Florida State coach Mike Norvell said some of his players "froze in the moment" during the 59-yard touchdown pass that gave Jacksonville State a 20-17 win over his Seminoles.
The Gamecocks trailed 17-7 before driving 97 yards to score on Zerrick Cooper's 23-yard pass to Ahmad Edwards with 4:45 to play. Then on the last play of the game, Cooper completed a long pass to Damond Philyaw-Johnson, whose catch and run for the winning touchdown will ensure him a place in JSU football history forever.
As the clock ran out, Philyaw-Johnson outmaneuvered two Florida State defensive backs to the end zone, with a big help from Edwards, who threw a block at the goal line to allow Philyaw-Johnson to score untouched. JSU not only left with the win but with a $400,000 check for agreeing to play the Seminoles in Tallahassee.
"A man catches the ball at the 21-yard line, and we've got two guys in position," Norvell said Monday in his regular game-week news conference on the FSU campus. "I think there was a shock factor that hit, and there were some guys that froze in the moment. Why does that happen? I'm not sure."
After Saturday's game, Norvell called the loss "totally unacceptable."
"I apologize to our fan base, to our university, to all Seminoles for the performance we had," Norvell said.
On Monday, the news conference was to allow reporters to ask questions ahead of the Seminoles' game Saturday against Wake Forest, but all 13 minutes that were broadcast on the Tallahassee Democrat's website focused on the aftermath of the loss to JSU.
“In the moment, in the situation, our guys did not respond the way that we were hopeful of in that situation being up 10 with 4:50 left in the game," Norvell said. "I had all the confidence that we were going to be able to finish the game and get the win.”
Norvell pointed out that FSU committed 11 penalties, including nine in the second half for 100 yards. Three came on JSU's drive that ended with Edwards' touchdown, including one on an incomplete third-down pass and a targeting call that overturned an interception.
“That is extremely challenging to finish games when you have that type of result,” Norvell said.
As for the last play, Norvell said that with 59 yards to go, six seconds left and a timeout left for JSU, the Seminoles backed up their cornerbacks.
"It wasn't a Hail Mary situation," he said. "We had a defense called that we wanted to keep all routes in front of us. We wanted the corners off, with outside leverage. We wanted to be able to see everything in front of us."
Asked about the effort on the last play, Norvell said, "There's things that show up on that play we have to live with. The reason why it happened, I'm not sure why that occurs. At times when things unexpectedly show up, I really do think there's a sense of shock that hits some guys and they froze in the moment. That's something that can't happen."
This marked the second straight game in which Florida State lost on the last play of the game. It happened the previous week in an overtime loss to Notre Dame.
“One was highly ranked, one was a smaller school," Norvell said. "At the end of the day, they made the plays necessary and we have not played to the level that I believe we’re capable of."