It wasn't really a play so much as a series at the end of a drive, but make no mistake about it there was no bigger moment in Florida State's 51-7 win over Boston College than their goal-line stand on the first BC possession of the game.
Boston College came out and used a few good plays, a few Seminole mistakes and a couple of Florida State penalties to put together a very solid opening drive. On 10 plays the Eagles travelled 68 yards to the Seminoles' one yard-line.
To provide a little context, BC scoring on their first drive was not going to help Florida State with anyone. After failing to score in the second half against NC State and with questions circling around the program all week, letting BC march down the field on their opening possession and go up by seven could have really thrown the entire evening into disarray.
That almost happened too.
But down on the goal-line Florida State's defense finally arrived and imposed their will on the game.
"It set the tone," said DT Everette Dawkins. "That goal-line stand set a tone definitely, for us to go out there and stop them on the first drive when we had kind of, you know, [had been] lacking defensively. It was huge."
After bending severely, the Seminole did not break, stoning three consecutive goal-to-go downs to bring up a 4th and 1 that would seriously swing momentum in the 'Noles direction.
Frank Spaziani should have taken the points. It was early, he may have thought he would have more chances, but allowing the Eagles to go scoreless instead of tacking on the first three points provided FSU with a lot of motivation. Had BC gone up 3-0, who knows how that would have impacted things.
“When you go for it on fourth down you would like to get in," said Spaziani. "The other thing was that the ball pops out on the next [drive] and bounces right into [EJ Manuel's] hands. I don’t know if that’s going to be a difference in the game but it certainly sets a little different tone. Sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces and that’s the difference with excellence and stuff … you are working hard and the ball bounces the other way.”
One thing is for sure, that goal-line stand provided Florida State with confidence and maybe more importantly, a spark.
“We had just let them drive down the field, but then we'd had enough,” said LB Vince Williams. “We were like we can’t let them get in the endzone. [And the stop] gave the offense a ton of momentum, they came on the field energized.”
Florida State's offense scored within two minutes on a long bomb to Kenny Shaw and the Seminoles were never at risk of trailing again. Spaziani was right about the bounces, a Lonnie Pryor fumble hopped up into Manuel lap on the Seminoles opening drive and lead to a very strange, drive-extending first down. A few plays later came the touchdown pass.
But what you do with the lucky bounces matters. Tonight the Seminoles capitalized on it, like good teams do.
And before you can ever even get to the lucky bounce, you have to have the goal-line stand. Without a doubt it was the most important moment in Saturday night's game and may have been the difference between a blowout and a game that ran a little closer to the wire.
Still, Florida State would like to make sure they get off the field on defense a little before their own one yardline in the future.
"We have to come out stronger than that," said Bjoern Werner. "We stopped them when it came down to it– to the point that we had to stop them and we did.
"From there on we did a good job."