Far too often under the tenure of Willie Taggart, Florida State has been a team that beats itself more than it beats opposing teams.
Saturday was no exception as the Seminoles (4-5, 3-4 ACC) lost to the Miami Hurricanes (5-4, 3-3) by a score of 27-10. It was the third consecutive loss to the in-state rival.
The loss makes Taggart 0-5 in rivalry games at Florida State, losing twice to both Clemson and Miami. The other loss of course was one of the blowout variety to the Florida Gators in Tallahassee last year – and this year’s matchup is not favoring the ’Noles either.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a significant step back,” Taggart said on the loss. “Yes, it’s a step back every time you lose, but I wouldn’t say it’s a significant step back.”
Florida State was unprepared, undisciplined and (at times) uninspired. Every week highlights a different problem or at the very least a mixed bag of observations.
On this particular Saturday against the Hurricanes, it was a lackluster performance by the secondary. The Seminoles were torched for 313 yards by Miami quarterback Jarren Williams, who finished with two touchdowns. Those two touchdowns were both due to blown coverages and matchup exploits.
The first touchdown resulted in the exploitation of a matchup in which true freshman Renardo Green was left in one-on-one coverage against one of Miami’s best receivers, Jeff Thomas, who promptly burned Green for a 39-yard catch. The second touchdown saw Miami receiver Dee Higgins beat not only Stanford Samuels but Levonta Taylor as well en route to his 56-yard score.
One touchdown is no more forgivable than the other. In no circumstances should a true freshman be playing man coverage against an NFL-caliber talent and neither should Levonta Taylor (who was rated the No. 1 corner in the 2015 class) get burnt while acting as the safety help to Stanford Samuels.
The result of the game wasn’t entirely to blame on the defense, as they overall played a very commendable game against the run. They were, however, put in horrible situations by the offense, which played, well, unprepared, undisciplined, and uninspired.
The offense acquired six penalties in the first quarter alone, most coming on either false starts or illegal formation calls. The team had 10 penalties for 75 yards and only one of those calls was made on the defense. In addition to that, the offensive line allowed nine sacks over the course of the game. This was the most sacks allowed in a single game in program history.
FSU struggled to stay ahead of the sticks. As a result, of Miami’s 14 drives, six of them started in Florida State territory. The average starting field position for the Canes was their own 44-yard line, in comparison to Florida State averaging a start on their own 25.
“It wasn’t that tough (being in those positions),” linebacker Emmett Rice said. “When we are on defense, we look at it as either a challenge or an opportunity. It’s always an opportunity for us.”
Regardless, those opportunities to succeed come a lot easier when your opponent doesn’t average a 20-yard head start on drives.
FSU had a lot of questions about the future of the program heading into Saturday’s matchup with Miami. Whether they were answered remains to be seen, but for now all the team can do is move forward, Taggart said.
“We got three guaranteed games waiting for us,” Taggart said. “They’re all important. We got to go on the road and play Boston College. We’ve got to get back to work and find a way to get back.”