Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 19, 2018 at 11:31 pm.

Seminoles’ NCAA-record bowl streak in jeopardy

One down, one more to go.

That was the theme to start the week Monday for the Florida State football team, which came back to beat No. 20 Boston College this past Saturday, 22-21, and secure the first of two needed wins to become bowl eligible for an NCAA record 37th straight year.

All that stands in the way now for the Seminoles (5-6 overall) is one final hurdle.

But it’s a big one: No. 13 Florida (8-3).

“By no means were we perfect (against Boston College), but we found a way to win the ballgame, a much-needed ballgame,” Florida State head coach Willie Taggart said after Saturday’s win.

“We’re still playing for something. We’re playing our archrival, and we’re playing to keep the bowl streak alive. That’s really important to all of us. It’s important that we come in and have a great week of practice again and show up and show out next week.”

If the Seminoles can find a way to eke out one more victory Saturday, they’ll finish the regular season 6-6 and go bowling for the 37th straight year. The Seminoles haven’t missed out on a bowl game since 1981 or had a losing season since 1976.

To even get to this point, Florida State had to rally from a fourth quarter deficit against the Eagles on Saturday. The Seminoles took a one-point lead with less than two minutes to play after quarterback Deondre Francois found receiver Tamorrion Terry for a 74-yard passing score. It was Terry’s team-high eighth touchdown of the season and Francois’ best throw of the day, leaving some to wonder afterward why Francois — who struggled mightily all game before that play — hasn’t been more consistent through 11 games.

Taggart addressed his quarterback’s struggles after the game and why he chose not to bench Francois in favor of James Blackman, who threw for 421 yards and four touchdowns two weeks earlier during fill-in duty for an injured Francois.

“I think we’ve seen throughout the year (Deondre) can make some bad throws, but he comes back and makes some big throws for us,” Taggart said, touting Francois’ resiliency.

“All he needed to do was really settle down. In the first half, he just really wasn’t himself with some things. But it was great that he bounced back and made the plays he needed to late in the game.”

Taggart even credited a special guest the Seminoles welcomed before the Boston College game for last Saturday’s magic.

“(Former Florida State quarterback) Danny Kanell came and talked to our team this (past) week, and he spoke about sometimes all you need is somebody to step up and make a play and that can change some things around,” Taggart said.

“And sure enough in that game, we’re struggling, struggling, struggling, and then Tamorrion Terry and Deondre make the play for us at a perfect time for us, and that was big for us.”

How big remains to be seen.

Lose to Florida on Saturday, and all that the victory against Boston College did was delay disappointment. But if the Seminoles win, Taggart feels that could be the turning point for the program it’s been looking for all year.

“Whenever you get a win after a three-game losing streak, it’s a step forward again,” the head coach said of back-to-back-to-back losses to North Carolina State, No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame leading up to last weekend. “It’s not just a win. We beat a ranked team who was playing well. For our guys to do that at home was huge.”

Also huge from that game was the rushing performance of starting tailback Cam Akers, who eclipsed 100 yards for the first time this season in the win and finished with 110 yards on the ground. Akers, who was expected to be one of the top running backs in the country coming into the season, has sputtered behind an injured, inexperienced offensive line.

But Saturday felt good, Akers said.

Darn good.

“You just got to keep faith, keep believing and keep playing. At the running back position, it’s bound to happen. Big runs, big plays, they’re bound to happen,” said Akers, who leads the team in rushing with 669 yards and six touchdowns — way down from his rookie season a year ago when he ran for 1,024 yards and broke the school’s freshman rushing record.

“In this offense you have to be patient. You got to let everything unfold and you have to let everything happen. Whatever it took to be successful, that’s what I was going to do. Being patient is a key thing.”

Florida State fans will now have to wait patiently to see how the rest of the season unfolds. The Seminoles have beaten the Gators five times in a row, including a 38-22 rout last year in Gainesville, but this is a much different Florida team this season.

The Gators enter Saturday’s matchup winners of two straight. But they’ve only beaten the Seminoles three times in the last decade and haven’t won in Tallahassee since 2012.

“It’s going to be a hard-fought game. We have it at home,” Florida State linebacker Dontavious Jackson said. “We’re going to have our hands full, but we’re up for the challenge.”