ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns, leading No. 4 Florida State to its largest comeback victory ever, 45-34 over No. 11 Mississippi on Monday night.
Francois, the fourth freshman to start the season at quarterback in FSU history, brought the Seminoles back from 22 points down after a shaky start in the classic SEC-ACC showdown at Camping World Stadium.
“The thing about it, he bounced back, and that’s what he did in practice,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of Francois. “We challenged him, as I know. I put the heat on him sometimes in practice. But he’s a kid who loves his team. His teammates believe in him, and he’s a fighter, and he’s a competitor, which I’m very proud of.”
Francois and the Seminoles, on the verge of becoming the third top-5 team to lose in the opening week, scored 33 consecutive points during a stretch from late in the second quarter until early in the fourth to overcome a 28-6 deficit.
“That was my first game so there were some things I was seeing that I wasn’t sure,” said Francois, who made his first career start in his hometown of Orlando. “I was a first-time starter so had a lot of first-game jitters but then I settled down.”
Ole Miss stacked the box to slow Heisman Trophy-hopeful running back Dalvin Cook, and Francois showed poise by making critical throws with his arm and also picking up big yards with his legs. He was 33-of-52 passing and also rushed for 59 yards.
Ricky Aguayo, another freshman, converting an FSU-record six field goals on six attempts – breaking a mark shared by his brother Roberto.
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly had a strong first half but FSU defensive end DeMarcus Walker and the rest of the defense started getting to him after halftime to slow the no-huddle offense down. The Seminoles forced Kelly into back-to-back turnovers early in the third quarter on an interception and a fumble on a hit by Walker. Both turnovers resulted in FSU touchdowns as the Seminoles took a 29-28 lead and never looked back after scoring on nine straight possessions between late in the first half and into the fourth quarter.
“It was a nightmarish second half,” said Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. “You have to give credit to Florida State.”
Ole Miss: The Rebels’ up-tempo offense is potent but big mistakes by Kelly under pressure took away any momentum. Kelly had three touchdown passes in fourth quarter but his turnovers (four) brought the offense to a standstill.
Florida State: Francois is definitely the real deal. His arm talent is impressive and his willingness to stay in the pocket to take the big hit on release was uncanny for a first time starter. Running back Dalvin Cook found little running room early but he contributed big as a receiver with a career-high seven catches for 101 yards while rushing for 91 yards on 23 carries for the night.
Ole Miss: The Rebels return home to host Wofford of the FCS on Saturday. Terriers (1-0) are coming off a 21-7 win over Tennessee Tech.
Florida State: The Seminoles will host Charleston Southern of the FCS on Saturday. The Buccaneers (1-1) are coming off a 57-7 win over Kentucky State.