Florida State coach Willie Taggart’s first season came to a tearful end Saturday as the host Seminoles fell to rival Florida 41-14, ending FSU’s 36-year bowl streak and a five-game win streak in the rivalry series against the Gators.
Taggart addressed the media and his players used to social media to vow Year 2 of the coach’s tenure will be different.
Here are three things we learned from the FSU season finale:
1. Taggart is confident because he has been here before
Though disappointed, Taggart still had an air of calm about him as he addressed the media, stating, “It’s not a panic situation, it’s a work situation.”
Taggart knew he faced a rebuilding process at FSU, and school administrators were well aware of his track record steadily rehabilitating programs.
His previous three teams — Oregon, USF and Western Kentucky — were a combined 7-29 the year before Taggart took over as head coach. All three had almost twice as many wins during Taggart’s last season.
As far as FSU is concerned, Taggart said the Seminoles are well on their way to success.
“Personally I don’t think it’s as far as it may look,” he said. “I think part of it is where we’re at in our program and our program has never been in this situation before, so it’s something we all are going through. I’ve been through something like this — no one here really has — so that part of it is frustrating. We have some pieces in place but I think we all see our areas of where we need help and then we got to fix those things.”
2. Recruiting crucial as Seminoles rebuild
The Seminoles, who finished 5-7, were criticized because many believed they had more than enough four- and five-star recruits to be successful this season.
Things didn’t go as planned, with injuries taking a toll on the team.
Taggart said he is evaluating the program and making adjustments this offseason, whether it be among the coaching staff or players.
In terms of recruiting, offensive linemen are an obvious and immediate need.
“I think a lot of it has to do with recruiting; I think a lot of it has to do with development,” Taggart said. “I think there’s some guys that played probably that weren’t necessarily ready yet. And this experience is going to help them going forward. And some guys are going to have another year in the weight room that’s going to make them bigger, stronger, faster. And then like I said, recruiting, you got to go out and recruit the pieces you need to help you get to where you need to go. And so that’s going to be a part of what we’re doing.”
The impact of the players Taggart recruits this offseason probably won’t be felt immediately but will either put fans at ease or on edge.
3. FSU needs to learn to play disciplined football
One area FSU could have controlled during Taggart’s first season was the number of penalties his team amassed.
His staff and his players regularly mentioned the importance of cleaning up little mistakes and eliminating penalties that cost them points throughout the season.
It didn’t happen Saturday. A 70-yard touchdown was erased by an illegal shift. What would’ve been a big third-down stop turned into a first down after an unsportsmanlike-conduct call.
The Seminoles finished the season averaging 9.2 penalties per game, finishing last nationally among 130 teams.
A tearful and visibly frustrated Deondre Francois addressed how that doomed the Seminoles Saturday.
“We had ’em [in the first half]. It’s a game of momentum,” he said. “Once they got the momentum, it was over with. They kept moving the ball [and] we couldn’t move the ball. Then when we could, we’d have a big play and then it would get called back by a stupid penalty, which ultimately means that we were just undisciplined. We’ve just got to be more disciplined.”