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Positives while awaiting a win: How to gauge FSU’s loss to Louisville

Florida State keeps coming up with gut-wrenching ways to lose football games. 

The Seminoles fell to 0-4 for the first time since 1974 in a 31-23 loss to Louisville at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday. It was a game that FSU had no business being in at halftime, trailing 31-7 with three minutes left in the half before a quick strike narrowed the gap to 31-13.

The final score of a game can sometimes be misleading and this was one example as 31-23 tells the story of a closer game — which it was — but there were also times where the 8-point deficit felt like it might as well have been three touchdowns.

After a 75-yard touchdown run by Jashaun Corbin to open the second half, the defense followed up with eight straight stops. It felt like Florida State had all the momentum in the world, but nothing materialized. It ended with another check off the Florida State football bingo card, a game-losing interception that sealed any hope of overtime. 

The Seminoles were helped by some fortunate penalties that prevented Louisville from scoring and sustaining drives, but in the end it was yet another game in which the defense (eventually) put the team in a position to win the game and the offense could not overcome its own inconsistencies to finish the job.

How do you gauge a loss like this, especially with everything that has happened this season? By all intents and purposes, it should feel like a step in the right direction. Louisville is a well-coached football team with a dynamic quarterback. Ending that game with a competitive score is encouraging considering how the first 25 minutes of the game went.

But you would be forgiven for being very trepidatious. The last time Florida State fans felt encouraged by a “good loss,” the following week they were treated to the worst loss in program history. 

Now, what would be a “good loss” under normal pretenses falls under a weird gray area where fans want to be positive but don’t want to be fooled again. At the end of the day, the cynical fan will conclude: “We are still 0-4.”

That’s a grounding statement but if we are going to clench at straws of positivity, here is something to think about.

There were questions about whether Norvell and this coaching staff had lost the locker room after Jacksonville State and Wake Forest. The answer appears to be no.

In the time that Norvell has been coach of Florida State football, the phrase “facing adversity” has been thrown around quite a lot. The idea that the team needs to learn how to face and overcome adversity has been a common storyline. It’s become so common that it may pass as just superficial fluff but in terms of on-field results, this might be the best response to adversity we’ve seen from a Norvell-led team. 

The second half was an utter surprise. FSU went from allowing scores on the first five Louisville possessions to only allowing them to cross midfield once. The offense started to create chunk plays and move the ball downfield. The outcome left a lot to be desired, but it was very clear that they were playing hard and with a purpose. On the verge of a blowout for the second week in a row, Mike Norvell and the Seminoles played some good football.

“What we put on film in the first half, we are that team,” defensive end Jermaine Johnson said postgame. “What we put on film in the second half, we are also that team. We’ve got to fix and get rid of the first-half team … We’re sick of hearing we’ve got the potential to do this, potential to do that. We’ve got to actually go out there and do it.”

“I’ve been in this position before,” Andrew Parchment added. “It’s not in our blood to quit and give up. We come back to work every single day. These are the hardest practices I’ve ever been in during college. I’m just excited to get back to work tomorrow.”

The record isn’t going to change. Florida State is 0-4, is off to the worst start since 1974 and is the only team in the ACC without a win. However, the message and the mentality of the locker room hasn’t appeared to change either. Norvell seemingly hasn’t lost the locker room and the players want to keep working and improving despite overwhelming setbacks. 

How much that is worth may vary from person to person, but if you are not looking to hold a “good loss” in such a positive light the second time around, then maybe this is the positive to draw from in a sea of valid negatives. The real testament will be if Florida State can put one in the win column against Syracuse. 

“Everyone needs to be of one accord and that starts off the field,” safety Jarvis Brownlee said. “We need to work on coming out fast and not letting people score on us or make a big play and then realize we need to flip the script or change the switch. It needs to start as soon as we step on the field doing kickoff or kick return. That starts with every single individual on this team, including me. Once we get all on one accord and play fast like that — nobody can beat us. Once we get that down, we are going to be good. An 0-4 start? It is what it is. Like I said, this team; I know we are fighters, we are never going to give up so we are going to keep fighting.”