Florida State lost its opener Saturday for a third straight season.
Seeking to rebound from their first losing season since 1976, the Seminoles instead lost a game they had led by at least 18 points for just the second time out of the last 82.
Both of those losses have happened under Coach Willie Taggart, who now appears headed to the top of every list of college coaches on the hot seat.
“Tough loss,” said Taggart, whose record at Florida State dropped to 5-8 -- remember, this is the program that lost eight games over the final seven seasons of the 1990s. “We let one get away as a team. I think everybody played a part in mistakes that we made in that ball game. But I will say one game will not define this football team. We lost to a good football team. Credit Boise for their grit.”
Reaction from local and national media was swift and predictably unpleasant following the collapse against a Group of Five opponent one season after the Seminoles lost badly to Virginia Tech, 24-3, in Taggart’s debut in Tallahassee.
“The Seminoles athletic department is alarmingly in debt, season–ticket sales are abysmally low and booster support is rapidly waning,” Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi wrote. “A victory on Saturday was imperative to stop the bleeding, but instead the bleeding will likely turn into hemorrhaging.”
One Florida State message board even went so far as to suggest replacing Taggart with Urban Meyer, the former head coach of archrival Florida.
The vitriol continued on Reddit, where posters vented their frustration in a postgame thread with more than 2,400 comments.
“Honestly, I’m pretty impressed by Willie Taggart’s ability to rise up and convince AD’s to pay him insane money despite no track record of winning,” wrote one poster.
The scrutiny becomes that much more magnified considering Taggart’s hiring of Kendal Briles in December as offensive coordinator. Briles is the son of former Baylor coach Art Briles, who was fired following a sexual assault scandal.
Kendal Briles served on his father’s staff at Baylor but was not directly implicated. He did receive an NCAA sanction for recruiting violations and was suspended for one game for recruiting violations. He was also named in a Title IX lawsuit filed against Baylor in which it was alleged he told potential recruits that female students were more available to football players.
Taggart added Briles to the staff in December after Florida State bought out the remainder of his contract at Houston, his alma mater, at a cost of $900,000. Briles became the first assistant at Florida State to be paid $1 million annually, according to reports. He is under contract with the Seminoles through February 2022.
Sophomore quarterback James Blackman completed 23 of 33 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns in Briles’s debut Saturday, but the Seminoles managed just 68 yards in the second half.
“It is not going to linger,” Blackman said. “We are different, for sure different. We are going to hit the ground running tomorrow morning because we are not trying to feel this feeling again.”
The Broncos’ 36-31 victory included 621 total yards of offense and 407 passing yards from freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier, making the first start of his career.
Boise State also owned more than a two-to-one advantage in time of possession in a game that originally was to be played Saturday night in Jacksonville but was moved because of concerns over Hurricane Dorian’s impact.
Instead, the Seminoles got a home opener in front of an announced crowd of 50,917.
Boise State went ahead to stay, 33-31, on tailback Robert Mahone’s one-yard run with 12:44 left in the fourth quarter and added the final points on place kicker Eric Sachse’s 30-yard field goal five minutes later.
The go-ahead touchdown came after Florida State failed to recover a fumble with the Broncos having driven deep into the red zone.
“We laid an egg in the second half,” Taggart said. “Things that we need to get better was finishing. We didn’t do that today. We’ve got to get back and look at what we did wrong and correct those things. Our football team has got to learn how to finish. Our football team has got to learn how to win again.”