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Florida State coach Mike Norvell

Three weeks ago, Florida State coach Mike Norvell sat alone at home watching his team lose in an embarrassing way to rival Miami in another loss of grief for a program that looking for a way to turn a corner.

Perhaps that was what happened on Saturday against North Carolina. Playing with a intensity, passion and strength that has been lost over the years, the Seminoles have failed at No. 5 North Carolina 31-28 on Saturday night, holding for a victory they desperately needed to build the kind of confidence and momentum that the first year coach wanted as he developed his program.

Florida State entered the game as a double-digit underdog at home, in large part because of its poor performance to open the season. But Norvell saw improvements in a loss to Notre Dame last week, and gave him hope that more would come against the Tar Heels.

In fact, Florida State posted its first win as an unbeaten team versus an AP top-5 opponent since 2007 against No. 2 Boston College. All of that was hard to imagine at the end of September, when Norvell missed the Miami game due to a positive coronavirus test and the Seminoles resolved in front of a national television audience.

Asked to describe the win on Saturday, Norvell said, “There are really no words for it. It is very special because since Dec. 8, for the first time I entered the meeting room with my team and this team, in every moment we try to grow and improve, belief in the future.I tell our people, the ultimate goal in every opportunity you get is to try to come out and be the best you can be.

“To see their celebrations, to see the joy, to find out, stacked against all possibilities, not many people gave us a chance tonight, but they did not worry about what other people think about them.They don’t think about any of the limits that will be put in front of them.They just went out and played their game.This night is about these people.This is their moment, and certainly they deserve success for how they prepared, and how they responded to all that they were asked to do. “

Florida State jumped to a 31-7 lead, but the Tar Heels fought back. When the fourth quarter began, the Tar Heels closed the gap and entered 31-21. Norvell said he pulled his whole team with a smile on his face and told them, “‘Guys this is where you depend on what you do. I can’t tell you what the fourth one will look like. This quarter, but you go there and you play the next game. You give everything you have. You increase your efforts with this opportunity. ‘They did that. We found a way to play better today. night. It will be great for us to continue to grow and develop this example. “

North Carolina has one last shot to win or tie the game on the final drive. When Sam Howell’s fourth down pass was incomplete, a massive celebration ensued.

“It was the greatest feeling I have ever had in my life when I saw the defense come out like that,” quarterback Jordan Travis said.

Offensive lineman Devontay Love-Taylor added, “The celebration, especially after what we’ve been through this season, the great losses in Miami, the tough loss here for Georgia Tech, all the work we put in, we felt it paid off tonight. But we need to keep working so that it can continue to pay. “

Norvell sees a lot to clean up, including the inability to score in the second half, and too many undisciplined penalties that almost cost them the game. That will come in film studies and practice next week and in the coming weeks.

“We’re not perfect,” Norvell said. “We are a work in progress, but when you have the opportunity to see growth, when you see improvement, when you see investment – not for everyone. We have had a few people choose other things, the men who are here constantly working, they are constantly trying to be the best version of themselves in all aspects of their lives.That’s about tonight.

“We will still push because I know we are capable of more.”

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