Sunday, November 25, 2018

Schaible: Gators chopped Seminoles' bowl hopes

Photo Credit: Don Juan Moore- Getty Images

By: Brian Schaible
Twitter: @SBNationReports

After two straight Orange Bowl defeats, the 1981 Florida State Seminoles were cruising along with victories at Ohio State and LSU and then, it all fell apart. Close losses to Miami and Southern Mississippi followed by a 35-3 clobbering to wrap up the season. The team sputtered down the stretch to a 6-5 record. It was the low point of a relatively young Bobby Bowden’s career. It was also the last time the Seminoles did not qualify for a bowl game.

Until now.

What started under a legend in Bobby Bowden, and continued through the much shorter Jimbo Fisher era, has come to a crashing halt under Willie Taggart.

The first-year coach has seen his team struggle all season. They have immense talent but seem to consistently underperform. The games they won were mostly nail biters and often against inferior competition. The losses shook Seminole fans to their core. The thought of losing to Miami (FL), Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida all in the same season is almost too much to comprehend. And they were outscored by a combined 106 pointS in those four contests.

On Saturday, it was just more of same. If this is the new normal, Taggart’s time in Tallahassee will be brief.

After stopping the Gators early on a 4th-and-goal, there were signs that the Seminoles would not go down without a fight. But a steady stream of three and outs followed by defensive breakdowns had the Seminoles in a 13-0 hole approaching halftime.

When Cam Akers reeled in a 15-yard Deondre Francois strike for a touchdown, Florida State was temporarily brought back to life. However, that was the last we would hear from the Seminoles. What followed were two interceptions and a fumble ultimately resulting in an embarrassing 41-14 defeat.

For the Gators, Tallahassee born Feleipe Franks was exceptional.

“I’ve always wanted to come to Tallahassee, always wanted to play Florida State and I’ve always wanted to get obviously a win here specifically,” Franks said.

“I know my family are here, all my friends in the stands and my brother back home watching. All this stuff combined, it’s gratifying and like I said, these guys deserve it for having my back through the tribulations and the ups and the downs. So, it feels good to get a win.”

Franks ended with three touchdown passes including one to junior standout, Josh Hammond.

“You know it’s definitely satisfying to be able to come out and execute the way that we did on both sides of the ball and to be able to come out with the win and be on top, Hammond said. I think it means a lot and it’s exciting to come out and get the win.”

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson said this was a collaborative effort on defense.

“We bought in. Everybody was saying the Missouri loss and everybody was saying the Georgia loss that we gave up,” Gardner-Johnson said. “But we just were unfocused and we were too dialed in to the politics of it. Of what we are, what we can do. We got out there and focused up, and kept it going and kept pushing.”

With LSU losing a dramatic overtime thriller to Texas A&M, Florida is now awaiting an invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl game. An incredible accomplishment from a team that won four games in 2017.

Florida coach Dan Mullen puts it all into perspective.

“I think as the year went on, our guys began really buying into that (our philosophy) and you are starting to see guys that showing up every day and going as hard as they can,” Mullen said. “There’s a consistency and standard we need to play with each and every week. I think it awesome and great. Look for these seniors to come out here and get a win having never beaten Florida State is huge. It’s a great feeling.”