Florida State players and coaches are still hurting as they refocus on trying to stay unbeaten and beat Georgia in the Orange Bowl

Florida State running back Trey Benson (3) is lifted, in celebration of his touchdown, by offensive lineman Jazston Turnetine during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Louisiana on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The heartache won’t go away. Not anytime soon, anyway. Not for Florida State players and coaches who were driven to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff and play for another title.

The Seminoles had to settle for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, which followed a perfect regular season.

“Nobody can take that from us,” senior defensive back Jarrian Jones said.

The CFP selection committee dropped Florida State (13-0) from fourth to fifth and outside the four-team playoff, a move it justified because of star quarterback Jordan Travis’ season-ending broken leg. It prompted outrage from coach Mike Norvell and FSU administrators, and had state lawmakers crying out for answers.

No one felt the pain like the players who did everything right for months.

“I ain’t going to lie, I’m going to be hurt with that for the rest of my life,” Jones said. “It just feels like somebody ripped your heart out of the chest.”

Since the playoff snub, Norvell and his assistants have been busy. They hit the road to visit 2024 commitments and a few prospects they’d like to flip on national signing day. They’ve hosted several transfer prospects, most notably quarterbacks Cameron Ward (Washington State) and DJ Uiagalelei (Oregon State). They’ve landed a commitment from Georgia defensive end Marvin Jones Jr., the son of one of the Seminoles’ top linebackers in program history.

They’ve also tried to listen and advise players through upcoming decisions on their futures. Standout defensive end Jared Verse, running back Trey Benson and receiver Johnny Wilson are among those who have opted out of the Orange Bowl against Georgia (12-1) on Dec. 30. There could be more, although Norvell declined to discuss any juniors or seniors weighing choices.

All while commiserating a wild, 24-hour span in which they celebrated the program’s first ACC title since 2014 only to be left out of the CFP the next day.

“It’s been challenging,” Norvell said. “You basically got 12 hours to celebrate what was an unbelievable accomplishment for this team. Then you had to learn how to work through disappointment, hurt, frustration, anger, every bit of it. And you’re 18- to 22-year-old kids and a 42-year-old coach.”

Norvell called it one of the toughest two-week stretches of his coaching career. But he also refused to let Florida State’s accomplishments go unrecognized.

“I will always have the feelings of what happened,” Norvell said. “But at the end of the day, I wasn’t in that room. It wasn’t my choice, so my beliefs of what it is, that’s that. … I’m so proud of what and who this team is and what they represented for 13 weeks of the season.

“It doesn’t take away from what these guys have accomplished throughout the course of this year.”

Florida State practiced Tuesday as the team continued preparing for Georgia. Quarterback Tate Rodemaker and Brock Glenn led the offense. All-ACC selections defensive end Patrick Payton and linebacker Kalen DeLoach guided the defense.

The Seminoles are pushing forward in hopes of finishing the year undefeated. Florida State has won three national titles and won’t be able to secure a fourth in 2023, but there is a chance for a perfect finish to an imperfect season.

Jones has been among the most vocal, saying he is looking forward to his NFL draft preparations but insisted he would play in the Orange Bowl.

“We set out to win every game that was put in front of us,” Jones said. “That doesn’t take away from me going out here and doing what I have to do for my brothers. I wasn’t the only one who got left out of the playoffs. We all got left out of the playoffs.

“It was big for me to just come back and do what I got to do.”


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