The great Doak Campbell Stadium scoreboard tracking the impending death of the third quarter slipped to zero before resetting at 15:00, and Jameis Winston gazed into the distance like a mortally wounded cobra preparing to strike or die. Tomahawk stickers plastering his dull golden helmet, mouth curling with disgust, and eyes burning with machine-like focus, Winston walked off the field.
This was not supposed to be happening—not again. The reigning Heisman trophy winner and National Champions found themselves, for the umpteenth time this season, in a dogfight with a less talented team, and now they were tied 17-17 and grappling to stay undefeated late in the game. It was not for want of effort. For three quarters, Boston College ran defiantly over the wet grass like hell demons set free in Tallahassee and played enough gutsy defense to keep Tyler Murphy’s offense in the game.
As sheets of rain whipped mercilessly on the poncho-d crowd, the ’Noles would make good in front of their arm chopping fans, ruthlessly running down the clock and kicking a 26-yard field goal with three seconds remaining. Winston would pull off the desperate victory again, in the end, guiding FSU to a 11-0 record and a 20-17 win over the Eagles on Saturday evening—but not before BC nearly set Tallahassee aflame.
“If they’d nailed that field goal, we would’ve been cooked.”
“That was too dang close, that kid puts it through, and we’re screeeewed.”
Southern-accented claims like these sprouted up with abundance among the drenched masses of FSU fans emptying out of the game, and similar verbal grimaces will surely ruminate on Twitter until the next near-disaster Seminoles game. When kicker Alex Howell lined up 42 sloshing-wet yards away from paydirt with 4:37 left on the clock and a chance to put the Eagles up by three, the upset-kings-of-the-world title was in the Eagles’ grasp. It wasn’t theirs to claim.
“It was my shot,” Howell said. “I missed it. Nobody else’s fault, that’s just what it is.”
Murphy led a truly masterful drive in the fourth quarter to get to that point, propelling BC from its 12 to FSU’s 25, and burning eight minutes and 52 treacherous, heart pounding seconds off the clock. BC head coach Steve Addazio and offensive coordinator Ryan Day went to the running back roulette, emptying the deck and featuring Myles Willis, Jon Hilliman, Tyler Rouse, Marcus Outlow, and Sherman Alston in the 17-play drive. It was the most beautiful and definitively BC set of the season, and as Alston worked the edges, Outlow attacked the middle, and Murphy ran for three first downs, the momentum snowballed behind the Eagles. Then, on second and nine on FSU’s 26, BC ran the trick—what will go down as one of the most tantalizing could-have-beens in recent BC history.
“We felt great about the play,” Addazio said. “We had it. We had the play. We worked on it, we wanted to take a shot. Obviously we didn’t want to be in a situation when we were kicking. We were trying to avoid kicking that field goal like that, we wanted to go for a score. We felt great about the play, and I feel great about the play right now in hindsight.“
Murphy flipped the ball to a battered Josh Bordner and tore off for the perimeter, flying toward the end zone. The ex-quarterback chucked the ball to Murphy, who leapt into the air around the two-yard line. For one tantalizing, painful, decade-long second, Murphy’s hands closed on the ball—and the game—but the ’Noles’ secondary blew up the quarterback-turned-wide out before he could secure what would have been the play of the season. Murphy would gain a mere yard on the next play, and though the ball felt good coming off Howell’s foot, the Eagles were doomed.
“We spent time on it, but we didn’t hang our hat on that play,” Murphy said. “We needed to execute in all phases of the game … You want to win games like that, you have to make the play.”
With the ball back in his hands, Winston began making the plays. Throwing for two big first downs and letting his running backs carry the rest of the load, Winston marched FSU straight down BC’s throat, showing his invincibility in the face of impending failure yet again. Twenty-four games into his college career, Winston still doesn’t know what a loss feels like. For Addazio, though, the scorch of another fingertip defeat proved brutally familiar.
“We didn’t come down here to lose that football game,” Addazio said. “We didn’t come down here to be a bridesmaid. We didn’t come down here to take solace in the fact that everybody tells us how hard we played—that’s great. We came down here to win. I’ve heard about as much of that as I can stomach.”
Backed into the corner, FSU lashed out and bit BC dead in the end, sending the Eagles back to Boston with nothing but painful what-ifs and a national heaping of unwanted pity.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor