Seminoles survive scare against Samford, hold on to win 36-26

Florida State rallies in fourth quarter for first lead of season

Jeff Romance

Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois celebrates after rushing for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Samford Bulldogs, Sept. 8, 2018, at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State paid Samford $500,000 looking for a guaranteed win. The Seminoles got a victory -- but quite the run for their money.

Deondre Francois threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score to Tre' McKitty with 4:03 to go, as Florida State held off Samford 36-26 on Saturday.

Trailing 26-21, Francois led the Seminoles (1-1) on an 11-play, 82-yard drive that put them ahead for the first time this season. Francois connected with McKitty for the 5-yard touchdown, and he then found Nyqwan Murray for the two-point conversion pass as Florida State went ahead 29-26.

Florida State scored its final 15 points in a span of just 1:40. The win was the first at Florida State for Willie Taggart, who opened with a 24-3 loss to Virginia Tech on Monday.

"It wasn't pretty but it was good to see our guys find a way to come back and get a win after we started slow and weren't playing as well," Taggart said.

Samford's Devlin Hodges threw for 475 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to Kelvin McKnight but tossed four interceptions. Levonta Taylor returned the last one 63 yards for a touchdown with 2:23 to go.

Hodges completed 39 of 60 passes for Samford (1-1). It was one of the best games of his career, just short of the school-record 516 yards he threw for last season against Western Carolina.

"We just fought all the way there until the end," Samford coach Chris Hatcher said. "We had a couple of bounces that didn't go our way. We had a couple of turnovers that really hurt us."

Francois completed 31 of 46 passes for 320 yards, including a pair of touchdown passes to redshirt freshman Tamorrion Terry. The junior quarterback had his sixth career 300-yard game, completed passes to eight receivers and also had an 8-yard touchdown run.

"Any win is a good win no matter who you're playing," Francois said. "We're going to get the mistakes corrected."

McKnight caught 14 passes for 215 yards, including touchdowns from 54 yards and 27 yards, for the Bulldogs. Samford last defeated an FBS team in 2013, when the Bulldogs won at Georgia State. Florida State has never lost to an FCS program.

Cam Akers had 14 carries for 76 yards and a team-high seven receptions for 38 yards. Florida State finished with 134 rushing yards on 35 carries.

Ricky Aguayo missed a pair of field-goal attempts, including a 42-yarder with 9:59 left that hit the right upright.

Florida State's defense bent early but was effective in the second half. The Seminoles grabbed three interceptions, forced three punts and allowed just a field goal in the final 30 minutes. Florida State forced five turnovers after not recording one in the loss to Virginia Tech.

Jeff Romance

Florida State cornerback Levonta Taylor races toward the end zone after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter against the Samford Bulldogs, Sept. 8, 2018, at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida.

The start of the game was delayed one hour, 25 minutes due to weather.

The Seminoles played without their top lineman, right tackle Landon Dickerson (ankle). Another lineman, Abdul Bello, also missed the game with an undisclosed injury. Arthur Williams, who converted from defensive tackle in August, got the start at left guard.

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