Monday, April 23, 2018
Colleges

Florida State hopes to end rocky season on high note at Independence Bowl

Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

SHREVEPORT, La. — Florida State’s tumultuous football season, which began with national title aspirations followed by a steep decline and surprising coaching change, is mercifully near its end.

The Seminoles have been bruised by a mix of close losses and injury problems. They mounted a late push for bowl eligibility and coped with the testy departure of former coach Jimbo Fisher.

Along the way, the Seminoles have matured and shown signs of gratitude and relief for their 2017 season, which will end against Southern Miss (8-4) at the Independence Bowl today (1:30, ESPN, 1010-AM).

FSU will play in its 36th consecutive bowl game — a streak the Seminoles say should stand after refuting a Reddit report last week that questioned their bowl eligibility. A victory would clinch the program’s 41st consecutive winning season and restore their pride.

"A win is a win, but going through this season, we showed our character and determination to finish the season strong," sophomore defensive end Brian Burns said.

"We had a lot of injuries and things we had to deal with, but we worked to become bowl eligible and now, we’re here. There’s no option besides coming out with a win. We have to dig down deep and get a win."

FSU began the season ranked No. 3 nationally, ready to make a leap toward the team’s first ACC title since 2014 behind a talented team that went 10-3 in 2016.

But an opening-week loss to No. 1 Alabama, marred by a season-ending injury to star quarterback Deondre Francois, made for one of the worst starts the Seminoles could have suffered.

It set the tone for a difficult year.

FSU suffered last-minute losses to Miami and Louisville and reached a boiling point after a blowout loss at Boston College but improved to finish 4-1 in the final five games before the bowl.

Fisher, the eighth-year head coach who replaced legend Bobby Bowden and led the Seminoles to the 2013 national championship, bolted for Texas A&M for a 10-year, $75 million deal while openly admonishing FSU and its administration’s commitment to the football program in the process.

It took five days for the Seminoles to land new coach Willie Taggart, the former USF and Oregon coach who immediately re-energized the program.

In the interim, longtime defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins has kept the team united and geared toward finishing the season at the 17th different bowl game in program history on a positive note.

"Coach Haggins has been like a father figure to us," said sophomore cornerback Levonta Taylor, who was recruited to play at FSU from Virginia by Haggins.

"He’s been a father figure to everyone on this team, just building the program back up. It’s been a rough season, but since he stepped in, everybody is head over heels and ready to go out there and fight for him."

Taggart and members of his new coaching staff, who have evaluated the Seminoles during their bowl game practices, are expected to watch the players in action during the bowl game.

While the players want to "put on a show" for Taggart, as junior running back Jacques Patrick said, redshirt junior offensive lineman Alec Eberle wants the current group of Seminoles to cherish their last game together.

"Any chance you get to go to a bowl game, it’s a huge opportunity," Eberle said. "A chance to come to this bowl game after the season we had, with all the ups and downs, the adversity we faced, it’s awesome. This team has another chance to play a game together. After this game, this team will never be the same."

Haggins wants the Seminoles to remain focused on beating the Golden Eagles, with an emphasis on putting the past behind them.

"We’ve moved forward and put the challenges behind us," Haggins said of FSU’s rocky season and its coaching turnover. "We’re having fun as a family, as a group and as a university. We’re moving forward."

Comments
Report: Florida Gators’ Cece Jefferson out four months after shoulder surgery

Report: Florida Gators’ Cece Jefferson out four months after shoulder surgery

Florida Gators defensive lineman Cece Jefferson will be out four months after having surgery on his right shoulder earlier this week, according to a report Wednesday evening from the Gainesville Sun.Jefferson, a 6-foot-1, 242-pound senior, injured th...
Published: 04/18/18
Florida has signed 15 quarterbacks since Tim Tebow. 10 have transferred

Florida has signed 15 quarterbacks since Tim Tebow. 10 have transferred

Tuesday evening's news that quarterback Jake Allen plans to transfer from the Florida Gators isn't a surprise.Allen, a former three-star recruit in 2017, was fourth on the depth chart. The St. Thomas Aquinas product didn't seem to fit new coach ...
Published: 04/18/18
Auden Tate will be the third FSU receiver drafted in 11 years. Why so few?

Auden Tate will be the third FSU receiver drafted in 11 years. Why so few?

When former Wharton High star Auden Tate hears his name called sometime next week, he'll join a surprisingly small group.Recent Florida State receivers drafted into the NFL.Over the past decade, only two Seminoles receivers have been drafted: Rashad ...
Published: 04/18/18
Police suspected FSU’s Deondre Francois intended to sell marijuana

Police suspected FSU’s Deondre Francois intended to sell marijuana

Tallahassee police suspected Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois possessed marijuana with the intent to sell it when they executed a search warrant on his home last week, according to an affidavit.The case — which culminated Thursda...
Published: 04/17/18
Florida State takes over No. 1 spot in 2019 recruiting rankings

Florida State takes over No. 1 spot in 2019 recruiting rankings

Even as Florida State was finishing its first recruiting class under Willie Taggart, the Seminoles were already talking about what they could do in the new staff's first full cycle, for 2019."I can only imagine having a year here to be able to recrui...
Published: 04/17/18
Former five-star back Khalan Laborn rejuvenated after FSU coaching change

Former five-star back Khalan Laborn rejuvenated after FSU coaching change

TALLAHASSEE – Florida State running back Khalan Laborn's breakout 140-yard output in Saturday night's spring game was a sign of what could be for the former blue-chip recruit.It was also a reminder of what almost wasn't for the Seminoles.With a...
Published: 04/16/18
New Orlando football team will welcome Steve Spurrier on Tuesday night

New Orlando football team will welcome Steve Spurrier on Tuesday night

Steve Spurrier will make one of his first appearances in his new role with the Alliance of American Football tomorrow in Orlando.The league will welcome Spurrier as the coach of its Orlando team at an event at Ember (42 W Central Blvd.) at an event f...
Published: 04/16/18
Five takeaways from Florida State’s spring football game

Five takeaways from Florida State’s spring football game

TALLAHASSEE – Judging by the crowd for Florida State's spring game on Saturday, Seminoles fans are excited about the dawn of the Willie Taggart era.The official attendance of 53,974 — a new record for a spring game — inclu...
Published: 04/14/18
Five takeaways from the Florida Gators’ spring game

Five takeaways from the Florida Gators’ spring game

GAINESVILLE —It took some time, but the offense scored points in bunches, much to the delight of the 53,015 in attendance at Florida's spring game.And the Gators had fun doing it, pulling out all the stops with gadgets and celebrations that bro...
Published: 04/14/18
FSU quarterback Deondre Francois faces marijuana complaint

FSU quarterback Deondre Francois faces marijuana complaint

Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois agreed to a pre-arrest diversion program after police found 17 grams of a cannabis/tobacco blend in his bedroom Thursday afternoon.The Tallahassee Police Department previously received a report of drug activ...
Published: 04/13/18