Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 30, 2018 at 9:46 pm.

Seminoles look to rebound after worst home loss in school history

There’s been a lot of times Florida State head coach Willie Taggart wasn’t happy this season.

But he really wasn’t happy this past Saturday.

Taggart watched his maiden voyage as the Seminoles’ head coach reach a new low: a 49-point home loss to No. 2 Clemson, which seemed bent on repaying Florida State (4-4 overall, 2-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) for years of similar lopsided beatings. The margin of defeat was the worst in school history at home, and tied the worst loss of all-time.

And afterward, Taggart was livid.

“First time since I’ve been here I felt like we had some guys that quit on our football team and that can’t be tolerated,” he said. “One thing you can’t do, you can’t quit. You quit, you don’t play. We’re going to find the guys who quit.”

Taggart didn’t back off that Monday when he met with the media for the first time since calling out his players. But he also made sure to clarify that not everyone was in his doghouse heading into this week’s road matchup against N.C. State (5-2, 2-2).

“We had the majority of our guys doing the things we want to,” Taggart said. “It was only a handful of guys (not), and it only takes a handful to mess up the whole thing that’s going on.”

One of those guys who’s done it right all season is defensive end and projected first-round NFL Draft pick Brian Burns, who — like his coach — wasn’t shy about voicing his displeasure with the current vibe on the team after the loss.

“Their effort level wasn’t there. Their energy level wasn’t there,” said Burns, the nation’s seventh-leading sacker who recorded just one tackle in the loss. “I’ll never be happy about it because I had given it my all and I’m also trying to encourage others to give it their all. We can always call a team meeting and talk to some guys individually. At the end of the day, it’s likely going to have to be the next man up and make others work to get positions back.”

One of those players who may have to lost his position is starting quarterback Deondre Francois, who left the game injured in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s defeat. Francois was still listed as the starter on the depth chart Monday, but Blackman took first-team reps Tuesday in practice and even appeared with Taggart on his weekly radio show.

“We’re not quitting. Everyone is saying that we’re quitting,” Blackman told The Athletic after Tuesday’s practice. “Just know you got guys still out there fighting their tails off.”

Two players who did some fighting against Clemson — as in, throwing punches, and subsequently getting ejected — were receiver Nyqwan Murray and linebacker Zaquandre White. Taggart said Monday that both were suspended for the first half against N.C. State.

“That’s unacceptable. That’s mentally weak. That’s what losers do and that can’t happen. That’s got to change,” Taggart said of his player’s actions.

The Wolfpack were unbeaten and ranked in the Top 25 just two weeks ago before losing two games straight. But that means N.C. State will enter this game eager to bounce back — and it also means the Seminoles could use all the help they can get. But instead they’ll enter the game down their top receiver, minus depth on the defense and with questions at quarterback.
So it’s not surprising that Florida State is 7 1/2-point underdogs against the Wolfpack, despite the fact N.C. State has only beaten the Seminoles once in the last six years.

So how does a team that was once dominant, but has since fallen, regain respect? That part is simple, Taggart said: Continue to change the culture within the program back to what it once was.

“You’ve got to have it. Again, I wish it could happen just day one, but changing the culture don’t happen overnight. It’s a process,” Taggart said. “But as long as there’s progress within that, you’ll get to where we want to go. And part of it is in recruiting, too. All of that is part of changing the culture, and we’re not going to just get there today. That’s going to come with time.”