GAINESVILLE – When it has rained, it has poured for Florida State. On Saturday, in the annual showdown with the Florida Gators (10-2), it was a torrential downpour for the Seminoles (6-6) as they lost 40-17 and dropped their second in a row against Florida.
The ’Noles got off to an encouraging start, answering a quick strike by the Gators with one of their own. After that, however, the flood gates opened as Florida jumped out to a 30-7 lead at halftime and held the lead until the clock hit zero.
“We didn’t go out and perform the way we wanted to,” interim coach Odell Haggins said. “We didn’t do the little things right, but I articulated to my team that the lesson we learned tonight is bigger than football – creating great habits throughout your life. You have to keep pushing them (the players), keep loving them … We are going to put it behind us, correct our mistakes and move forward as Florida State Seminoles.”
The mistakes to correct are plentiful, as they have been for a majority of the season. It would be cliché to say that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong – yet that’s the only way to describe what happened. Every reoccurring negative for the Seminoles this season reared its ugly head for a swan song against the Gators.
The offense entered its continuously confusing and consistent second-quarter slump, only amassing 15 yards in the quarter after gaining a net of 80 yards in the first. In addition to that, Florida State accumulated more penalty yards than they did rushing yards by the end of the game – committing 13 penalties for 97 yards while only having 69 yards on the ground. This total is even more shocking considering that Cam Akers earned his sixth 100-yard rushing performance of the year, and his 11th as a Seminole.
The Seminoles also saw the unwelcome return of a turnstile offensive line, of which allowed a total of eight sacks for 56 yards, bringing their total to 44 sacks allowed on the season. Twenty of those sacks came against rival teams (Clemson, Miami and Florida).
To Haggins, it all comes down to breaking the bad habits.
“I need to keep putting them in great situations and make sure they are creating great habits at all times, because the habits you create will surface when adversity hits,” Haggins said.
“We still fall back on the penalties and missed assignments,” defensive back Asante Samuel Jr. added. “Those two things are really killing us.”
While a lot of the above is in the Seminoles’ control, the injuries have not been. Florida State lost leading tackler Hamsah Nasirildeen midway through the second quarter, and then lost defensive tackle Cory Durden on the following possession. Nasirildeen was carted off the field and Durden entered the locker room on crutches early before the halftime break. (Durden later returned to the game.)
Defensively, Florida State is running out of starters. Nasirildeen adds to an already depressing injury list that leaves a lot of talent off the field, including Marvin Wilson, Joshua Kaindoh and Jaiden Lars-Woodbey.
The ’Noles enter the postseason battered, beaten and beside themselves. The team has been through a midseason coaching change, has been dominated by all their major rivals, and is not healthy. With their bowl opponent still to be determined, it’s going to be a telling few weeks for this young, recovering football team and their interim coach that still sees the progress in all the pain.
Haggins said the first focus is on academics with finals soon approaching. And then it will be back to the field for bowl practices.
“We have made some progress, look at what these kids have gone through,” Haggins said. “They could have laid down (at Boston College), but they were resilient. There are a lot of positive things behind the last month or so. I love these kids, they fought back. It’s the Seminole way… they are going to keep fighting.”