Jordan Travis scores 5 touchdowns as Florida State blows out Syracuse. Here are our takeaways.
Florida State football has found its stride in all three phases of the game entering the final stretch of the season.
The No. 23 Seminoles defeated Syracuse 38-3 to collect their third straight blowout victory Saturday at JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
FSU (7-3, 5-3 ACC) finish out conference play with its first winning season since 2016. The Orange (6-4, 3-3) have dropped four straight since a 6-0 start.
The win also clinched the first winning season for the Seminoles since 2017. They became bowl-eligible last week.
Game recap:Live updates: FSU has a commanding lead over Syracuse at halftime
Making most of opportunities:Florida State football: Patrick Payton made the most of the opportunity in front of his family in Miami
Return to Syracuse:Florida State football: Jared Verse's return to Syracuse a full-circle moment
FSU quarterback Jordan Travis continued his hot play with his third straight game with at least three touchdown passes. He completed 21 of 23 passes for 155 yards and three passing scores. He also added 21 yards and a TD on the ground.
The 91% completion rate is the second-best mark in FSU history behind Jameis Winston (92.3%) against Pittsburgh in 2013.
Trey Brenson eclipsed 100 yards and set a new career-high for the third game in a row with 17 rushes for 158 yards for the night.
The Seminoles have rushed for over 200 yards in five straight games.
Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader (lower-body injury) drew the start, despite entering the week questionable. In his first action since Notre Dame (Oct. 29), he was stymied by the Seminole defense.
Jared Verse and Patrick Payton each had first-half sacks for the Seminoles, as they finished with eight tackles for loss.
“Just so proud of our football team, back-to-back weeks going on the road," FSU head coach Mike Norvell said. This is definitely a very unique place, a loud atmosphere, with what they do, you know, offensively and defensively, incorporating a lot of different schemes. I thought our guys prepared at a very high level, and I had a lot of confidence coming into the game of what, how we would play.
“And our guys did not disappoint. I mean, they've been remarkable. And they've worked, they've worked so hard in their preparation, continuing to focus on our growth, continue to focus on our development. I thought we were dominant tonight, offense, defense, special teams, everybody. Everybody did their part to take place in that victory."
Here are five takeaways from FSU's third straight win. This is the season's second winning streak of at least three games for the Seminoles.
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Jordan Travis pulls a Christian McCaffrey
Travis completed the trifecta for touchdowns on Saturday. He finished with three touchdown passes while adding one on the ground. His TD catch may have been the most special.
Christian McCaffrey achieved the feat for the San Francisco 49ers a couple of weeks ago.
On fourth down in the third quarter, Travis received a snap and pitched it to Mycah Pittman, who pitched it to Wyatt Rector. Rector simply flicked the ball to a wide-open Travis in the end zone to complete the "Philly Special."
Travis has thrown for three TDs in three straight games, but the five overall touchdowns are a new career high.
"I love Jordan," Benson said. "Watching him come to work every single day, he deserves it. He overcame a lot of battles last season and this year, he has all the confidence in the world. His confidence is at an all-time high. I'm very proud of Jordan."
Most of the passing game depended on the short-passing game, as the Seminoles had 75 yards after the catch. The longest pass of the game went to receiver Johnny Wilson, but that was about an 8-yard pass before Wilson broke a tackle and took it to the house.
The Seminoles scored touchdowns on all five of their red zone attempts.
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Trey Benson continues to dominate
Starter Treshaun Ward returned for this game following a three-game absence. But the backfield still belongs to the Oregon transfer. Benson rushed 18 times for his new career-high 163 yards.
He rushed for 128 yards last week against Miami.
"It's been a great confidence booster," Benson said. "I just had to get comfortable in the system. I barely played in college these past two years. This year, I'm finally getting my feet wet. Every game, I'm continuing to learn, continuing to get better.
"My goal for this week was to respond better than last week. Even though last week was good, I just wanted to respond better this week."
Benson missed out on a touchdown, being ruled short in the third quarter.
He broke a run of 27 yards on the first possession and added a 30-yard rush in the third quarter.
Benson finished his night averaging 9.1 yards per carry and also added two catches for three yards.
The Seminoles continue to dominate on both sides of the ball, coming off the loss to Clemson the week before their bye week.
FSU has outscored its opponents 124-22 in their last three weeks, surrendering just two touchdowns in the span. They have outscored their last two opponents 83-6.
Florida State scored on two of its first three drives against the Orange, while the defense forced three straight three-and-outs to begin the game.
The Seminoles finished with 420 yards of offense and the defense had a strong showing allowing Syracuse 160 total yards (95 rushing and 65 passing). The Orange did not cross 100 total yards until the fourth quarter.
Twelve different Seminole receivers caught at least one pass (including Travis). Malik McClain led the way with four catches for 26 yards and a touchdown. Kentron Poitier, Johnny Wilson and Travis also added touchdown catches.
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Garret Shrader struggles in return
Shrader burned the Seminole defense for 137 rushing yards and three scores on the ground last season. He entered the week questionable to play.
What was not questionable was the FSU defense against the Mississippi State transfer. Shrader completed just six of his 17 passes attempts, throwing for 65 yards. He ran 10 times for negative two yards, with the Seminoles sacking him three times for 22 yards.
"It just shows that the hard work we are putting in is finally paying off," Verse said. "That we can play a whole game and finally shut teams out the way we should have beforehand. It’s nice to finally have everyone together. It’s nice to know finally know what we’re capable of.”
His night ended in the fourth quarter when Greedy Vance picked off a pass to end the most promising drive for the Orange of the night.
Vance has an interception in back-to-back weeks.
Star Syracuse RB Sean Tucker was limited to 14 rushes for 52 yards. His biggest gain went for 16 yards.
Syracuse did not have 100 yards of offense until the fourth quarter. The Orange had 115 yards with their starters in the game.
Jared Verse returns to Syracuse
Last season Verse made his name at Syracuse while playing for Albany. The breakout game against the Orange opened the door for him to transfer to FSU.
“It actually felt good being back up north, being closer to home, seeing my family," Verse said. :I have a lot of family members I haven't been able to see. Being back in the dome made me mad just because they beat us last year. That kind of got me mad. But finally being able to get them back, in a way my team could be proud of, it meant a lot.”
Verse was dominant in the first half. He seemed to be in on every play or at least impacted it. He finished with four tackles and a sack.
His 6.5 sacks lead the team, while Payton recorded his fourth sack of the season and is second on the team.
Linebacker Amari Gainer added a sack in the fourth quarter.
Reach Ehsan Kassim at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).
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