Florida State’s season ended on Saturday the same way it began: with a special teams mishap that cost the Seminoles a victory.
The Seminoles, in a fight for bowl eligibility against rival Florida in Gainesville, scored a last-minute touchdown — an 8-yard Jordan Travis pass to Ontaria Wilson with 49 seconds left — to make the score 24-21 in favor of the Gators. A successful onside kick would have given Florida State the ball near midfield with a chance to take the lead or send the game to overtime.
Except, redshift junior kicker Parker Grothaus whiffed the onside kick attempt:
With that, Grothaus was called for illegal touching, giving Florida the ball at its 35. Florida State was able to use one timeout, but the little time left on the clock allowed the Gators to kneel on the ball three times and end the game with a 24-21 victory in hand.
With the loss, Florida State falls to 5-7 on the season, keeping it out of bowl season for the second time in as many seasons. The Gators (6-6) will go bowling.
Curiously, this isn’t the first time an FSU game has hinged on special teams. The Seminoles lost their season-opener against Notre Dame after coach Mike Norvell accidentally iced his own kicker. The untimely timeout took an overtime field goal off the board; when Ryan Fitzgerald attempted the kick again, he missed it. That allowed Notre Dame to seal the game with a field goal of its own.
Those weren’t the only late-game mishaps that ruined what could have been wins for the Seminoles, either. They allowed FCS opponent Jacksonville State to score a last-second touchdown off a Hail Mary, without even running a prevent defense.
Those mistakes, and more, cost Norvell and Co. bowl eligibility this year. Whether he can correct those mistakes in Year 3 in 2022 remains to be seen, but he has several plays he can key in on when implementing his offseason improvements.