With FSU on the ropes, TE McKitty came through with winning catch

With the scoreboard looking bleak, the self-inflicted mistakes piling up and the clock tick-tick-ticking away, sophomore tight end Tre’ McKitty was one of many Florida State Seminoles who could feel the weight of the situation Saturday night.

The Seminoles had already dropped their season opener five days earlier, and now they were on the ropes — trailing by two points in the fourth quarter — against FCS opponent Samford.

“Words can’t even explain how frustrated we were,” McKitty said.

On a personal level, the most maddening moment for McKitty might have come late in the third quarter. With the Seminoles trailing 23-21, junior quarterback Deondre Francois and the Noles took possession at their own 28-yard line and appeared to be driving into Samford territory.

But a 16-yard run by junior tailback Jacques Patrick, which ended at the Bulldogs’ 39, was called back due to an illegal formation. Then one play later, Francois connected with McKitty on a 32-yard pass to the Samford 28. That play was called back as well, however — this time for an ineligible receiver downfield.

And two plays later, the Seminoles would be forced to punt.

“We’ve just got to fix those things, and we’ll be just fine,” McKitty said of the penalties and other miscues.

FSU’s next drive would end in disappointment again, as the Seminoles marched from their own 20-yard line to the Samford 25 before junior placekicker Ricky Aguayo missed a 42-yard field goal (his second miss of the night).

Fortunately for the Seminoles, they were given a few more opportunities to straighten things out than they were last week against Virginia Tech. And McKitty was a big part of the solution.

On FSU’s ensuing drive, the sophomore hauled in a 21-yard pass from Francois to secure a huge first down on third-and-6 from midfield. Then a few plays later, he snared a 5-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal to give the Seminoles a 29-26 advantage. It was their first lead of the season.

“That’s a play that we worked on, and Coach T called it at the right moment,” said Francois, who completed 31 of 46 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns. “Tre’ ran a great route, the line blocked great — I didn’t even get touched that play — and we executed. That’s what we needed to do.”

McKitty said he was the first read on that particular play, and he had a good feeling when the Seminoles left the huddle.

Once the ball was snapped, McKitty raced full speed to the goal line before faking as if he was going to break outside. That caused Samford’s safety to sprint toward that side of the field, and McKitty then broke back toward the middle of the end zone, where he caught a dart from Francois in front of the goalposts.

“As soon as we left the huddle … I knew it was coming to me,” McKitty said. “So I just had to make a play.”

McKitty finished the night with five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. He now has 10 receptions through two games after catching just one pass all of last season.

“Vertical threat, he can block, and he can catch,” Francois said, when asked what McKitty brings to the FSU offense. “He’s a big body, so he’s an easy target to throw to.”

Although the Seminoles’ victory against Samford was not exactly a thing of beauty, the offense at least found a way to get into the end zone after being held to three points in the opener. They also racked up 454 yards of total offense, despite getting hit with nine penalties.

And now that they have a win under their belts, FSU’s players and coaches are confident they’re on the cusp of breaking through.

“Offensively, we finished some drives,” said head coach Willie Taggart. “We’re still nowhere near where we need to be, but it was good to see the guys find a way to score and make plays when we needed to.”

Said McKitty: “Once we get those penalties cleaned up and really get things rolling, it’s going to be scary.”


Read more of Ira’s work at Warchant.com.

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