If it’s not already been said 100 times, things are not looking good for Willie Taggart in Tallahassee. The second year head coach for the Noles is once again having to explain himself after another second half loss, this week to ACC opponent UVA.
Florida State looked sharp early for the third straight game took a lead in the intermission at Charlottesville at 14 – 10. And, their much criticized defense, which brought on former USF coach and Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt as a consultant this week, played well enough to get them into the fourth quarter with a 17 – 10 margin.
However, just like against Boise State and ULM, they allowed Virginia to put together three lengthy TD drives late in the game. The second one capped an 11 play, 75-yard march with RB Wayne Taulapapa powering in from a yard out, the Cavaliers missed the extra point.
Still, Virginia got the ball back in short order and once again, marched on Florida State’s defense in just over two minutes of clock time. And, Taulapapa scored again, from a yard out. QB Bryce Perkins scored on the two-point conversion for a seven-point (31-24) lead.
This was the third game in a row Florida State has given up a lead after halftime because the defense has given up one too many scores late in the game.
A lot of it can be pointed to the huge imbalance in time of possession for FSU and its opponents. FSU’s defense was on the field for 39:44 against UVA, while the Noles offense didn’t have a single drive longer than 2:45 seconds.
Simply put: the defense is on the field way too long for them to be able to sustain pressure for the entire game, and the offense needs to have more time in control of the ball while they’re in the lead.
Taggart was asked at Monday’s press conference about how the repeated time of possession imbalance impacts the effectiveness of his defense late in the game. He said he didn’t think it was a problem until this week.
“Well, I thought in this game, the fourth quarter, they were tired. I don’t think that was the case in the first two ballgames. I think each one of these ballgames in the fourth quarter, they have been different situations, so I can’t sit here and say our guys have been tired in the fourth quarter for the first three ballgames, and that’s why we’re playing the way we are.”
“I thought this game, they did. They got tired. Again, we could have stayed on the field a little more offensively. It would have helped them. But I do think we need more than 20 minutes of time of possession as an offense. I don’t think whether we’re scoring a lot… we still need more than 20 minutes time of possession, so we can be better from that standpoint but I don’t necessarily think that’s a big factor overall. I didn’t think that was the case on Saturday.”
If Taggart doesn’t see this as a huge problem, he’s going to quickly have to figure out what is. With the way FSU runs its offense, they are going to need to find some more depth in their defense or this is going to be the case all season long even when the seminole are sustaining drives.
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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