We here at Fifth Quarter are very much in favor of Coach Taggart and what he’s trying to do with the football team we all love so much. On Saturday, though, the Taggart train seems to have derailed. The score line doesn’t bother me – it’s not that much further out of line than our prediction; however, there are things that should have changed by this point. We should be improving. By this point, the lack of discipline practiced by the previous coach should be nearly stomped out. The sheer number of penalties, especially on special teams, is inexcusable. The attitudes of some players are also inexcusable, and we’ll have to see who has lost playing time due to their actions on the field Saturday.
While we’re very disappointed in our team, and in a few players specifically, we look forward to our team growing up a bit from Saturday. All in all, this is still a young team, and will go through growing pains. There are remedies here, but the medicine is bitter, and there is no spoonful of sugar to aid it.
Kickoffs have been a major problem this season. Along with not taking full advantage of the rules changes, FSU has far too often decided to risk good field position for the chance of a long return. Some of this is coaching, but some, as seen here, is plain bull-headedness. The return man here completely ran through the stop sign coming out of the end zone.
In addition to the bad decisions on fair catching or running, this play also showcased another problem – penalties. There was a block in the back, which brought us half the distance to the goal. Starting the game in the shadow of your own goalposts against a truly elite defense isn’t going to do wonders for your offense. There are far too many penalties on kick returns, punts and kickoffs alike. This is just example #1 of many here of not being mentally ready.
On our second drive, we had momentum. We were about to cross midfield, and the worst-case scenario was a flip of field position. But as we’ve seen all year, at the most inopportune moments, Alec Eberle tries to see how far back he can snap the ball. The man has been our center for what feels like eternity. How is it that a Redshirt Senior is not able to snap consistently?
Even though the defense held on the next drive, it felt like Tom Brady had deflated the ‘Noles’ footballs from that point on. The mistake you see here is something you see on Friday nights, not in FBS College Football.
This is something that CAN NEVER happen. Letting another player get a rise out of you and losing your cool is a sign of mental weakness. The adversity of the fumble, and then adding 15 yards on top of it for Cam, is disappointing. He let a bad situation get the best of him.
While I’m disappointed in Cam, I’m just fed up with Nyquan Murray. The Senior Wide Receiver has had some marvelous moments, but more often than not, he has been a true liability to have on the field. When the ball is not thrown his way, he is content to give up on the play and not go above and beyond for his teammates. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt coming into this season with a new coach and a new chance, but he has not shown the growth that I’d hoped for. While he is suspended for the first half of the NC State game, I believe the ‘Noles would be wise to let the capable underclassmen take his spot on the field.
At this point, I knew Clemson was in our heads, and won the mental game. They had been jawing at us and getting in our faces all game long. You have to be the tougher player, and more importantly, the bigger man. Undisciplined penalties like this have no place on our team. I respect Cam Akers, and he is a great person, but he was shown to be vulnerable here.
Undisciplined on Special Teams…
You can see at the bottom of the clip where we roughed the kicker. It was definitely roughing, as the kicker was bowled over and had to come out of the game due to injury. Asante Samuel, a future superstar for this defense, simply made a boneheaded mistake. I understand the effort, the drive, to block a kick and keep the Tigers off the board, but you had won the battle already. Give up the three points, and live to fight another day. Giving second chances to any team is dangerous, but giving them to an elite team is deadly.
More special teams mistakes….
I know DJ wants to make plays, and be the electric playmaker of the team. I absolutely love that he wants to be that spark. But you’ve got to pick your battles. This should’ve been a simple fair catch. It was premeditated stupidity on his part to catch it on the bounce and try to return it. It wasn’t the first time that day, or this season, that he’s done this. The reality of the matter is that you play with an oblong ball – it bounces weird. You either catch it on the fly, or you let it go.
FSU was too far over their head against this elite Clemson team – but it wasn’t 49 points’ worth. A cleanly-played game would have made the outcome more palatable. As Warchant’s Corey Clark said, “Clemson didn’t turn the ball over. Clemson didn’t rough kickers. Clemson didn’t commit a gazillion penalties.”
Being undisciplined leads to unnecessary losses against okay teams and blowouts against great teams. As we’ve said time and again, this is a young team. There are growing pains. But these must be remedied quickly, as the game against NC State looms large for the young ‘Noles’ shot at a bowl game.