With temperatures slated to be in the low 30s in South Bend, Ind., and a chance of snow, Saturday’s matchup against No. 3 Notre Dame will be as much a test of will as it is of skill for Florida State.
The Seminoles (4-5, 2-5 ACC) are hoping to replicate some of the offensive success seen last week against NC State and give the Fighting Irish (9-0) their first loss of the season. While there’s still no word on who the starting quarterback will be for FSU, head coach Willie Taggart said success will hinge on playing sound football as the Seminoles take on the No. 25 defense in the country.
“Notre Dame’s a really good football team and, again, we’re going into a hostile environment, so for whomever the quarterback is, they’ve got to understand that and where we’re playing at and against a good football team,” he said. “… For us, we can’t necessarily worry about Notre Dame, we’ve got to worry about ourselves and get better and play smarter and do the things that we need to do.
“We need to play winning football and that’s what we haven’t done. What I mean by that is [avoid] those turnovers and penalties. … [Play] smart. Worry about us and get us better, that’s got to be the focus.”
The Seminoles also have a relatively new play-caller, with Taggart handing over the responsibility to offensive coordinator Walt Bell last week against NC State, giving Taggart some flexibility on the sidelines.
“Yes, Walt’s going to call the plays this weekend as well,” Taggart said. “… I thought I was able to help out Walt in play-calling and helping set up some things that we did on Saturday and seeing things, I thought I was able to interact with our players a lot better, a lot more on the sidelines when I needed to.
“I thought I was able to help [defensive coordinator Harlon] Barnett out at times. … So just being involved and seeing everything and making sure that we correct the things that we need to correct.”
Taggart said he appreciated the new freedom last week against NC State.
“I would say [it was] the first time you really, really get to see everything on the sideline and how things were,” he said. “And you’re not trying to look at your play-call sheet and think about what play to call next, but you can see things around and nip things in the bud before it gets bad. And I will say, our guys were really good on the sidelines. It was so much better than the week before and I credit our guys for doing that.”
FSU is the only team in the nation to finish the season by playing three teams ranked in the top 20 of the Associated Press poll, and it’s the fourth time in school history FSU has played two of the top three teams in the country during one season.
Barnett said Saturday is all about mental toughness.
“It’s a mindset, it’s a mindset. The mind controls everything. If you want to have a bad day, you gon’ have a bad day. If you want to have a great day, you control that,” he said. “When we walk out, it’s a mindset. When we go out there with the right mind, we’re going to play football. They’re out in the same weather that we’re out in. They have some Florida guys on their team as well. Let’s go play ball. Let’s go.”