On a cloudy day in Shreveport, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles took on the Florida State Seminoles, and the Noles reminded everyone that even though they may have been 6-6, they were still Florida State.
Freshman running back Cam Akers broke the FSU record for most rushing yards in a season by a freshman, a record previously held by Dalvin Cook. His 94 yards set his final 2017 total at 1,024.
Southern Miss started the game well enough, capitalizing on a roughing the punter penalty to score the game’s first points, a keeper from quarterback Kwadra Griggs. After that, however, it was all FSU.
Akers and Jacques Patrick tag-teamed running the rock while James Blackman played an excellent game at quarterback, going 18/26 for 233 yards and four touchdowns, breaking the record for passing scores in the Independence Bowl (which dates back to 1976). Wide receiver Auden Tate tied the record for receiving touchdowns with three.
The question of how motivated Florida State would be was answered in a resounding way. Simply put, they outclassed Southern Miss in every aspect of the game. They ran the ball up the middle and threw to the perimeter in a kind of “pick your poison” attack. Southern Miss couldn’t stop either one.
Southern Miss had a couple of good drives, one dominated by trick plays, but they couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm. Both of their scoring drives involved punts, with a penalty extending the first scoring drive and a fake punt on the other. The FSU defense stifled them outside of a few big plays. A failed onside kick attempt and multiple failed 4th down conversions in their own territory gave FSU the chances to make the score uglier, but it was a blowout long before that. Kwadra Griggs finished 13/25 for 86 yards and one touchdown (Korey Robertson). Ito Smith rushed 16 times for 92 yards.
For Southern Miss, this is a very disappointing way to finish out the 2017 season. They finish 8-5, and are just 1-2 in bowl games in the current C-USA era. Senior Ito Smith is out the door, among other players. Southern Miss will have a bit of work to do in the offseason.
Florida State, meanwhile, manages to finish with a winning record yet again. We’ll see what Willie Taggart does with this team going forward.
This was Conference USA’s final bowl game of 2017, and C-USA will finish 4-5, breaking a string of successful bowl seasons.