ORLANDO, Fla. (Seminoles.com) – In a little more than 30 minutes of game time, Florida State found its quarterback, its defense and its kicker.
The Seminoles might have found the resolve needed to make a run to the College Football Playoff, too.
Because after a first half in which everything went wrong, FSU bounced back with one of the most impressive second halves of the Jimbo Fisher era and beyond. And, as a result, they earned the largest comeback victory in school history.
Deondre Francois threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns, and Ricky Aguayo set a school record, and FBS freshman record, with six field goals as the No. 4 Seminoles rallied from a 22-point deficit and opened the season with a 45-34 win over No. 11 Mississippi at Camping World Stadium.
The Seminoles outscored the Rebels 39-6 over the final 30:28 to reach 1-0 for the seventh consecutive season. They’ll return home to face Charleston Southern on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
As the game approached halftime, the Seminoles appeared to be headed toward the wrong end of a rout. FSU looked out of sorts for much of the first two quarters, and Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly took advantage with three first-half touchdown passes on the way to a 28-6 lead.
The night, however, would eventually belong to Francois, the redshirt freshman quarterback making his collegiate appearance in his hometown.
After a month of comparisons to former Seminole Jameis Winston, who, by the way, watched Monday’s game from the FSU sidelines, Francois delivered a debut arguably as memorable as Winston’s.
Although he didn’t have as high of a completion percentage or as many touchdowns as Winston did at Pittsburgh in 2013 (incidentally, also on Labor Day), Francois deftly guided the Seminoles on nine straight scoring drives to end the game.
He completed 33 of his 52 passing attempts and also gave the Rebels fits with his legs, adding another 59 yards on the ground.
Francois will grab most of the headlines, but he will, however, have to share some of the spotlight with FSU’s new kicker.
A true freshman also carrying the weight of heavy expectations – his older brother, Roberto, was an All-American at FSU for three years – Ricky Aguayo needed just one game to place his name atop the Florida State record books.
A native of nearby Mascotte, Fla., Aguayo was a perfect 6-for-6 on field goal attempts Monday night, with makes of 21, 25, 30, 40 (twice), and 44 yards.
His last field goal, from 30 yards, provided the final margin, as well as some welcome breathing room with 4:53 to go.
After an uneven first half, FSU’s defense answered the bell in the second, limiting the Rebels to just one scoring drive amidst the Seminoles’ offensive onslaught. Ole Miss went into halftime with 312 yards of total offense. The Rebels finished the game with 380.
Senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker recorded four sacks – 40 percent of his 2015 total – and the Seminoles forced three interceptions and a fumble from Kelly.