TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There were still about six minutes left, but at that point both Florida State and Boston College had reached an unspoken agreement to run out the time on a beating that bordered on senseless.
Both Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel and Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig were on the sidelines, arms folded, their circumstances completely opposite.
Taking Manuel out of the game was essentially Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher’s way of calling a cease-fire and accepting that a 51-7 victory sent a sufficient message to pollsters and doubters after the Seminoles suffered an embarrassing loss at N.C. State last week.
Manuel’s numbers — 439 yards, on 27-of-34 passing, with four touchdowns — overflowed.
Rettig hadn’t had a day this bad in almost a year.
For the first time all season, he completed less than 50 percent of his passes. His 122 yards were a season low. But more than the numbers, too many times he found himself having to choose between throwing the ball high into the sidelines and saving himself from sack over taking the hit, picking grass out of his helmet. He had passes picked off and batted back at him. Sometimes he didn’t see where they went.
He understood why he was on the sideline.
The game was all but decided by halftime when a 51-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins not only put him in the record books as the ACC’s all-time leading scorer, it put the Seminoles up, 31-7.
It irked Rettig to watch.
“I don’t like seeing my offensive linemen that played their hearts out all game, they’re still out there and I’m not out there with them,” he said. “And if it was vice versa, they’d feel the same way.”
Both teams were coming off losses that shook up their seasons. Only one team responded.
Florida State was out to prove something — to the pollsters and themselves. Losing to the Wolfpack as shocking as it was embarrassing. They dived from the No. 3 ranking in the country to the 12th, their hopes of returning to the national championship game for the first time since 2000 laying in the rubble.
Because of it, the Seminoles played with an edge all night.
“They’re hunting for a national championship,” said linebacker Nick Clancy. “And because they lost to a team of lesser talent last week, I think they came out extra hungry and I think they came out ready to show the world that they were still that top-of-the-line, top-tier program.”
Boston College was practically post-traumatic after being dropped in the last minute by Army a week ago.
It sent the Eagles tumbling to 1-4, looking for answers for a defense that had been dragged across the field by the Black Knights for 516 yards rushing.
They couldn’t have come to Doak Campbell Stadium at a worse time.
“I think their psyche was they got annoyed that they got a little conservative last week and they weren’t about to do that,” said BC coach Frank Spaziani. “They were going to attack and they were in an attack mode right from the beginning.”
The Seminoles strong-armed the momentum from the start, putting up a brick wall at the 1-yard line after the Eagles moved 68 yards on 10 plays on their opening drive.
On first and goal from the 1, they tried a screen pass and came up empty. They handed off to Andre Williams. Then again. Both times, nothing. They tried a play-action pass, but defensive lineman Bjoern Werner hunted Rettig down in the backfield, and the best Rettig could do was throw a pass at the back of his offensive lineman Ian White.
“I don’t know if that was the difference in the game,” said Spaziani. “But it certainly sets a little different tone.”
The only signs of a BC pulse came as the half approached. After trying to figure out how to get Bobby Swigert involved since coming back from injury, offensive coordinator Doug Martin decided to line him up in a different spot.
On third and 6 from Florida State’s 18, Swigert lined up in the backfield with Rettig, sneaked into the open field between the defensive line and secondary, caught a short pass, and weaved his way through a handful of defenders for his first touchdown of the year.
The score was a soft blip drowned out by the loud message sent by the Seminoles.
“Florida State always has something to prove,” said Eagles safety Jim Noel. “They’re always looking to compete for a national championship.”
The Eagles found themselves on the wrong end of a rebound.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.