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Self-inflicted mistakes weigh heavily on FSU’s devastating loss

The honeymoon is over – and much faster than anticipated.

It had appeared that the Seminoles were poised to take large strides towards becoming a competitive and nationally recognized program once again after taking No. 9 Notre Dame to overtime.

Not even a week later, Florida State suffered its worst loss in program history and its first loss ever to an FCS school in a 20-17 defeat to Jacksonville State.

If Mike Norvell and the Seminoles were climbing their way out of the hole they’ve been put in these past few seasons, they just slipped and tumbled back down even deeper into that hole. 

“It’s 100 percent on me, I didn’t have the guys ready to go,” Norvell said in his post-game presser that also included an apology to Seminole fans and the University. “I apologize to our fan base, to all Seminoles for that performance. I take ownership of it.”

It’s going to take a lot to erase the stain of a loss like this from the minds and memories of Florida State fans, not to mention erasing it from this coaching staff’s resume. Truthfully, all the bleach or whiteout in the students’ dorm rooms across the street from Doak probably wouldn’t be able to do it.

For most of the game, it felt like FSU had control of the ballgame – ugly as it was. The Gamecocks’ offense was bottlenecked for most of the game by FSU’s defense. The effort was spear-headed by senior transfer Jermaine Johnson II, who continues to be a disruptive force up front. He leads the team with four sacks and 18 tackles in two games.

But the defensive effort was wasted by an offense that continues to be inconsistent. 

It’s the same story that FSU fans have heard for years now: Turnovers, missed easy throws, the inability to sustain drives, going through drives so quickly the defense has no time to rest, dropped passes and, most frequently, penalties. 

The Seminoles were penalized 11 times for 114 yards. That total is the most accumulated by Florida State since it was penalized for 121 yards in their 2018 loss to N.C State.

There is never a good time for a penalty, but on Saturday the yellow flags typically came at the worst times. The few promising drives that FSU produced were quickly crushed by false starts, offensive pass interference and illegal men downfield.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” quarterback McKenzie Milton said. “We get a first down and next thing you know it’s second-and-25. We couldn’t find a rhythm putting ourselves in situations like that.”

Even when there was rhythm, it was mostly due to successful runs by Jashaun Corbin, who tallied 109 yards on 15 carries. The passing game was practically non-existent, as Milton didn’t surpass 100 yards passing until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. 

That’s not too much to his discredit, as drops were once again an issue for this receiving core. The most egregious drop of the night came early in the first quarter on a fourth-down play in which Keyshawn Helton was left practically undefended, yet still dropped what would have been a guaranteed touchdown. 

Eventually the discipline issues carried over to the other side of the ball. The defense committed two bad holding penalties on third down and a targeting call took away an interception that likely would have sealed the game. Instead, it led to the score that brought the Gamecocks within three points. 

The Seminoles offense sputtered once again afterwards, and the Gamecocks heaved a Hail Mary pass with six seconds left to walk off the field with not only a victory but all the good faith Norvell and the Seminoles earned in their showing against Notre Dame.

The JSU players planting a flag bearing their own insignia on the Seminole logo after the game made sure of it. For those who saw it, a lasting image. 

In recent years, it’s become a common occurrence — teams leaving the field mocking the traditioned ‘Tomahawk Chop’ in upset wins. On Saturday night, an FCS program that just got shutout the week before 31-0, planted a flag and stomped on the logo in the middle of Doak Campbell.

This is a new low, and one that hurts terribly for everyone involved. 

The key word after the game: Embarrassing. The word was uttered by nearly every person that took the podium to speak with the media. 

“It’s embarrassing,” Milton said. “We got to own that. That’s who we are. That’s who we are today. We lost to Jacksonville State and we’re 0-2. All we can do is look forward. We got Wake Forest next.”

Even though a loss like the one suffered on Saturday will be hard to forget for a while, the focus still remains on the next game for Norvell and the Seminoles. 

“We have to get us corrected,” Norvell said. “We have to go out there and do the things that are necessary to get this corrected … Guys are extremely upset, as we are as a staff. You correct the things that have to be corrected to play to the level we’re capable of playing. This team has talent. This team has heart. They truly do believe in what we can accomplish. But we have to go execute. It can’t just be something we talk about.”