Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Florida State Seminoles

History shows why Florida State’s Willie Taggart wanted to celebrate the ULM win

Some coaches are upset after ugly wins. Taggart wasn’t that way at USF.
Florida State coach Willie Taggart, center, confers with officials concerning a call in the fourth quarter against Louisiana-Monroe. [STEVE CANNON | AP]
Published Sep. 10
Updated Sep. 10

Florida State coach Willie Taggart’s opening statement after Saturday’s 45-44 overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe included coaching cliché that didn’t sit well with some of his fan base.

“It wasn't pretty, but our guys did find a way to get that W,” Taggart said. “And we're going to celebrate that win for 24 hours, and get back to work and get ready for Virginia next week on the road, conference game.”

Celebrate? What, exactly, was there to celebrate about squandering a three-touchdown lead and needing a missed extra point to beat a Group of Five team with one winning season this century?

RELATED: The last Florida State-Louisiana Monroe game was bad. This was worse

What was especially interesting to me is how it differed from other brutal wins I’ve covered with other coaches.

Jim McElwain went off on his Gators after they needed a second-half rally to beat East Carolina by seven Game 2 of his tenure. McElwain blasted his team for its penalties and lack of discipline (sound familiar, FSU fans?), among other things and said the game was embarrassing not only to the program but to the administration and university.

RELATED: Jim McElwain goes off on Florida Gators: ‘That was embarrassing’

“Look, the idea is to go ahead and win the game, right?” McElwain said. “We won the game. But that’s not acceptable. It’s not acceptable. And you guys should be embarrassed having to write about it.”

I wasn’t, by the way. My game story turned out pretty well.

USF coach Charlie Strong looks on after East Carolina scores in a game last season. [JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times]

Charlie Strong was nowhere near as harsh as McElwain last year when USF needed a late touchdown run from Jordan Cronkrite to top East Carolina, but he wasn’t thrilled, either. He admitted that his offense struggled, suggested his team wasn’t fully focused and blamed himself and his coaching staff for not having his players prepared.

On the same night of Taggart’s news conference, UF coach Dan Mullen was so upset with his offensive line that he said a four-letter word I can’t write here during his halftime radio interview. His Gators were leading Tennessee-Martin 17-0.

Taggart wasn’t all positive Saturday, and he had some serious critiques in his weekly news conference Monday, too. But why such optimism in the immediate aftermath of the ULM win?

My theory: History shows that’s just who he is, especially when he’s trying to build (or rebuild) a program that has handled adversity poorly.

Go back to 2013 and his first win at USF. Taggart’s offense failed to score a touchdown in a 26-20 victory over Cincinnati. Taggart began his news conference with a song:

“‘It’s been a long time coming, but I know change will come,’” Taggart sang.

“Sure enough it came.”

In this file photo, coach Willie Taggart and USF celebrate a 2013 win over Cincinnati. [JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times]

Later, Taggart added: “Everybody's been down and out around here and the bus had the hazard lights on. Now the bus is moving a little bit now. That's great to see."

The next week, Taggart’s Bulls struggled at winless UConn and gave up 162 first-half rushing yards to the worst ground game in the nation. USF didn’t score an offensive touchdown that game, either, but still claimed a 13-10 win.

"Who would’ve thought when we were 0-4 we’d turn it around?’’ Taggart said. "I know some people didn’t think we could win a game (all season). Our guys stayed together and they’re playing for each other. It’s great to see.’’

Those were the only two games Taggart won that season.

RELATED: Another reason why Florida State’s Willie Taggart isn’t on the hot seat: Money

The next year, Taggart’s team fell behind by 20 at Tulsa (which finished 2-10) before rallying for a 38-30 triumph. Taggart responded with more praise.

“I tell you what, it’s big-time for our guys…” Taggart said afterward. “Those guys believed the entire game, even when we were down there was always talk about the miracle of believing. Those guys played the entire game like we wanted them to for the entire year. I think we all, not just coaches and players, but the entire Bulls Nation should be proud of this football team and what these guys are doing. We’ve got to keep it going.

“The entire Bulls Nation, just believe in this football team. We’re going to get it right, we’re all going to be happy and we’re all going to make it the way it’s supposed to be.”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Florida State head coach Willie Taggart leaves after the loss to on Nov. 2 in Tallahassee. Florida fired Taggart the next day. PHIL SEARS  |  AP
    The lesson from the Willie Taggart debacle isn’t to avoid golden parachutes. It’s to learn how to make the exits happen.
  2. Florida State Seminoles running back Cam Akers (3) runs the ball down the field in the second quarter against the Florida Gators at Doak Campbell Stadium at Florida State University in Tallahassee on Saturday, November 24, 2018. BRONTE WITTPENN  | TIMES  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES
    How healthy will Cam Akers be? What about Jabari Zuniga?
  3. Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins celebrates his team's 49-12 victory over Alabama State in Tallahassee. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    It was hard to ignore the love for the Seminoles’ interim coach after Saturday’s win.
  4. Florida State defensive back Hamsah Nasirildeen tackles Alabama State wide receiver Tyrek Allen in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee. Florida State defeated Alabama State 49-12. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    The Seminoles rout the Hornets on senior day.
  5. Former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops stands on the field watching the celebration after Oklahoma's win in the Big 12 Conference championship NCAA college football game against TCU on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) TONY GUTIERREZ  |  AP
    Mike Norvell and Matt Campbell are among the names you’ll keep hearing in connection with the Seminoles’ search.
  6. Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins is doused after his team beat Boston College last weekend on the road. BILL SIKES  |  AP
    Plus some growth at USF and some stunning, scary stats on Florida’s opponent, Missouri.
  7. A Florida Gator fans yells during the first half of the Nov. 2 game against Georgia in Jacksonville. The Gators travel to Columbia, Mo. for a noon Saturday game against Missouri. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Here are our picks for this week’s top college football games, including Florida-Missouri, USF-Cincinnati and Florida State-Alabama State.
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon III Hargreaves kneels in the end zone after the Seattle Seahawks defeated his team in overtime in an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer) JOHN FROSCHAUER  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: It’s a mailbag episode, with answers on Jameis Winston’s future, Lavonte David’s season, Mike Evans’ plight, Kevin Cash’s third-place finish and Charlie Strong’s job...
  9. Florida State head coach Willie Taggart, right, disagrees with the referee in the first half of his final game with the Seminoles, Nov. 2 against Miami in Tallahassee. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    There are reasons to think quick hooks and mid-season dismissals are the new norm.
  10. Miami quarterback Jarren Williams (15) scrambles as he is rushed by Louisville linebacker Dorian Etheridge (17) during the second half in Miami Gardens. Williams set a school record with six touchdown passes as Miami defeated Louisville 52-27. WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    The Hurricanes quarterback has a field day in a 52-27 win over Louisville.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement