Three weeks ago, Florida coach Mike Norwell sat home alone watching his team lose awkwardly to face Miami in another discouraging loss for a program looking for a way out.
Maybe it happened on Saturday against North Carolina. Playing with a lack of intensity, passion and energy in recent years, the Seminoles upset North Carolina No. 5 31-28 on Saturday night, clinging to a win desperately needed to build the kind of confidence and momentum every first-year coach wants while builds its program.
Florida State entered the game as a double-digit home outsider, largely due to its poor performance to open the season. But Norvel saw improvements in a loss to Notre Dame last week, and that gave him hope that there would be more to come against Tar Tar.
In fact, the state of Florida announced its first win as an unrated team against an opponent in the top five of the AP since 2007 against number 2 at Boston College. It would be hard to imagine all this at the end of September, when Norwell missed the game in Miami because of a positive coronavirus test and the Seminoles unraveled in front of an audience on national television.
Asked to describe Saturday’s victory, Norvell said: “There are really no words about it. It’s so special because since December 8, when I first entered this boardroom with my team and this group, we’ve been trying to grow and improve every moment. I tell our boys that the ultimate goal of every opportunity you get is to try to go out and be the best you can be.
“To see their celebrations, to see the joy, to know, lined up against all odds, not many people gave us a chance tonight, but they didn’t worry about what other people thought of them. They did not think of any of the restrictions that would be placed on them. They just went out and played their game. Tonight was for these boys. This was their moment and they definitely deserved the victory for how they prepared and how they responded to all this they were asked to do. “
Break the Rock Coach! #NoleFamily | #KeepCLIMBing pic.twitter.com/05ic38RHol
– FSU Football (@FSUFootball) October 18, 2020
Florida jumped 31-7, but Tar Heels fought back. When the fourth quarter began, Tar Heels had filled the gap and were 31-21 behind. Norwell said he put his whole team together with a smile on his face and told them, “Guys, you’re counting on what you’re doing here. I can’t tell you what this fourth quarter will look like, but you go and play the next play. You give it your all. . You maximize your efforts in this opportunity. They did it. We found a way to be better with one game tonight. It will be monumental for us to continue to grow and build on this example. “
North Carolina had one last shot to win or level the game on their last disc. When Sam Howell’s fourth pass was incomplete, a massive celebration ensued.
“It was the greatest feeling I’ve ever felt in my life when the defense came so great,” said quarterback Jordan Travis.
An offended player, Devontay Love-Taylor, was added, “The celebration, especially after what we went through this season, the heavy loss in Miami, the heavy loss here for Georgia Tech, all the work we put in, we wanted to pay off tonight. But we have to keep working to keep paying. “
Norwell sees a lot to clean up, including an inability to score in the second half and too many undisciplined penalties that almost cost them the game. This will come during the study and practice of films next week and in the coming weeks.
“We’re not perfect,” Norwell said. “We work in a process, but when you have a chance to see growth, when you see an improvement, when you see an investment – it’s not for everyone. We have some guys who chose other things, guys who are here, continuing to work, they keep try to be the best version of yourself in all aspects of your life.That’s why tonight.
“We will still insist because I know we are capable of much more.”