At 9-0 for the first time since 1999, Florida State clinched a second straight trip to the ACC Championship and a third in four years on Saturday with a decisive 59-3 victory over Wake Forest. While the Seminoles have the most heralded freshman in the entire country at quarterback in Jameis Winston, a number of freshmen and underclassmen made big plays on Saturday particularly on the defensive side of the football.
Florida State forced seven turnovers, six interceptions, in the win on Saturday to make it a romp from the get-go. The Seminoles also registered three non-offensive touchdowns in the victory and all three were scored by freshmen.
Freshman safety Nate Andrews, who intercepted a pair of passes on Saturday, scored on a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second quarter to give Florida State a 28-0 lead. Andrews, who started in place of the concussed Terrence Brooks on Saturday, has three interceptions in the last two weeks and now leads the Seminoles with four on the season.
Florida State’s other freshman starting safety, Jalen Ramsey, also had a defensive score on Saturday. 19 seconds and one play after Andrews took a Tanner Price interception to the house, Ramsey scooped up a Josh Harris fumble and raced 23 yards the other way to make it 35-0. Ramsey, who began the season as a reserve cornerback, has excelled since being moved to safety for the injured Tyler Hunter.
The Seminoles’ final score on Saturday answered Wake Forest’s only score of the day. After Chad Hudland’s 23-yard field goal broke up the shutout for Wake Forest, receiver Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a score for Florida State’s first special teams touchdown of the season. After just two receptions for 58 yards in the first six weeks, Whitfield has now scored touchdowns in two of the last three games for FSU.
Also showing vast improvement of late for Florida State has been sophomore defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. Edwards, who returned a fumble for a score against Clemson to open the floodgates in that contest, has really excelled of late as a pass-rusher and on Saturday, Edwards recorded his first career interception. Edwards intercepted Price after senior Christian Jones hit Price as he threw late in the first quarter. Edwards’ interception set up Winston’s first of two touchdown passes two plays later.
Freshman cornerback Marquez White also recorded his first career interception in the win.
While senior linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith, senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and junior Timmy Jernigan receive most of the credit for a Florida State defense that is allowing the fourth fewest points in the country, the Seminoles are getting contributions all throughout the lineup. Saturday’s game was dominated by the Seminoles from start to finish and that’s thanks largely to the play of a young secondary.
Despite losing two starting veteran defensive backs at safety, Florida State continues to make plays deep in the secondary. After picking off just 11 passes all of last year, Florida State already has 18 interceptions this season with 10 coming in the last three weeks. Of the Seminoles’ 18 interceptions this season, 11 have come from freshmen and sophomores.
Jeremy Pruitt’s defense has been dominant this season and is doing so with contributions from a lot of young players. After losing seven starters from last year’s ACC championship team to the NFL Draft, Florida State’s defense has been even more outstanding this season. With so many young players already taking on big roles, the FSU defense looks to be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.