It’s going to be another long week in Tallahassee, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has some soul-searching to do.
His program — five years removed from an unbeaten national championship season — will now have to win four of its remaining five scheduled games just to extend the nation’s longest streak of bowl eligibility after dropping to 2-4 following Saturday’s 31-28 loss at the hands of Louisville.
Mind you, this Louisville team was coming off a 45-42 loss to Boston College last week in a game where the Eagles gashed the Cardinals for 364 yards rushing and 555 yards of total offense.
Last year, the Cardinals embarrassed the then-No. 2-ranked Seminoles 63-20. While this loss may not appear to sting on the surface like that one did, its consequences may run just as deep in terms of long-term impact.
Florida State is 0-3 at home to start a season for the first time since 1974
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 21, 2017
That’s because things look as bleak as they’ve looked in Tallahassee in quite some time.
After a sluggish first half that ended with the score tied at 14 at halftime, the Seminoles quickly fell behind 28-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
But to Fisher and his staff’s credit, his team fought back to tie the score at 28 and was knocking on the door of Louisville’s red zone with 2 minutes left in the game when disaster struck.
Freshman quarterback James Blackman — forced into duty after starter Deondre Francois was lost for the season due to an injury suffered in the season-opening loss to Alabama — botched a zone read snap that was fumbled and recovered by Louisville.
The Cardinals went on to a late drive and set up a short game-winning field-goal attempt that has the Seminoles’ bowl hopes on life support. Ironically, Cardinals kicker Blanton Creque missed his initial attempt, but was given a second chance because of Fisher’s timeout.
disaster strikes. FSU was in FG range but bobbled a zone read. wow.
— Sanjay Kirpalani (@SanjayKirpalani) October 21, 2017
While Fisher can’t be faulted for trying to ice a field-goal kicker, his team has made a habit of failing to close the door on opponents this season when it’s had the chance to lock up a victory.
Blackman had his first “freshman” game with 2 interceptions and the critical fumble. The defense — after having its moments and stopping the Cardinals on a critical fourth-and-1 earlier in the fourth quarter — again gave up a late score in the waning moments as it did in losses to NC State and Miami.
Florida State has the talent to fix things, but which direction can it point to for answers?
The offense has yet to put up more than 26 points in a game this season and still is being led by a young but talented passer in Blackman. The receiver unit has been gutted by injuries and the offensive line is in a similar situation. Both of those units have been inconsistent at best when fully healthy. Defenses can now focus their attention on slowing a running game that has shown signs of promise with the two-headed tandem of junior Jacques Patrick and freshman Cam Akers.
To secure bowl eligibility, #FSU needs to go at least 4-1 vs: @ BC, Cuse, @ Clemson, Delaware State, @ UF.
— Andrew Miller (@Andrew_Miller36) October 21, 2017
The defense has had issues slowing down offenses all year — specifically against the pass. However, Louisville put up 293 yards rushing and Florida State surrendered a season-high 449 yards of total offense against the Cardinals.
The special teams had a disastrous performance in the Alabama game and kicker Ricky Aguayo missed a field-goal attempt against the Cardinals that loomed large considering the final score.
Regardless of what happens in the final five games, it’s hard to imagine how the Seminoles can write an ending that can eliminate the taste of what has transpired in the first six.
That’s the challenge facing Fisher and his team beginning with Friday’s game against Boston College.
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