“That can’t be tolerated,” Taggart said in his postgame comments. “One thing you can’t do, you can’t quit. You quit, you don’t play. So we’ve got to do a great job of making sure we’ve got the right guys. Didn’t play well at all. That’s on me and our coaches and our players and everybody that’s here, and we’ve got to find a way to get that right.”
The 49-point loss also tied the worst in school history, a stunning defeat considering the Seminoles were a 10-win team just two seasons ago. As the Seminoles have slipped in recent years, the disparity between Florida State and Clemson programs has grown. That was evident starting in the second quarter, when the Tigers scored 28 points to take an insurmountable lead into halftime.
“I thought when I signed up to Florida State I would never lose like this in my life,” defensive tackle Marvin Wilson said.
The Tigers have now won four straight in the series, and this is the first Clemson senior class to go 4-0 against the Seminoles.
“I think mentally we’re a weak football team and we’re not mentally strong yet, and that’s part of the culture to changing it to what you want,” Taggart said. “We’re going to find the guys that quit, and we’re going to find the guys that kept playing and make sure that we keep those guys in there. So there will be some changes come next week.”
It has been a difficult season for the Seminoles from the beginning, when the Seminoles lost 24-3 at home to Virginia Tech in the opener. Although they had won three of their past four going into the Clemson game, they had not faced this level of competition to date.
With a patchwork offensive line and no running game to speak of, the Florida State offense could do nothing against one of the best defenses in the nation. Add in unacceptable miscues, including a botched snap that went over Deondre Francois‘ head, a roughing the kicker penalty that negated a missed field goal, targeting calls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and it is easy to see how the margin of defeat grew so large.
“The effort level wasn’t there,” Florida State defensive end Brian Burns said. “Ever since the penalty on the blocked field goal, everybody went down after that. There were a lot of calls against us … so it was everything in those two drives where it started to go down.”
By halftime, at least half of Doak Campbell Stadium had emptied out. It took a late touchdown by the Seminoles to keep the worst loss record from being broken. Florida State suffered a 49-0 loss to Florida in 1973.
The Seminoles ended the game with 16 penalties for 134 yards and had two players ejected for throwing punches.
“That’s mentally weak. That’s what losers do, and that can’t happen,” Taggart said. “That’s got to change.”
It doesn’t get any easier from here in the quest to become bowl eligible. Florida State has NC State, Notre Dame, Boston College and Florida left on the schedule. Three of those teams are ranked, and all have winning records.
“We’ve got some issues we need to correct,” Taggart said. “Get those corrected, I think you’ll see a big change in our entire program. I don’t think it’s that far away. We’ve got to keep climbing and keep working and keep recruiting, and that’s the only way you’re going to get to where we all want us to be.”