McKenzie Milton got back on the field for Florida State against Notre Dame earlier this month. As to whether or not his comeback made up for the upset is something else entirely but you would imagine fans would like to see him lead the team to a win after losing to Jacksonville in the next game as well.
The quarterback has gone through the ordeal of having his career put on hold for almost three years. Heading into the season opener, the question wasn’t whether he was able to play, rather whether he would play the vs. Notre Dame.
His status wasn’t confirmed until right before the game, with coach Mike Norvell announcing Jordan Travis would be starting. But just having Milton back was good enough – after all, no one would have imagined he could play football again after suffering a terrible knee injury nearing the end of 2018.
The initial prognosis hardly looked good for the player, who suffered artery and nerve damage to his leg, as well as dislocated knee and torn ligaments. Doctors were hopeful he could walk without a limp by the time of his recovery. Football was nowhere in their thoughts.
Milton, though, refused to accept a future without football.
“If I’m going to play I’m going to be full-go, I’m going to be better than I was or just as good,” he told ESPN. “You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you earn, so you’ve got to go get it.”
After getting some snaps in the loss to Notre Dame, the quarterback made his first start in three years against JSU on Saturday and certainly wasn’t to blame for the loss. However, he could have done a lot more to win it.
Milton completed 18 of 31 passes with one touchdown and one interception. The turnover wasn’t costly yet the QB only threw for 133 yards, converted 5 of 14 third downs, and created just three points after the half.
Saturday’s offense left a lot to be desired but the coaching staff saw enough from him to opt to have him start again when the team faces Wake Forest on the coming weekend. Travis was listed as the backup to Milton on the depth chart for Week 3 was released on Monday after they were listed as co-starters for the first pair of contests.
It remains to be seen how Milton’s second start will impact the Seminoles’ prospects and it’s likely the picks taken from the NCAAB odds will act as a representation of the interest in the upcoming game.
The Seminoles struggled with inconvenient down-and distances in the second half and that turned out to be a big problem. Most of that was their own fault, though. They committed just two penalties in the first half for 15 yards but the second half saw them get punished nine times for 99 yards. Six of the flags came when they were on offense.
The problems took root right after halftime, with FSU’s first drive of the third getting marred by three penalties courtesy of their offensive line. Tackle Devontay Love-Taylor was called for holding to erase a five-yard run by Milton then tailback Treshaun Ward got a first down on a second-and-16 but his next carry was knocked back because of a block below the waist by guard Dillan Gibbons.
What would have been a huge gain instead prompted first-and-25, which was exacerbated by guard Dontae Lucas getting flagged for holding and pushing them back for second-and-35. They would have to punt two plays later.
“It’s not a whole lot of fun playing quarterback in those situations,” Norvell said. “Those things can’t happen [for us] to be good offensively.”
“We felt like McKenzie did a good job managing the game, delivering the ball,” the program’s offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said this week. “He was efficiently moving the ball down the field until we got into bad situations. He was dealing the ball left and right – hitches, stick routes – until we got into the second-and-17s and second-and-18s of the world.”
The team’s following drive ended with a field goal that was also spoiled by an ineligible recover downfield shout. FSU’s best drive all game had to get past a pass interference call against receiver Andrew Parchment.
Apart from the penalties, the offense also had issues with short-yardage plays.
“Our third and fourth-down situations were poor,” Norvell added. “That’s something we have to be better at. We’ve got to be able to extend drives.”
FSU ended the game with just 335 offensive yards and the two touchdown drives they made weren’t all their own doing as they were helped on by JSU penalties in favorable areas.
Norvell is certainly pleased to have Milton as an option and is said to have nearly cried when he saw the player practice for the first time since the injury.
“You see the work, but when you know the investment that’s gone into it, and to be able to go out there and just play free and to see the lack of hesitation, it brought a smile on my face,” he said. “Just to be able to have that opportunity, it’s special.”