank all the coaches, especially (interim head coach) Odell Haggins. He stuck with us, and I’m just thankful for the opportunity to play today.” 

Team-wise, Florida State posted 452 yards of total offense (238 yards passing and 214 yards rushing), while Southern Mississippi had 260 yards of total offense (129 yards passing and 131 rushing). The Golden Eagles were led by senior running back Ito Smith (16 carries for 92 yards) and quarterback Kwadra Griggs (13-of-25 for 86 yards and one touchdown).

Florida State pushed their bowl record to 29-16-2, along with the longest consecutive bowl appearance streak at 36. The 2017 Independence Bowl was their first appearance in Shreveport. The Golden Eagles have made three appearances in the bowl game. Their lost in 2017 was their first loss in Shreveport. In 1980, they defeated McNeese State by the score of 16-14. In 1988, the downed Texas-El Paso 38-18.

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