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Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida Attendance: 65,633
Francois throws 2 TD passes as Seminoles hold off NIU 37-19
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By BOB FERRANTE
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State has been seeking improvement on offense after managing just 10 combined points in its two FBS losses. The Seminoles found some reasons to be optimistic for a turnaround on Saturday.
Deondre Francois threw for a season-high 352 yards and two touchdown passes as Florida State used an efficient first-half offense en route to a 37-19 win over Northern Illinois.
Francois had his seventh career 300-yard day, completing 23 of 31 passes. The junior had a 78-yard touchdown pass to Tamorrion Terry and an 8-yard TD pass to Jacques Patrick.
The Seminoles held a players-only meeting early in the week and a re-energized performance in practice was also reflected against the Huskies.
"A lot of the guys stepped up and said we've got to do better," Francois said. "We got to play better and we've got to stop blaming it on everybody else. We've got to stop blaming each other, got to stop blaming our coaches. Today, I feel like we did a better job at doing our job."
Despite using a fourth different starting lineup on the offensive line, the Seminoles generated a season-high 473 yards against the Huskies. Florida State was at its best in the first half, generating four scoring drives as the Seminoles took a 20-7 lead.
The Seminoles (2-2) gave coach Willie Taggart his first win over an FBS opponent in 2018. Florida State's other win came against Samford on Sept. 8.
Taggart was pleased with the passing game but saw some inconsistency in the ground game as FSU had 121 rushing yards but averaged just 2.1 yards per carry. He also lamented four turnovers (three fumbles and one interception).
"We can't turn the ball over like we did," Taggart said. "We had it on the ground too often, and we threw an interception that shouldn't have happened."
Ricky Aguayo had made just one of four field-goal attempts coming into the game but connected on three kicks - from 50 yards and twice from 42 yards. It was the fifth time in his career that Aguayo has made three or more field-goal attempts.
Marcus Childers tossed a pair of touchdown passes, including a 66-yard catch-and-run to D.J. Brown. Childers completed 20 of 41 passes for 215 yards and also had an 11-yard touchdown run for NIU (1-3), which was forced to punt eight times and couldn't convert a pair of fourth-down conversions.
"I think we were in a fight, we were swinging and just didn't land some of our punches," NIU coach Rod Carey said. "We didn't do enough offensively."
Florida State held NIU to 6 rushing yards on 20 carries, the lowest total allowed by the Seminoles in a game since 2008.
Keith Gavin set career highs for catches (six) and receiving yards (93) in the first half for the Seminoles, who won their 15th consecutive nonconference home game.
Northern Illinois: The Huskies were ranked 128th out of 130 FBS teams in scoring offense coming into Saturday and needed 19 minutes to earn their initial first down. NIU scored its first-half touchdown with the benefit of a short field, starting at Florida State's 23 after the Huskies recovered a fumble. That set up Childers' TD pass to Jauan Wesley.
Florida State: The Seminoles had 23 first downs and were efficient, relative to the previous three games, despite losing three fumbles. Florida State ran a season-high 88 plays.
Northern Illinois: The Huskies will return to MAC play at Eastern Michigan next Saturday.
Florida State: The Seminoles will travel to play ACC opponent Louisville next Saturday.
Terry, a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman, has just eight receptions in four games. But he's made the most of them with three touchdown receptions in Florida State's first four games. Terry has three of the Seminoles' five receiving touchdowns.
His 78-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter was the longest by a Florida State freshman since Warrick Dunn's 79-yard touchdown reception from Charlie Ward in 1993 at Florida.
NO MORAL VICTORIES
NIU has suffered three losses, all at the hands of Power 5 teams. The Huskies have lost to Iowa, Utah and Florida State and they will visit BYU on Oct. 27. NIU traveled to Tallahassee for a $1.6 million guarantee.
"I don't know that a loss ever helps you," Carey said. "You try to learn from them and you will. Our guys fought but there aren't any moral victories."
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Updated September 22, 2018