College Football

Seminoles edge past Sooners in Cheez-It Bowl


Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis gets a pass off thanks to offensive lineman Darius Washington for holding off Oklahoma Sooners defensive end R. Mason Thomas during the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando on Thursday. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

By a score of 35-32, the No. 13 ranked Florida State Seminoles held off the Oklahoma Sooners to win the Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., in front of 61,520 spectators Thursday night.

Florida State got things started with a nine play, 70 yard scoring drive on the first possession of the game. After two quarterback keepers by Jordan Travis which net 20 yards on the ground, Travis then hit receiver Johnny Wilson for a 26-yard reception. Running back Treshaun Ward picked up 22 yards on the next carry. But after facing 4th-and-goal from the 5-yard line, the Seminoles had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald and the early 3-0 lead.

On Oklahoma’s first possession, they went on a 13 play drive that covered 75 yards. Running back Jovante Barnes carried the ball four times for 21 yards, and quarterback Dillon Gabriel connected with receiver L.V. Bunkley-Shelton on the left side for 14 yards, which helped set up a 22-yard touchdown reception by receiver Jalil Farooq. After kicker Zach Schmit’s extra point, the Sooners led 7-3 with 7:01 remaining in the first quarter.

When the Seminoles got the ball back, running back Lawrance Toafili rushed for 10 yards on the first play. Wide receiver Malik McCalin got called for a false start, which pushed the Seminoles back to their 30-yard line. On 1st-and-15, tight end Markeston Douglas grabbed a reception for 12 yards which was followed by a 2-yard shovel pass to Toafili, but the Sooner defense tightened up and the Seminoles were unable to go further. Florida State turned it over on downs giving the Sooners the ball at the FSU 43.

Neither team was able to get moving offensively on their respective next drive, forcing both teams to punt after going three-and-out.

The Sooners took to the ground when they got the ball back with 2:27 left on the clock in the first quarter. They ran six rushing plays for 35 yards to run the clock out on the quarter. When play resumed, they rushed twice more which found Gabriel in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown reception on the quarterback keeper. Gabriel leapt over his own man in order to escape being tackled by Seminole linebacker Tatum Bethune at the goal line. The Schmit extra point was good, making the score 14-3 in favor of Oklahoma with 14:31 left in the first half. The Sooners ran eight plays and covered 49 yards in 2:56 on the drive.

The Seminoles struggled on their next drive. Starting from their own 25, Travis connected with Johnny Wilson again for a 31-yard reception to put the ball into Oklahoma territory, but Travis was sacked at midfield by Oklahoma linebacker Danny Stutsman on the next play. Once again, Florida State was facing a 4th down situation and decided to go for it. However, tight end Camren McDonald dropped Travis’s pass at the 25-yard line, for what surely would have been a first down. Instead, they turned it over on downs again at the OU 43.

A false start by left guard Savion Byrd pushed the Sooners to a 3rd-and-15 situation from their 38. Gabriel then hit receiver Marvin Mims Jr. for a 46-yard reception. He was knocked out of bounds by Seminoles defensive back Akeem Dent at the Florida State 16-yard line.

Running back Gavin Sawchuk ran up the middle for what should have been a 16-yard touchdown run, but it was called back for holding on Byrd, the left guard. The drive stalled and a few plays later, Schmit attempted a 45-yard field goal which hooked left. The score was still 14-3 in favor of the Sooners with 9:47 remaining in the half.

Florida State took over on their 28-yard line and immediately running back Trey Benson took off for an 11-yard rush on the left side. Then receiver Ontaria Wilson picked up a 14-yard reception. Benson rushed up the middle to pick up two more yards, which was followed by a 23-yard reception by Johnny Wilson to put the ball on the Oklahoma 22-yard line. The drive ended on a 16-yard touchdown reception by Ontaria Wilson. Tight end Wyatt Rector threw a pass to fellow tight end Brian Courtney for the two-point conversion to make the score 14-11 in favor of the Sooners with 7:18 remaining in the half. The drive covered 72 yards on six plays.

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillion Gabriel is sacked by Florida State defensive back Jammie Robinson during Thursday’s Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

The Sooners took to the air on their next drive. Receiver Drake Stoops hauled in a six-yard reception, which was followed by a four-yard rush by Barnes. Farooq caught a pass for 4-yards, and then tight end Brayden Willis got in the act with a 9-yard completion. With 1st-and-10 following the Willis catch, Gabriel was sacked for a 5-yard loss. Seminoles defensive end Leonard Warner III knocked the ball out of Gabriel’s hands. Mims pounced on it, keeping the possession with the Sooners. On the next play Gabriel was sacked again, this time by defensive back Jammie Robinson for a six-yard loss. Sawchuk rushed for 16-yards but was still four yards short of the first down marker. Michael Turk punted on 4th down to the FSU 12.

When the Seminoles took over, Travis connected with Mycah Pittman for a 9-yard screen pass, which paved the way for a Johnny Wilson 30-yard reception to midfield. Travis got sacked on 3rd-and-8 for a six-yard loss, which forced an Alex Mastromanno punt on fourth down with just under two minutes remaining in the half.

The Sooners began their final possession of the first half on their own 11-yard line. Gabriel was initially sacked for a six-yard loss, but defensive tackle Joshua Farmer was hit with a 15-yard facemask penalty to give Oklahoma the first down at the OU 26.

Sawchuk burst open a 25-yard run to the FSU 49-yard line, and then added an additional nine-yard carry to put the ball on the Florida State 40. Barnes carried three times for 19 yards and Gabriel rushed up the middle for a three-yard loss. Schmit kicked a 41-yard field goal to increase the Sooner lead to 17-11 with 13 seconds left in the half.

In order to take time off the clock, Schmit kicked a squib kick to the Florida State 38-yard line. Travis scrambled for 28-yards on the next play to the Oklahoma 36-yard line. Fitzgerald attempted a 53-yard field goal as time expired but it was short. The Sooners led 17-11 at the half.

Oklahoma Sooner receiver Marvin Mims Jr., grabs a reception past the outstretched arms of Florida State Seminoles defensive back Renardo Green during Thursday’s Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Oklahoma got the ball to begin the third quarter and immediately began their rushing attack again. Barnes and Sawchuk combined for 24-yards on eight carries during drive. Sevion Byrd, the left guard, picked up a five-yard penalty for being an ineligible receiver downfield. It was his third penalty of the game. Michael Turk booted a 50-yard punt on 4th-and-12 to the Florida State 6-yard line.

The Seminole offense went methodical when they touched the ball next. Travis completed passes to Pittman, both Wilsons, McClain and Douglas, which set up a one-yard touchdown run by Ward. Fitzgerald’s extra point was good, allowing Florida State to regain the lead, 18-17 with 5:33 left in the third quarter. FSU marched 94 yards in 15 plays over 4:56 on the scoring drive.

The Sooners went back to Sawchuk for two rushes up the middle for two-yards each, and then Gabriel hit Willis on a 31-yard completion to the Florida State 40 after Jammie Robinson brought him down. Gabriel threw to Mims but it was incomplete. Then Gabriel was sacked for a two-yard loss. After a Barnes rush for six yards, Gabriel threw to Stoops at the Florida State 28 but it was broken up by Robinson and OU turned it over on downs at the FSU 36.

Following a 1-yard rush off the left side by receiver Darion Williamson, Travis threw a long shot to the Oklahoma 20-yard line that was intended for McClain, but it was broken up by defensive back Woodi Washington. Travis hit Johnny Wilson for an 18-yard completion and a fresh set of downs. Ward rushed up the middle for no gain and then to the right for seven yards. On 4th-and-3, Oklahoma defensive back Billy Bowman intercepted a Travis pass at the Oklahoma 30-yard line with no return. It was the fifth time that Travis was intercepted all season.

The Sooners ran just one play, which was called back by a penalty, and then the quarter ended. FSU maintained an 18-17 lead with one quarter left to go in regulation.

Mims caught a 31-yard reception to push the ball to the FSU 40 on the first play of the final quarter. Barnes ran up the middle twice, followed by Farooq once and Sawchuk twice. Sawchuk’s second carry was a 15-yard rush up the middle for a touchdown. Gabriel threw a pass to Willis to convert the two-point conversion. OU now led 25-18 with 13:22 remaining in the game. The Sooners marched 70 yards on seven plays over 1:38 of play.

The Seminoles stuck with the air attack. Travis completed passes to Douglas for seven yards; Ontaria Wilson for 11 yards; and Williamson for 15 yards; to put Florida State on the Oklahoma 38-yard line. Ward received the handoff from Travis and then burst up the middle for a 38 yard rushing touchdown. Fitzgerald’s extra point was good and we had a 25-25 tie with 11:05 left in the fourth quarter.

Oklahoma responded with a sustained drive that featured three carries and one pass play, a 21-yard reception by Stoops. However, on 3rd-and-2, Sawchuk ran up the middle for a nine-yard gain. Seminole defensive back Omarion Cooper forced a fumble, which was recovered by defensive back Jammie Robinson for the turnover on the Florida State 32.

Florida State Seminole receiver Johnny Wilson hauls in a reception during Thursday’s Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Wilson caught eight passes for 202 yards to lead all receivers. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Travis came out on fire. He went 4-for-4 and 47 yards, including a 33-yard pass to Benson, which set up a 2nd-and-2 at the Oklahoma 17-yard line. Travis threw a deep pass to Douglas, who caught it at the two yard line and made it into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown reception. The Fitzgerald extra point gave Florida State a 32-25 lead with 7:22 remaining in the game. The drive took 2:19 off the clock and covered 68 yards in six plays.

The Sooners weren’t done yet, however. Starting at their own 25, Gabriel dished off a pass to Farooq for five yards, and then handed it off to Sawchuk for a four-yard rush on the next play. Then Gabriel took it upon himself to move the offense with a two-yard quarterback keeper to pick up the first down, followed by a 23-yard scramble to put the ball on the Florida State 41. Gabriel hit Farooq on a 28-yard pass reception on the FSU 12. Barnes rushed on the left side for a 12-yard touchdown. Schmit’s extra point tied the score at 32-32 with 3:37 on the clock.

Johnny Wilson may have saved the day for the Seminoles on their final possession. He took a pass from Travis for 58-yards to the Oklahoma 15-yard line. After three short yardage carries from Benson, Fitzgerald made a 32-yard field goal to break the tie and give the Seminoles a 35-32 lead with just 57 seconds left on the clock.

Willis grabbed a nine-yard reception to get things moving for the Sooners, but a false start penalty brought them back to their own 29-yard line. The next play, an incomplete pass intended for Willis, was called back for a holding penalty. This now put the ball on the Oklahoma 19-yard line for 2nd-and-16 yards to go. Gabriel hit Shawchuk for an eight-yard completion as Shawchuk ran out of bounds at the 27-yard line. Gabriel got the next play off in time but was sacked by Jared Verse and Dennis Biggs Jr., for a seven-yard loss. Oklahoma was trying to get lined up in time for a final play on fourth down, but could not get it off before the clock expired. Florida State won the shootout, 35-32.

A shootout it was as the teams combined for 1,083 yards. Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis completed 27-of-38 passes for 418 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and a passer rating of 175.6, which earned him MVP honors for the game. Travis finished the season with a season rating of 160.6 for 15th best in the FBS.

Florida State Seminole tight end Markeston Douglas dives over Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Justin Broiles and the goal line during Thursday’s Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Travis targeted Johnny Wilson ten times. Wilson hauled in eight of the passes for 202 yards, including his longest reception of 58 yards for the Seminoles. Ontaria Wilson completed five passes for 74 yards and a touchdown, while Markeston Douglas caught four passes for 50 yards and one touchdown.

Treshaun Ward led Florida State in rushing with 10 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Trey Benson added 13 carries for 25 yards.

Dillon Gabriel, meanwhile, completed 14-of-24 for 243 yards passing and one touchdown for the Sooners. His quarterback rating for the game was 157.1. He ranks 25th in the FBS with a 154.4 rating on the season.

Jalil Farooq led the Sooners in receiving with four receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown. Brayden Willis chipped in with four receptions for 58 yards.

Jovantae Barnes led Oklahoma with 27 carries for 108 yards and one touchdown. Gavin Sawchuk picked up 100 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown. Gabriel carried 14 times for 17 yards and one touchdown.

Defensively, the Sooners recorded two sacks and five tackles for loss, while the Seminoles had four sacks and 11 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

“It was really special to be able to finish this year with our tenth win,” said Mike Norvell, Florida State Seminoles head coach. “Even in the way that it had to happen tonight, guys that went down, it was a back-and-forth game. There were some good moments and really tough and challenging situations, but their heart, it is what showed up. They continued to fight, continued to believe. You did everything necessary to be able to finish the game and securing that tenth win.”

“I would like to first congratulate Coach [Mike] Norvell and Florida State, their staff, their players. [It was a] terrific game. They played their guts out, like our guys did. Heck of a game for them. Big win for them,” said Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables. “Moving forward, it is a great opportunity [for us]. [We’ve] got a bunch of guys that got their first extended playing time. I was really excited for them and proud of them in their effort, and it is going to bode well for us in the future.”

For the Seminoles players, they hope that this game leads to something bigger.
“We’re not done yet. This is just the beginning,” said Travis. “We have another chapter. This is the end of the chapter of this year, but we still have a lot, a lot to do. I have a lot of plans for next year and a lot of goals, and I can’t wait.”

Florida State Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell holds up the trophy for winning the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Thursday Night. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

“You know, when [Coach] Norvell first got here, we been through the tough time. Seeing this team being happy for the first time, getting like our ten wins and stuff like that, it’s amazing. It just brings us together and the confidence we got now, it’s just – it’s great to see that we’re being successful right now,” said Treshaun Ward. “Use this year as an example, with where we started from January from last year, it all built up to what we had this year. It’s only going to get better from this point on. And we’re just going to work even harder so we can get to that National Championship.”

Norvell knows the level of work that will be required by his players if they want to bring it to the next level. “For where we are going, I can promise you, there are great days ahead in Tallahassee. The future is very bright for this program, but it is because of the people that we have. It is because of that constant push to get better and guys are just willing to fight the fight,” he said.

Oklahoma also knows what they need to do to improve for next year.

“I want to do whatever it takes for this team to win. Obviously, it is a little frustrating when it doesn’t happen,” said Gabriel. “Personally, I think the O-line played their butt off in the sense of their effort. They are guys who care, and they are competing for their opportunity at hand. I can respect that…
More importantly, because they are my friends and guys I have connected with and am really close to. Whenever it’s like that, you are riding with them forever, regardless of the situation.”

Venables, in his first season as head coach since taking over for Lincoln Riley, who became the head coach at USC a year ago, knows that he has his work cut out for him to bring prestige back to the program and compete for national championships. For the Sooners, too, the Cheez-It Bowl is a stepping stone to hopeful future success.

“Certainly disappointed being 6-7, but proud in a lot of the things that we were able to accomplish, and certainly proud of the players and their work and their fight and their achievement. There is plenty of achievement there. In the middle of losing, there is plenty,” said Venables. “I think it is always important that you have the right perspective and that you recognize that, at the end of the day, it is my job as the head coach to win and win every one of them, and I get that.”

“I just watch. I watched what I have been watching. For a lot of people, they can’t see that because they are not inside the building, and that’s fine. We will be judged by being 6-7. That’s fine, too. For me, for us, I know what the future looks like. I have been seeing it in that locker room. The winning will come. I know that without question,” he added.

The Florida State Seminoles finished the season with a 10-3 record while the Sooners dropped to 6-7 on the year.

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