Column: Three takeaways from Willie Taggart’s first win as FSU Head Coach

Alec Chessari, Correspondent on (@AlecChessariFS Twitter)
 

TALLAHASSEE, FLA., (www.franchisesportsonline.net)

Royal A. Shepherd | Franchise Sports Tallahassee

 

Offense Not Looking Lethal

The “Lethal Simplicity” of the offense looks almost as if it’s too simple and the opposing defenses already know when what play is going to be called.  The short bubble screens are getting stopped behind the line of scrimmage because receivers can’t hold their blocks and the offensive line is looking as bad as it did last year. Having to shuffle guys in and out to find the right lineup during the game isn’t working and the penalties are piling up through the first two weeks. 

The Seminoles had two pass completions of 20-plus yards get called back by the offensive line penalties.  Despite all the hits, redshirt junior quarterback Deondre Francois took he still managed to have another impressive game as far as his efficiency. Francois completed 31 of his 46 pass attempts for 320-yards and three touchdowns.  Florida State is still searching for the running game, but hopefully, that will come when the offensive line can pull through and hold their blocks.

Royal A. Shepherd | Franchise Sports Tallahassee
RB Cam Akers and WR Nyqwan Murray head to the locker room before kickoff.

FSU Struggling to Run the Ball

Despite having one of the best running backs in the county and a senior leader in the backfield, the Seminoles still aren’t able to run the ball. Going into the season,  fans expected to see a lot more big run plays with the way the gulf coast offense should work.

Sophomore running back Cam Akers was projected to have big numbers and so far hasn’t been what the fans expected.  Akers carried the ball 14 times for 76 yards against the Samford Bulldogs. His longest rush of the day was 14 yards.  Senior running back Jacques Patrick carried the ball 13 times for 44 yards with a long of 13. 

The run game could be struggling due to a lack of blocking by the offensive line, which at this point should almost be expected.  The Seminoles lost a big-time running back in redshirt freshman Khalan Laborn on a kick return. Head coach Willie Taggart confirmed Laborn has a dislocated knee.

Defense Getting Walked On

The Seminoles defense was as close to absent as you can get in the first half against the Samford Bulldogs, an FCS school.   The defense gave up 341-yards in the first half and 525-yards total.  Despite the Seminoles defensive front being able to contain the Bulldogs running backs (holding them to only 50-yards rushing the entire game), the secondary was getting torched. The defensive backs could not break up a deep ball for anything. 

The Bulldogs figured out the go-to play was a lob deep down the field, and surprisingly, completed several such passes.  The first play for the Bulldogs went for a 54-yard bomb which resulted in a touchdown.  The Bulldogs had two receivers catch a ball for 50-plus yards and both receivers had over 95-yards receiving. After the loss to Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator Harlon Barnett expressed he wanted more turnovers from his defense.  His defense listened and forced five turnovers.  Sophomore nose guard Marvin Wilson forced a fumble and sophomore defensive back Cyrus Fagan recovered it.  Junior corner back Kyle Meyers had two interceptions, Senior defensive back AJ Westbrook had one interception and Junior corner back Levonta Taylor had a late pick six to seal the win for the Seminoles 36-26.

The Seminoles have their first road game of the season were they will be traveling to Syracuse to take on the Orange. Kickoff will be 12:00 P.M.

 

Willie Taggart and Noles Get First Win of The Season


Royal A. Shepherd (RoyalShepherdFS on Twitter), Director

TALLAHASSEE, FLA., (www.franchisesportsonline.net) – Willie Taggart’s offense got its first touchdown of the season after 70 minutes, 57 seconds of game time. He also collected his first win as the head coach at FSU.

A 33-point favorite, Florida State didn’t lead the game until the fourth quarter in the 36-26 nailbiter win over the Samford Bulldogs at Doak Cambell Stadium on Saturday.

Taggart said the slugfest was a solid first win for his team. He acknowledged the team’s desire to play better on offense, but said he would take the wins however they come.

“Good win for the Noles,” he said. “It was good to see our guys find a way to come back and get a win after we started slow and weren’t playing as well. I thought it was a great team victory.”

Offensively, FSU continued to struggle up front. Despite only giving up one sack, Seminole quarterback Deandre Francois was hit frequently. He would finish the game 31-46 for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Cam Akers paces the Noles on the ground with 76 yards on 14 carries. In total, the team had 134 rushing yards, averaging 3.8 yards a carry.  

The Noles gave up 525 yards of total offense to the Bulldogs, including 475 through the air from senior quarterback Devlin Hodges. Hodges completed 39 of 60 passes with two touchdowns and four interceptions. 

Samford scored on its first play from scrimmage on a 54-yard bomb from Hodges to senior receiver and Bradenton native, Kelvin McKnight. Cooper Cross failed to connect on the extra point attempt, leaving the score at 6-0. 

Royal A. Shepherd | Franchise Sports Tallahassee
FSU lines up late in the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs would get another score in the first when senior running back Roland Adams plowed his way into the endzone from two yards out. This time Cross would convert the PAT, increasing the lead to 13-0.

The Seminoles would get their first touchdown of the season on a 27-yard hookup from quarterback Deondre Francois to wideout Tamorrion Terry to cut the Bulldogs lead to six.

Freshman kicker Mitchell Fineran added a 30-yard field goal to push the Bulldog lead to 16-7.

The Noles would trim the lead when Francois scored on an 8-yard keeper, cutting the deficit to two and bringing the score to 16-14. 

Despite Florida State’s back-to-back scores, Samford continued its onslaught with a 27-yard touchdown from Hodges to McKnight to extend the lead to 23-14. It was the pair’s second touchdown connection.

Francois would find Terry again in the second quarter on a 15-yard strike for a touchdown to cut the lead again to 23-21, where it would remain until halftime. 

Fineran’s late field goal with 7:58 left in the game gave Samford a 26-21 lead. 

 FSU would get the go-ahead touchdown with 4:03 left in the game when Francois found tight end Tre McKitty on a 5-yard pass into the endzone.  It gave the Noles a 29-26 lead, their first of the game.

McKitty said the play was designed for him and his only job was to make a play on the ball. 

“I was the first read,” McKitty said. “As soon as we left the huddle I knew the ball was coming to me.”

LeVonta Taylor returned an interception for a touchdown in the game’s final minutes to salt it away.

During a break in the game, Florida State played a video tribute for former Nole Burt Reynolds. Reynolds died on Thursday at the age of 82.

Samford will take on the Mercer Bears in their next contest. Florida State will travel to New York for a conference matchup against the Syracuse Orange in a noon kickoff on Sept. 15.