Albany native and former Westover star Rashad Greene returns a punt Saturday against Savannah State. Greene finished FSU’s 55-0 win with one catch for seven yards and returned two punts for 64 yards in limited action.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Jimbo Fisher says his sixth-ranked Florida State team accomplished what it needed to in a 55-0 win over undermanned Savannah State — even if the weather interfered.
The Seminoles looked as though they would easily cover a 70½- point spread --- the largest in college football history --- that Las Vegas gaming houses established for the game, but Mother Nature dealt its own hand Saturday, forcing officials to call the game with 8:59 left in the third quarter after two long delays because of thunderstorms.
And no, Savannah State didn't cover. All wagers on the game were "no-actioned" by Las Vegas bookmakers after the game was call.
“I’ve never had that happen in my career,” said Fisher, who has spent slightly more than a quarter-century in the college game. “It’s easy for me to say I want to keep playing, but I understand the situation.”
The situation, mostly, was the weather intervening to end a game that many felt should never have been scheduled.
“That was out of our control,” Fisher said, noting that Savannah State took the place of West Virginia, which broke the contract earlier this year after joining the Big 12 Conference. “We executed and did what we were supposed to.”
EJ Manuel passed for three touchdowns in the opening seven minutes and Florida State’s defense held lower-division Savannah State to 28 yards.
“Everything was open that we thought would be open,” said Manuel, who played just the first quarter. “We always tell each other that it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”
The Seminoles bolted to a 35-0 lead in the first quarter as Manuel completed 11 of 13 passes for 161 yards and five different Seminoles scored touchdowns.
Florida State (2-0) led 48-0 at halftime and finished with 413 yards. James Wilder Jr. and Kelvin Benjamin each scored two touchdowns before the game was called.
Savannah State, a Football Championship Subdivision school, has been outscored by a combined 139-0 in its first two games this season. It was beaten 84-0 at Oklahoma State last week. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference member is collecting paychecks totaling $860,000 for the two games, which will help the athletic program meet its total budget of $5.1 million.
“It would be really good for my perspective at Savannah if those two teams play for the national championship and you guys call me for my evaluation of the game because I’m the only one who has seen them both,” said Savannah State coach Steve Davenport said. “But like I said before, it’s really a helpless feeling. Those two programs and those players are really, really tremendous players.
“We knew we were coming in a bit overmatched,” Davenport said. “Now we just hopefully got to get this thing turned around.”
How lopsided was it before the game was called? Florida State racked up 255 yards in the first quarter, while Savannah State’s offense went backward to the tune of 20 yards.
Savannah State trailed 35-0 by the time it picked up its first of three first downs in the game on a 12-yard pass from Antonio Bostick to Edward Lackey, Jr.
Florida State scored four touchdowns on its first 13 plays and led 28-0 just seven minutes into the game as things went wrong from the outset for the visitors.
Savannah State (0-2) won the opening coin toss and elected to defer and then booted the game’s opening kickoff out of bounds, giving Florida State the ball at its own 35. Just 39 seconds later, Manuel hit Rodney Smith on a 61-yard scoring bomb on the Seminoles’ third play and the rout was on.
Chris Thompson’s 6-yard run 2½ minutes later made it 14-0, followed by Manuel’s 8-yard TD pass to Greg Dent that made it 21-0 with 8:53 remaining in the first quarter.
After a Rashad Greene punt return of 39 yards, Manuel connected with Benjamin on a 9-yard touchdown pass and the Seminoles were up 28-0 with 7:57 remaining in the opening period. Redshirt freshman Jacob Coker found Benjamin on a 19-yard scoring pass for his first collegiate touchdown pass coming just two minutes before the second and final delay.
Greene finished FSU’s win with one catch for seven yards and returned two punts for 64 yards in limited action.
The game being called may have kept Florida State from erasing some longstanding school records, namely its 74-0 win over Whiting Field in 1949.
By the time both teams returned from a 56-minute weather delay in the second quarter with Florida State already ahead 48-0, officials had agreed to a running clock to shorten the game.
The Seminoles have won their opening two games by a combined 124-3 and have now outscored four FCS opponents by a 245-19 margin in Fisher’s three seasons as head coach. The Seminoles beat Murray State 69-3 last weekend.
Florida State hosts Wake Forest in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener next Saturday.
After a week off, Savannah State gets back to schools in its own league when North Carolina Central visits on Sept. 22.