RALEIGH, N.C. – On another day, James Blackman’s outing at North Carolina State might have been enough to lead Florida State to a victory.
Whether it will be enough for Blackman to lead Florida State next week at Notre Dame remains to be seen.
Making his first start of the 2018 season in relief of the injured Deondre Francois, Blackman threw for a career-high 421 yards and four touchdowns in FSU’s 47-28 loss at NC State.
But coach Willie Taggart said after the game that Blackman started only because Deondre Francois hadn’t yet made enough progress in his recovery from an injury.
Asked if he’d consider a more permanent change, Taggart only said, “We’ll talk about that later on in the week.”
Still, if Taggart does have a decision to make, then Blackman no doubt made a compelling case for himself.
His numbers stand on their own, but, more than that, Blackman showed encouraging signs in a number of ways.
He made a variety of throws – including several beautiful deep balls – completed at least two passes to six different receivers and also effectively used his legs on occasion.
In fact, remove NC State’s sack totals (five for 35 yards), and Blackman tallied 14 yards on three official carries, including a six-yard gain to convert a third down. Not exactly Michael Vick, but still nearly five yards per attempt and enough to give opposing defenses something to think about.
WATCH: James Blackman post-game interview, Nov. 3
Then again, when defenses look at Blackman’s film, it will more than likely be those deep balls that catch their attention.
Blackman’s ability to make downfield throws was perhaps his biggest strength from a year ago, and, after taking a quarter or so to shake off some rust in Raleigh, he picked up right where he left off.
Back-to-back completions of 45 and 30 yards to Tamorrion Terry got the Seminoles on the board early in the second quarter, and Blackman finished off the scoring with 31-yard touchdown to D.J. Matthews late in the fourth.
Along the way, Blackman and the FSU passing game struck for gains of 37, 32, 26 and 20 yards.
“I was encouraged by the way James threw the ball,” Taggart said.
He wasn’t the only one.
“I love ‘J-Black’ at quarterback,” Terry said. “I love ‘Dre too, but (Blackman) is a great guy filling in, and he can get it done.”
“He made great throws under pressure,” junior defensive end Brian Burns added. “I always knew he had it in him. It was just time for him to show it.”
Were it only that simple.
Saturday marked Blackman’s first extended, significant action since the Independence Bowl last December, and it came in a stadium that despite its size (57,583) can be surprisingly loud and hostile toward visiting teams.
That’s a tough ask for most sophomore quarterbacks. But Matthews said that Blackman’s commitment to studying and preparing, even after Taggart tabbed Francois as his starter in August, ensured that he’d be ready if and when needed.
And Matthews ought to know – he and Blackman have been roommates since they arrived in Tallahassee together last year.
“The dude is just unbelievable,” Matthews said. “When he knew he wasn’t the starter, he supported, he helped, he did as much as he could for Deondre Francois.
“Always at his meetings early, always watching film. The guy is different. There’s not too many people in the world like him.”
While Blackman’s performance, along with the final score, had most fans and media looking toward the future, Blackman himself wasn’t particularly interested in discussing it.
As far as he’s concerned, nothing has changed. If he’s called on to start against Notre Dame, he’ll be ready. And if he’s back on the sideline, he’ll continue to lead and encourage as best he can.
“I’ve accepted my role once before,” Blackman said. “Just because I had this performance doesn’t mean anything. We still have to find a way to win games. That’s the biggest thing about it – winning games.
“All the other things don’t matter. The stats, they don’t matter. Who is playing doesn’t matter. As long as we’re winning games, we’ll be alright.”