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Mike Norvell can salvage FSU where his predecessor failed

Willie Taggart’s tenure unraveled at Wake Forest. Can Norvell begin his turnaround there?
FSU football coach Mike Norvell will try to rally the Seminoles at Wake Forest this weekend.
FSU football coach Mike Norvell will try to rally the Seminoles at Wake Forest this weekend. [ WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Orlando Sentinel ]
Published Sep. 16

If Mike Norvell is going to salvage his Florida State tenure, he can start this week in a fitting location: the site of his predecessor’s point-of-no-return.

Willie Taggart’s seat began to scorch after his Wake Forest debacle in 2019. Losing 22-20 on the road to a middling ACC opponent was bad enough. But the real problem was how it unfolded.

Related: How is Mike Norvell’s FSU tenure different than Willie Taggart’s?

The Seminoles were indecisive about a fourth and 6 call — go for it or kick a field goal? — in the closing minutes. With the play clock ticking down, Taggart called a timeout. That choice effectively iced his kicker on a rainy night before attempting a go-ahead 50-yard field goal.

When the field goal went wide left, Taggart’s history of suspect game management came under intense scrutiny. Two weeks later, he was out.

Wake Forest was the beginning of the end for Willie Taggart's FSU career.
Wake Forest was the beginning of the end for Willie Taggart's FSU career. [ NELL REDMOND | AP (2019) ]

Norvell avoided those types of easy-to-first-guess issues in Year 1 but hasn’t in Year 2. He iced his own kicker, too, against Notre Dame (though he did so to challenge a call that moved the field goal distance up), and FSU’s decision not to play a prevent defense on the final play against Jacksonville State proved fatal.

All of that makes Saturday’s game at Wake Forest the biggest game of the Norvell era. It will be our first sign of whether Norvell’s ‘Noles respond to the worst loss in program history by rallying or crumbling. It also gives Norvell the chance to show some sort of on-field progress at the site of his predecessor’s biggest mistake.

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