How much progress did the Florida State Seminoles make in Week 5 against the North Carolina State Wolfpack? Let’s not pretend we gained a very specific answer.
Auburn blowing out a not-very-good Mississippi State team didn’t tell us all we need to know about the Tigers.
Ohio State crushing a bad Nebraska team didn’t really offer new information on the Buckeyes. They are very good, but are they any better this week than they were a week ago? I don’t think it makes much sense to say that this blowout truly changes our understanding of Ohio State.
When one team blows out a quality opponent, we can say that the winner made a real statement. If Auburn plays well against LSU, that’s a significant development. If Ohio State plays well against Penn State, that’s a significant development.
Whaling away at Mississippi State or Nebraska? Let’s not get caught in the trap of thinking these are highly revealing moments.
Therefore, the extent to which we value Florida State’s emphatic win over North Carolina State on Saturday night in Tallahassee should not be overly specific… or overly lavish. Let’s wait to see if this team has turned a corner.
Back to the initial question at the start of this column: How much progress did FSU make against the Wolfpack? We don’t know how much… but we DO know that FSU did take a true step forward.
On so many levels – in so many of the areas where Willie Taggart’s Seminoles needed to improve – this team grew up. More proving ground games remain, but in Week 5, the Noles shed some baggage and undeniably moved in the right direction.
There was no second-half collapse, no decrease in stamina or concentration. Florida State finally looked like a program which had a good strength and conditioning operation. That’s clear progress.
The defense played 60 complete minutes and wasn’t dogged by several lapses. It stayed the course and kept N.C. State under wraps from start to finish.
Alex Hornibrook made good decisions in place of James Blackman. If you remember how poorly Hornibook played in 2018 at Wisconsin, you know how much he cleaned up his game on Saturday.
It is true that Hornibrook was sacked six times – FSU’s offensive line remains both a concern and a liability – but so much else about this team looked miles better than in the first four weeks of the season.
One game does not equate to a transformation, but Florida State changed its attitude and improved its results.
Is this the start of a steady climb? Everyone in and around the program hopes so.
Will it happen? Let’s not use this game against this opponent as proof that the Noles are ready to rock and roll… and rise.
Nevertheless, this is a much better performance than many people feared they would see.
For now, that’s a good thing… and a source of real hope for the future.
Taggart not revealing FSU QB plan for Wake Forrest
FSU head coach Willie Taggart has been pretty upfront about the quarterback situation in Tallahassee, since officially naming James Blackman as the starter before their season opener. However he’s keeping his decision a little closer to the vest this week.
Wether it’s been an intentional move or simply out of desperation, or likely both, Taggart has found himself employing a two quarterback system after starter James Blackman hurt his knee midway through the Louisville game in Week 4. Alex Hornibrook finished the game and brought home the first semi good-looking win for the Noles. The graduate transfer from Wisconsin started the following week against NC state in what was arguably, the Seminoles best game of the season.
Then, prior to this past weekends demolition against Clemson, Taggart named Blackman as starter but explained that Hornibrook would see substantial playing time as well. On Saturday, he did just that, but it proved to be more of a hinderance than beneficial as the offense struggled to get anything going through two and a half quarters.
Though his decision to play both QBs was likely in an effort to give the Noles an edge against the Tiger’s powerhouse of a defensive line, the constant switching didn’t allow either quarterback to get into any sort of a rhythm and only added to the problems that the team is having.
On Thursday, Taggart gave his final thoughts about their upcoming game against Wake Forrest in which they are 2.5 point underdogs. And unlike last week, he gave no indication on who fans can expect to see under center.
Willie Taggart says we’ll find out what they’re going to do at QB on Saturday. Won’t comment on starter or whether it will be a two-QB system.
— Warchant.com (@Warchant) October 17, 2019
When asked if Blackman will be his guy, he said “You’ll see Saturday.” That was followed up by a question asking if he was planning on using both QB’s, to which he echoed his previous response, “You’ll see Saturday.”
Right now, Taggart is heading into crunch time to try and constitute this 2019 season as rebuilding year.
This past Saturday in Clemson was certainly disappointing because FSU seemed to have more offensive promise than last year, however, that game was not a great way to get a pulse of where the team is at.
It’ll be how they play in upcoming teams on the schedule like Wake Forest, Syracuse, Miami and Boston College to see if the program is truly in the dumps. If they cant recover and compete with those teams to pull out an 8-4 record for the season, it’s going to be hard for Taggart to convince his critics that he’s getting the program back on an upward trajectory.
FSU falls badly to Clemson again
It was a game where both FSU’s offense and defense would have to put together their best performance of the season for an entire game to remotely have a chance against the reigning national champions. But in an unsurprising series of events, FSU came up extremely short on both ends, as the Tigers rolled 45-14.
In a snapshot, the offense was unable to cross the 50 yard line until late in the third quarter, and the defense, who’ve prided themselves on being able to stop the run, allowed Clemson (6-0, 4-0 in ACC) to rush for 306 yards with an of average of 5.9 yards per carry, let alone put any pressure on Trevor Lawrence.
The game started off on a rough note as FSU (3-3, 2-2 in the ACC) allowed Clemson to steamroll down to their 5 yard line in 2 minutes. After a near goal line stand, Lawrence found Travis Etienne on a 4th and 1 for a TD. This was only a preview as to what was to come for the remainder of the half as the Tigers took a dominating 28-0 lead.
In the second half, FSU allowed for another 14 unanswered points, falling behind 42-0. The Noles were on the verge of a shutout until Alex Hornibrook connected with Tamorrion Terry across the middle, who ran it into the end zone from 64 yards out.
After a field goal by Clemson, Florida State got their second score of the game in the final minutes of the game when Khalan Laborn ran for a 40-yard touchdown to bring the score to 45-14.
FSU announced James Blackman as starter earlier in the week, but playing time was split evenly between him and Hornibrook, who both struggled to garner any sort of passing game. Blackman completed 8 of 20 passes for 60 yards with two interceptions. Hornibrook was 8 of 12 for 84 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Granted, both guys were under a ton of pressure from Clemson’s D-Line who completely outmatched the Seminole O-Line, but both cracked under pressure. And worse, Clemsons solid defensive front managed to keep Cam Akers silent, as he totaled just 34 yards on nine carries.
When you get blown out by a conference rival, there isn’t much, if anything, to celebrate and it’s certainly hard to get excited about a moral victory. However, the one positive take FSU’s head coach, Willie Taggart, can take from the game is that his team did not quit, which is something he can’t say about their blowout at home last season.
“I thought our guys fought until the end and I was pleased to see that. Our guys kept fighting and kept trying to make plays and that’s what you want to see out of your football team.”
He added, “We didn’t quit. You won’t see this football team quit. You’ll see this football team fight in every single game. Yeah, we didn’t play well, but our guys didn’t quit—they fought until the end.”
He also seemed confident in a bounce back next week in their matchup on the road with Wake Forrest.
“I told our guys afterwards, I love the way they fought through the game and we can’t let this one game cause us to lose two games…we got to get back to work. I know they will. I know they’ll fight back and get back next week.”
While an upset this game was pretty much off the table for most, it did just turned out to be another harsh reminder of just how far this once powerhouse school has fallen from the ranks.
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