Sports Willie Taggart’s FSU came extremely close to dropping to 0-2 with an FCS loss


Willie Taggart got his first win as Florida State’s coach on Saturday. It was deeply ugly, but a 36-26 win against Samford counts in the standings.

The Seminoles trailed 26-21 late in the fourth quarter against their FCS opponents. A Deondre Francois touchdown pass to Tre’ McKitty gave them the lead for good with four minutes left, and a Levonta Taylor pick six after that sealed it.

FSU finished strong, but its performance was, uh, really bad. The Bulldogs’ 6.6 yards per play easily beat FSU’s 5.6, and Samford was the better team for much of the night. This wasn’t a case of a powerful team just messing up some things and struggling to put a worse team away. The Noles got outplayed summarily by Samford for a long time.

The Noles’ 24-3 loss to Virginia Tech in Week 1 was ugly, but it was also an excusable performance. There’s no defensive coordinator in the world a team with a new head coach would rather face in its first game than the Hokies’ Bud Foster. And first-game struggles aren’t anything new for coaches in this sport. Bobby Bowden lost to Memphis in his FSU debut. And no, that’s not to say they inherited the same situations; it’s just true.

There’s no explaining away this game, though. FSU should never let a team like Samford play it remotely closely. The Bulldogs aren’t bad. They made the FCS playoffs in 2017, something they also did in 2013 and 2016. But they’re far from an FCS elite, and then, it says nothing good about the state of the Noles that I’m sitting here parsing how good an FCS team has to be for it to be understandable that FSU struggled so badly against it.

Talent doesn’t get anyone everywhere. It makes lots of sense that even while FSU has one of the best rosters in the country, it will take some time for Taggart to make a winner out of a team that went .500 in Jimbo Fisher’s last year. It just doesn’t make sense that FSU would ever — at any time, in any stadium, let alone in Tallahassee — be this bad against a Samford.

On the bright side, 1-1 is way better than 0-2. Maybe Taggart can build on this.

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