The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl proved Atlanta to be a great college football city as Houston defeated Florida State 38-24 in front of a raucous Georgia Dome crowd. Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Jr. carried the team on his back in throwing for 238 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 67 yards and two scores.
From the get-go, this was Houston’s game to lose. The Cougars employed a high-powered spread offense under first-year coach and former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman en route to an AAC title, and that showed today. After trading punts and FSU missing a field goal, Houston was on the board thanks to a 64-yard drive that was capped when Ward ran seven yards to put Houston up 7-0.
Florida State hit a field goal to make it 7-3 on the next drive, but at a cost. Quarterback Sean Maguire, playing in place of Everett Golson (who left the team due to a death in the family), suffered a foot injury and was replaced by J.J. Costentino. Maguire eventually returned with his foot heavily taped, but more about him later.
Houston would go on to take the wheel the rest of the first half, with Chance Allen catching a 20-yard pass from wideout DeMarcus Ayers on a trick play to make the score 14-3.
Houston's reverse pass to WR Demarcus Ayers tricks FSU, leaves Chance Allen wide open to score on a 20-yard catch: https://t.co/VR3QrELRwA
— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2015
Houston then took advantage of Florida State fumbling on the ensuing drive, and Ward ran six yards for his second rushing touchdown as the Cougars entered halftime up 21-3.
But FSU came out with life in the second half. Following Houston punting on the opening drive of the second half, the Seminoles engineered a 59-yard drive that saw star running back Dalvin Cook pound the ball in for a 1-yard score to make it 21-10.
Houston added a field goal, but it suddenly became a game when Maguire went long and found a wide open Travis Rudolph for a 65-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game.
Florida St QB Sean Maguire tosses a 65-yard strike to Travis Rudolph to make it a one score game! https://t.co/6NfX0UwCSj
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 31, 2015
It was at this point that Houston went into turnup mode. A 12-play, 75-yard drive was capped when Ward found Allen for a 20-yard touchdown, 31-17 Houston. Of course, FSU struck right back with a five-play 75 yard drive that ended with Maguire finding Jesus Wilson for a 14-yard touchdown to make it 31-24.
Houston then took over with time remaining, but suffered a scare when Ward went down with an injury and hobbled off the field. Backup Kyle Postma came in and proceeded to lead a drive downfield that ended with Ryan Jackson’s two-yard touchdown run to make it 38-24.
Florida State gave its all on the following drive, but it was Maguire’s fourth interception of the game that iced the score and made his 392 pass yards and two touchdowns all but forgotten.
Turnovers were only the tip of the iceberg regarding FSU’s issues this game. On top of five turnovers, the team was limited to just 16 rushing yards thanks to some negative yardage from Costentino. Cook, once a Heisman candidate, was only able to manage 33 yards on 18 carries. Six penalties for 66 yards also didn’t help.
Simply put, there’s only one way to put this. Florida State beat themselves today and is facing big questions heading into next year, while Houston is definitely on the up-and-up.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports