TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There’s a little bit of intrigue surrounding the quarterbacks at both Florida State and Wake Forest leading into the two teams’ game on Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C. (7:30 p.m., ACC Network)
Seminoles coach Willie Taggart said, “We’ll see Saturday,” when asked Thursday about his plans for James Blackman and Alex Hornibrook.
Wake Forest, meanwhile, is still determining the status of starter Jamie Newman, who injured his left, non-throwing shoulder in last week’s loss to Louisville.
Wake coach Dave Clawson told reporters that Newman is “day-to-day,” and that his availability wouldn’t be determined until closer to game time.
Then, in keeping with the theme of secrecy, he said, “And we won’t share that when we know it.”
The Seminoles have recently used Blackman and Hornibrook in a planned rotation, with Blackman starting and Hornibrook taking over on FSU’s third series in each of the last two games in which both were available.
That strategy worked well in the Seminoles’ win over Louisville, but neither quarterback found much traction last week at No. 2 Clemson.
Taggart has maintained for months that both Blackman and Hornibrook are capable of doing what’s asked of them, and reiterated Thursday that the Seminoles’ offensive game plan really isn’t dependent on who lines up behind the center.
“Nope,” he said. “Not at all.”
Same goes for the Seminoles’ defensive approach against the Demon Deacons.
Newman, a redshirt junior, is one of the ACC’s most productive quarterbacks. He leads the league in passing yardage (1,772) and touchdowns (17), has the second-highest completion percentage (67.5) and has only thrown five interceptions
He’s also a dangerous runner, having accounted for 275 yards and three scores on the ground. But it was a running play that put Newman into his present predicament: He injured his shoulder while running on a goal-to-go play against Louisville last week.
If Newman can’t go, Sam Hartman will step in. Hartman filled in admirably against the Cardinals, completing nine of 15 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
“We don’t need to push (Newman) in there because we have Sam Hartman,” Clawson said. “… I said at the beginning of the year we have two quarterbacks we can win with. And certainly, if you saw, I thought Sam played incredible. He did not miss a beat.”
Taggart said the Seminoles are preparing as if either quarterback will play, and said that the Deacons’ offense is essentially the same regardless of who is taking snaps.
“The offense is still the same,” he said. “It doesn’t affect us. They’re both pretty good.”
Strong start necessary on the road: The Seminoles on Saturday will look to clear another hurdle when they play away from home for the third time this season. FSU is 0-2 on the road in 2019, was 1-4 a year ago and are 4-8 away from Doak Campbell Stadium since the start of the 2017 season.
FSU put forth a solid effort at No. 25 Virginia last month but couldn’t recover after an early onslaught from the No. 2 Tigers last week.
“It’s important from a confidence standpoint,” Taggart said, “And then, just momentum on the road, to get going.”
FSU’s visit to Wake Forest is the second of FSU’s only back-to-back road swing of the season. But the Seminoles still have games at Boston College and No. 9 Florida in the weeks ahead.
The keys to winning on the road aren’t so different than winning at home. The Seminoles need to play sharp, execute and take care of the ball.
But those keys become much more magnified in an unfamiliar environment and an unfriendly atmosphere.
“You’re not in your comfort zone,” Taggart said. “You’re on the road and it’s a little different than what it is at home. You’ve got to be totally focused on what’s going on, from every aspect.
“Then just looking out for each other. (Players) pushing their teammates and going out and playing good football. You can’t turn the ball over and then you got to make some plays.”
Fagan out, Taylor back: Florida State is swapping one injured safety for another. Senior Levonta Taylor, who sat out last week’s game with a knee injury, is set to return on Saturday. Which is good news, because Cyrus Fagan, the junior safety who started in Taylor’s absence, will likely miss this week’s game after suffering an apparent injury at Clemson.
“Cyrus, probably not; Levonta, yes,” Taggart said.
The Seminoles did get some good news up front, though, as both left tackle Jauan Williams and guard Cole Minshew came through last week’s action unscathed and are part of FSU’s plans at Wake.
Both linemen returned to limited duty at Clemson after extended absences due to injuries.
“They had a good week of practice,” Taggart said. “Those guys have been out for a while, so just getting back into football shape is important. They had a good week of practice. They’ll play Saturday.”