ATLANTA (AP) — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher tried to spin his team's performance in the Peach Bowl as a strong effort with the wrong result. He couldn't deny that the No. 9 Seminoles committed a season-high five turnovers and gave up a season-high in points in a 38-24 loss to Houston Thursday.
ATLANTA (AP) — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher tried to spin his team's performance in the Peach Bowl as a strong effort with the wrong result.
He couldn't deny that the No. 9 Seminoles committed a season-high five turnovers and gave up a season-high in points in a 38-24 loss to Houston Thursday.
"Our guys played hard, were ready to play and we wanted to play," Fisher said. "We just didn't play as well, and Houston did a really nice job."
Dalvin Cook rushed for a season-low 33 yards, injured quarterback Sean Maguire threw a career-high four interceptions and Florida State couldn't slow down Houston's offense.
Kicker Roberto Aguayo had a rough day, too. He slipped while missing 52-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter and errantly pooched a fourth-quarter kickoff that led to the Cougars' last TD.
Cook, who set the school's single-season rushing record this year, had the lowest output in his last 17 games. The sophomore also lost a second-quarter fumble that led to Houston's third touchdown and a 21-3 deficit.
Maguire suffered a sprained left ankle and had to be helped off the field and carted to the locker room, but he returned heavily taped after backup J.J. Cosentino ran two three-and-out series.
None of Maguire's interceptions led directly to a Houston score. Free safety Trevon Stewart had a pick on consecutive possessions in the third.
The Seminoles finally pulled within seven of the lead when Maguire and Jesus Wilson connected for a 14-yard touchdown with 4:55 remaining, but Aguayo hurt Florida State's momentum by kicking the ball high and short. Steven Dunbar, positioned at the Houston 18, ran the ball back 37 yards.
Fisher told an Associated Press reporter that Aguayo was supposed to kick the ball deep in the end zone, but he appeared to top it instead.
"It wasn't a pooch kick," Fisher said. "He just missed it."
The Seminoles were unbeaten and ranked No. 9 before losing Oct. 24 at struggling Georgia Tech on a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.
They lost two weeks later at then-No. 3 Clemson, but closed the regular season on a three-game winning streak after beating archival Florida.
Fisher was surprised that Cook, who ranked in the top six nationally in six offensive categories, was held so easily in check.
"They just beat us on blocks, they were able to tackle well and they got him in confined spaces," Fisher said. "We need to control the line of scrimmage a little better than we did, and I think that was a big key to what happened."
Maguire's 65-yard scoring pass to Travis Rudolph cut Houston's lead to 24-17 early in the fourth quarter. Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Jr. answered with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Chance Allen, who was left uncovered as Florida State sent safety Jalen Ramsey on a blitz. Maguire next added his scoring pass to Jesus Wilson.
Maguire was hurt in the first quarter when hit by Houston linebacker Matthew Adams. Maguire couldn't put pressure on his left leg as he was supported by trainers before leaving the field on a cart.
When Maguire was out, Cosentino completed only 1 of 4 passes for 5 yards.
The Seminoles were without quarterback Everett Golson, the Notre Dame transfer who began the season as the starter but was away from the team for the bowl game for personal reasons.
The Seminoles, held to a field goal on four first downs in the first half, finally reached the end zone on their first drive of the second half. Maguire kept the drive alive with two third-down completions to Kermit Whitfield, and his 26-yard pass to Rudolph set up Cook's 1-yard scoring run.
On Houston's next possession, Florida State's Derwin James sacked Ward for a loss of 6 yards on a fourth-and-2 play, stopping the Cougars at the Seminoles 38.
Florida State's senior class won 49 games and three ACC titles. Led by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in 2013, the Seminoles won their first national title under Fisher.
"They did a great job in the program and will always be a part of the family and we'll look forward to having a great year," Fisher said. "I think the best is still ahead for this program."