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Florida State vs Syracuse: What’s wrong with Seminoles?

Almost every post on Saturday from the official Florida State football Twitter account implored its struggling team to #dosomething.

In the first two games of the season, the Seminoles did their best not to comply with that simple request, losing at home to Virginia Tech and squeaking out a comeback victory over FCS opponent Samford, leading for a grand total of four minutes in both games.

On Saturday, Willie Taggart’s team continued to exercise its prerogative of doing anything early and often, putting up another pitiful performance in a 30–7 rout by Syracuse in an ironically air conditioning-deficient Carrier Dome. The deflating loss dropped FSU’s record to 1–2 and snapped its 10-game winning streak against the Orange.

Syracuse backup quarterback Tommy DeVito, a redshirt freshman, replaced injured Eric Dungey, who left the game after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit, in the second half and scored the game’s first touchdown on a three-yard run.

DeVito continued to be calm under pressure and completed 11 of his 15 passes for 144 yards with a passing TD for the Orange (3–0, 1–0 ACC), who were picked to finish last this season in the Atlantic Division. With the victory, the Orange have just their eighth 3–0 start since the 1942 season.

The Seminoles mustered only four first downs and nine penalties in the first half against one of the worst defenses in college football. Syracuse then took control in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions to go up 23–0 and further turn Taggart’s start at his “dream job” into a nightmare.

Taggart took over for Jimbo Fisher, who after a 7–6 season in 2017 bolted for the greener pastures of College Station with a $75 million contract in hand.

While Fisher didn’t leave Florida State bare as far as talent is concerned, he did leave them with questions of uncertainly under Taggart, who has a losing record as a collegiate coach.

Anyone can point out the numerous Florida State deficiencies: porous offensive line play (10 different linemen have been used in the first three games), undisciplined at nearly every position, poor time management and a gimpy quarterback who gets hits too often to be effective. And despite the talents of Cam Akers, the Seminoles have a nearly non-existent return game. They ran for only 62 yards and relied primarly on the passing game once they got behind by three scores.

But Deondre Francois, who had his season ended in the opener against Alabama last year due to a knee injury, never got going, throwing for 178 yards with an interception and getting sacked four times. Florida State avoided being shut out with a two-yard keeper by Francois late in the fourth quarter.

The most glaring problem with FSU has been on the offensive end. Taggart brought in his up-tempo style from previous stops at South Florida and Oregon, which is designed to keep defenses on their heels and emphasize getting skill players in space where they can do damage with the ball. But the offensive line hasn’t allowed Francois time to throw downfield and has rarely opened up holes for Akers.

The defense did an admirable job in the first half, but eventually they even wore down in the Carrier Dome heat, allowing 222 yards on the ground. 

The Seminoles haven’t hit rock bottom yet, but they are perilously close. After next week’s game against Northern Illinois, they could realistically lose the remaining games on their schedule.

Florida State has 41 straight winning seasons and 36 consecutive bowl appearances on the line, and those streaks could also be in jeopardy if the season can’t get turned around, and fast.

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