It didn’t start out that way in the first half with FSU dominating Michigan and leading 20-6, but the Wolverines made it crazy Orange Bowl finish. But, In the end, the Noles survived Friday night in Miami 33-32 and captured a coveted “New Year’s Six Bowl.”
Florida State built an impressive 17-3 first quarter lead on the strength of Dalvin Cook’s running and this Orange Bowl record 92 yard bomb from Deondre Francois to Nyqwan Murray:
The Orange Bowl has been around for more than 80 years.
But there's never been a longer passing TD than this one: https://t.co/bhoxNR3qSn
— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2016
The Noles remained in control until late in the third when Francois threw this critical interception that got “Mee-shh-igan” back in the game:
Right back in it! This pick-6 has Michigan within 5 of FSU.
Catch the 4th quarter on ESPN or the ESPN app.https://t.co/ldBCCtMWAm
— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2016
They were playing without star linebacker/part time running back Jabril Peppers who had injured his hamstring earlier in the week, tried to warm up in uniform, but ultimately, could not play. Still with momentum back on their side, the Wolverines pulled ahead with under 2:00 left in the fourth, as running back Chris Evans’ 30 yard run completed a 12 point comeback and Michigan led 30-27.
But the Noles got an amazing 66 yard kickoff return from Keith Gavin, where he initially hesitated in the end zone, then broke up the middle to set up the FSU clinching score.
That came when Francois lofted this ball for the corner of the endzone to Murray again:
The last-minute TD that put the Seminoles up for good: https://t.co/ff79G1fFwW
— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2016
Not to go quietly, Michigan blocked the extra point and ran it all the way back for two points to cut the lead to 33-32. But the Wolverines, could not pick up a first down in their own end in the final seconds, Florida State took over and ran out the clock.
For his part, Cook had 145 yards rushing, ends his career as FSU’s all time leading rusher and will be a first round pick in the NFL draft when he declares.
Francois completed only nine passes but still threw for 222 yards and the two huge TDs. He also ran one in during the fourth quarter, as FSU finishes the 2016 season 10-3.
The win lifted the ACC to 6-2 in bowl games headed into Saturday’s action.
FSU and Deondre Francois- both “back from the dead”
Saturday’s game between Florida State and Louisville was a bottom-line moment for both teams. The bad losses and poor performances from these teams in the first four weeks of the season were not going to lead to a Mona Lisa oil painting of excellence on Saturday. No one expected that. However, victory was essential for either team in its attempt to merely make a bowl game.
Just two years ago, Florida State and Louisville met for high stakes. The two teams were in contention for an Orange Bowl bid, which swung to FSU at the very end of the regular season. This was a distinctly different game played for survival and the right to save face.
Winning was the only priority.
Late in the fourth quarter, Florida State’s offense had finally become the well-oiled machine its fans had every right to expect it would be before the season began. The Seminoles had not become a juggernaut, but they had become an offense which, while spotty due to its offensive line, could occasionally hit big plays and strike fear into opposing defenses. That’s what the Noles always had the ability to become on offense in 2018. They had arrived at that modest but reasonable standard.
They just needed another chance… but it didn’t seem likely that they were going to get it.
Down 24-21, Florida State watched Louisville march down the field, continuing to make big pass plays against a Seminole secondary which was constantly out of position. Louisville used the pass to get to gain considerable leverage, but with 1:56 and facing first and 10 deep in FSU territory, the Cardinals had to run the ball. Everyone in the stadium knew Louisville needed to run…
.. except the two people who mattered most: quarterback Jawon Pass and head coach Bobby Petrino.
Florida State had only two timeouts, meaning that with two running plays, Louisville could have exhausted FSU’s supply of timeouts. If the Cardinals needed to convert a third down, then they could have passed. On first and 10, however, they needed to see if they could run for four or more yards and squeeze the FSU defense.
Pass threw a first-down toss which was intercepted.
Deondre Francois had his extra chance. Nyqwan Murray knew he also had a chance to transform the way this day — and this season — would be remembered
They found the piece of magic they were looking for.
Francois, who dropped dimes throughout the second half, hit Murray on a short-intermediate pass in the middle third of the field. He fought off the first would-be tackler, found the running lane he needed, turned on the jets downfield, then darted to his right and wound his way into the end zone. A dazzling 58 yard play which married strength, field sense, and skill sent the Florida State sideline into a state of euphoria.
After surviving Samford and turning in a workmanlike but unremarkable effort in a win over Northern Illinois, this was the surge of adrenaline and ecstasy FSU’s season had been lacking.
The team struggled throughout the game, but Francois finally returned to being the kind of quarterback he had been before injuries got in the way:
Deondre Francois' final line for the second half: 11/15, 218 passing yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers
— Curt Weiler (@CurtMWeiler) September 29, 2018
The reemergence of Francois is the engine Florida State hopes will power this team through tough upcoming games. No one can know for sure how much this win will mean in time, but plenty of in-season turnarounds have been launched by this kind of victory, the deathbed revival which once seemed utterly lost, but — thanks to Louisville and Deondre Francois and Nyqwan Murray — was blessedly found on a late September afternoon.
Florida State still has a lot of work to do in order to merely get back to a bowl game, but the odds now look a lot better than they did before Bobby Petrino’s pass play with 1:56 left in the fourth quarter. The Noles are still not a good team, but now they have a better chance of becoming one.
Inspiration mixed with elation can be tonics for the football soul.
No, Florida State is not getting rid of Willie Taggart
As our headline clearly presents, we interrupt the chaos and fantasy of those anti-Willie Taggart Florida State fans, who believe that somehow, he is not going to be their coach for the next couple of seasons.
Yes, it is bad right now for Florida State for several reasons. As our Matt Zemek laid out after Saturday’s blowout loss at Syracuse, you can only blame Jimbo Fisher for so much of it. And, because Taggart is in charge, he now will have to bear the brunt of whatever else goes on the next few games and to the end of 2018.
On Monday, Taggart met with the media and read from a prepared statement trying to reassure Florida State fans that the Noles will be better, and soon. Sure, there were many looking at that press conference and saying he doesn’t know what to do. However, FSU is only 1-2 with a winnable game coming this Saturday.
And, fundamentally, one of the things holding them back are talented skill players that must be addressed immediately; the play of the offensive line. And as this article in the Tallahassee Democrat lays out, the Noles do not have a lot of options currently, in terms of new or better personnel.
Still, offensive line coach Greg Frey is very experienced at several other major programs and obviously, offensive coordinator Walt Bell has worked and called plays and had success in major college programs.
So, the belief that those two can improve the scheme and the blocking has to be there for the FSU faithful.
Now for the silliness that Taggart may only last one season.
That’s what it is, silliness.
He would be due over 21 million dollars in a contract buyout, if he was fired after this year, which Florida state would never pay at this stage.
Further complicating the situation, Florida State’s AD Stan Wilcox, who did the deal with Taggart last December to bring him from Oregon to Tallahassee, is leaving next month for a position with the NCAA. So, the Seminoles new athletic director, yet to be hired, will have to probably be given a season to evaluate Taggart and that is going to be 2019.
And it’s important to remember the Taggart had a 2 – 10 record his first year at USF, but eventually turned them into a 10-win and bowl game winning program before leaving for the Pac-12 two years ago.
Now, Taggart did win a couple of games early in the Oregon season last year to take the pressure off, but still finished just 7-5, leaving before the Ducks bowl game.
So, perhaps the FSU offense will imporve this week against Northern Illinois, at least enough for Florida State to try and salvage a five or six wins season.
But, if it does not, Willie Taggart is still not going anywhere.
FSU’s “Rag-tag” Taggart team tagged, flagged and bagged Saturday
Jimbo Fisher left behind a big mess. That’s what Week 1 taught the college football world about Florida State.
Week 2 against Samford, as bad as it was, nevertheless represented a game being played five days after the emotionally draining Virginia Tech opener. Young men — or old NFL veterans — are not supposed to play a violent sport twice in a span of roughly 120 hours. One can give FSU a full pass for that game. It contained very little real-world value in identifying what is right or wrong with this team.
But Week 3? On the road? With a full week of rest and relatively normal game-preparation circumstances? Against a Syracuse program which has struggled to play defense and struggled to win with any consistency over the past 15 years?
This was the time for Willie Taggart to show that, as much as Jimbo left him with a toxic cleanup site and insufficient hazmat gear, the Seminoles’ new coaching staff could manage a problematic situation and make necessary adjustments.
This was the week to show that damage control could define a season in which no one expected Florida State to be great. This project was all about the pursuit of competence and steadiness — not the dominance of old (that is a goal which always existed beyond this season’s capacities), but merely finding one’s footing as a program and setting the stage for 2019.
Instead, the Seminoles were “tagged” by Syracuse running for 231 yards, were “flagged” for 10 penalties, and the offense was “bagged,” by going a horrible 1-14 on third down, and being shutout deep into the fourth quarter.
Syracuse dominated Florida State 30-7. And, the blank stares from Taggart out onto the field shown on TV Saturday are only going to make Noles fans more venomous than they were before this one kicked off.
After this colossal failure in the Carrier Dome, Florida State has no footing.
It is sinking in quicksand… and its coach currently appears paralyzed in his attempt to do anything about it.
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