TALLAHASSEE, FL – With two short sentences, Willie Taggart summed up his thoughts, the thoughts of his team and the thoughts of the entire Florida State fan base:
“Disappointing game. Disappointing season.”
There’s a lot more that can describe Florida State’s 41-14 loss to No. 13 Florida on Saturday afternoon, and the 5-7 season that it concluded.
But, to an extent, that says enough.
The Seminoles came into their regular season finale with designs on upsetting the Gators, securing a bowl bid and keeping alive hope for a winning season.
Those goals are all gone now, as is a campaign that not even three months ago had Florida State fans brimming with optimism.
FSU’s five-year winning streak against Florida is over. As is the Seminoles’ NCAA-record, 36-year consecutive bowl streak and their streak of 41 straight winning seasons.
And Taggart didn’t mince words when asked about what that meant.
“It’s unacceptable here at Florida State,” he said. “We’ve got a program that prides itself on winning, and we didn’t get it done.
“Very disappointed, in just the way we performed today and throughout the year.”
Indeed, Florida State’s problems against the Gators were the same problems that hindered them all season.
The Seminoles committed 10 penalties, turned the ball over three times and allowed five sacks of quarterback Deondre Francois.
Their penalties were as numerous as they were destructive.
One procedural infraction wiped out what would have been a 70-yard touchdown.
An unsportsmanlike conduct foul gifted the Gators a first down after the Seminoles’ defense earned a third-down stop.
And other flags simply kept the Seminoles’ offense behind the chains, limiting their opportunities to get in rhythm.
“We do things that cause you to lose football games like that,” Taggart said. “It’s third down, we were ready to get them off the field and then we’re not tough enough to walk away. … You look at some of the games we lost, and the way we lost is (that) we weren’t disciplined.
“That’s what good football teams do, and we didn’t do that.”
Even for all that went wrong, the Seminoles went into halftime trailing by only six points. And had that 70-yard touchdown counted – a pretty catch-and-run from Cam Akers – the Seminoles might have had the lead.
The Gators, however, unleashed a stunning second-half outburst that turned what had been a close game into a rout.
UF quarterback Feleipe Franks, a native of nearby Crawfordville, Fla., threw touchdown passes on three of Florida’s first four possessions in the second half, and running back Jordan Scarlett added another score late in the fourth quarter.
The Seminoles offered one answer – a four-yard touchdown run from Francois that made it 27-14 – but otherwise couldn’t keep up.
Florida finished with advantages in total yards (536-293), first downs (24-15), third-down conversions (5-15, 1-14) and time of possession (36:02-23:53).
“I think they amped up the energy when they went down and scored,” Taggart added. “They gained a lot of momentum. And that’s what happens when you get momentum – it gets going. That was critical.”
That brought Taggart to another season-long theme. Too often, he said, the Seminoles didn’t respond well in the face of adversity. There are examples in each of Florida State’s losses this season, and it’s a problem that Taggart believes stretches back to at least last year.
Correcting it still remains near the top of his to-do list.
“We had times where we did (respond well) this year, and good things happened for us,” he said. “But there were other times where we didn’t, and it was just like the wheels fell off.”
Francois totaled 195 yards (151 passing) and two touchdowns, while receiver Tamorrion Terry added three catches for 78 yards.
Terry and senior Nyqwan Murray finished the season tied atop the team leaderboard with 744 receiving yards.
“(Florida) kept moving the ball. We couldn’t move the ball,” Francois said. “Then when we could, we would have a big play and then we’d get it called back by a stupid penalty. Which ultimately means that we’re undisciplined.”
That’s a painful reality, one of a few that the Seminoles must address in the weeks and months ahead.
Francois fought back tears as he discussed the season, saying that it was “cutting deep,” and that it hurts “to end the bowl streak with me being the starting quarterback.”
Taggart shares his quarterback’s frustration, but he’s also steady in his belief that the Seminoles will keep moving in the right direction.
That starts tonight, when he sits down to begin evaluating where the program stands after his first year on the job.
And it continues in earnest on Sunday, when Taggart and his staff turn their gaze to the recruiting trail.
There’s plenty of work to be done, and it’s all done with a singular goal in mind: Return the Seminoles to former glory, and one day make a disappointing game and a disappointing 2018 season feel like nothing more than a speedbump on the way there.
“We didn’t get it done,” Taggart said. “But we can grow from it. And we will grow from it.”
“I was brought here to get this program back right and that’s what we’ll do.”
You can read this article at its original location here.
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It’s the Sights of the Game, presented by Black Hills Regional Eye Institute.