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Florida State football, the once-proud program that won a National Championship less than a decade ago (!!!), fell to 0-4 Saturday after a humiliating home loss to Louisville.
Any goodwill the Seminoles banked from a feisty opening weekend against Notre Dame has evaporated, and the miserable start, the worst since 1976, has head coach Mike Norvell speaking in cliches.
“The things we control is how we show up every day and the work we’re willing to invest,” Norvell said. “This team is working for our identity in what we’re trying to do, and what we’re trying to accomplish. The team came to work last week. Thought they practiced hard. Things that are still showing up, in the first half especially, are just in the moment. Lack of translation to the field. Then in the second half, for whatever reason, we did. Still, missed opportunities. Had a couple dropped passes, a couple reads we’ve got to be better on … but at the end of the day, this team, they want to improve.”
Okay, sure. But this is still a program with top national talent; a program that should be able to win a couple dirty ones based on that talent alone. And yet, they’re on pace for the worst season in FSU history.
Norvell’s best possible defense at the moment is a mix of dumpster fire culture left over from former coach Willie Taggart, and the COVID pandemic, which derailed many programs last season (Norvell’s first in Tallahassee). Administrators at Florida State will surely cling to those excuses as nightmares of Norvell’s absurd $16 million buyout float through their heads at night.
On the field, the problems start at the offensive line, but bleed into the receivers failing to separate, the defense tackling poorly, and ultimately, the play-calling. For instance, Norvell called QB McKenzie Milton’s number on a few designed run plays Saturday, but Milton is clearly uncomfortable as a runner after a nasty leg injury in his past. What’s worse is that FSU has a dynamic duel-threat QB option on the bench in Jordan Travis, so why not sub him in for a few plays? The decision shows no forethought from the coaching staff, or willingness to try new things to create a spark on offense.
The hits just keep coming for Florida State, who can’t even fill their home stadium anymore despite playing at one of the biggest party schools in America—which, again, won a National Championship just seven years ago. Next week, Florida State hosts a Syracuse team coming off of a feel-good win against Liberty. After that, games against North Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina State, Boston College and Florida await. The only “easy” win left is 0-4 UMass on Oct 23 in Tallahassee, a game which will rival this weekend’s Vandy-UCONN game for Toilet Bowl Game of the Year.
Norvell may ultimately surprise us all and rebuild the Seminoles to prominence, but he’s way behind schedule, especially considering how well other Year 2 coaches are faring in 2021 (Pittman, Kiffin, Aranda, Hafley, etc.). Buckle up State fans; you may get free shoes for playing in Florida, but you have to earn the wins, and it doesn’t seem like Norvell could buy one right now even if he tried.