WATCH: Blackman leads Gold to victory
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The first sign that things might be a little different came on a play that looked plenty familiar.
Early in Saturday’s Garnet and Gold Spring Game, Gold quarterback James Blackman took a shotgun snap, faked a handoff and threw a deep ball down the right sideline.
Tamorrion Terry, one-on-one with a cornerback, beat his defender, caught the ball in stride and easily made his way to the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown – the first score in the Gold’s 27-21 victory over the Garnet here at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The record books will show a win for the Gold, but, more than that, the spring game counts as an emphatic victory for coach Willie Taggart’s “Gulf Coast” offense.
All told, the two sides combined for 923 total yards, six touchdowns and 17 passes of 15 or more yards.
And they did it all in a hurry. With new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles running the show in Tallahassee for the first time, the Garnet and Gold moved at a blistering pace, combining for 96 plays in the first half alone.
“The tempo caught me off-guard today,” said receiver D.J. Matthews, who had a game-high 10 catches and 122 receiving yards. “The first quarter, we were going fast. As fast as we’ve ever went.”
By the time it was over, the Seminoles had accomplished perhaps their No. 1 goal of the spring: Giving themselves – and their fans – some positive momentum to take into the summer.
Florida State’s season-opener against Boise State on August 31 is just 146 days away.
“Really excited about where our football team is right now,” Taggart said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but, where we’re at right now, I’m really excited where we’re at, where we’re going.”
More often than not, both offenses on Saturday were going down the field.
Blackman threw for 415 yards and three touchdowns, and newcomer Jordan Travis, who took most of the Garnet team’s snaps, threw for 241 yards.
And both quarterbacks made sure to get their teammates involved.
A lot of teammates.
Eight different Gold receivers caught at least one pass – sophomore Keyshawn Helton led the way with 157 yards on eight receptions – and seven players caught a ball for the Garnet.
And while neither team’s rushing output reached the same gaudy heights as their passing games, plenty of players got involved (six total ball-carriers), and the heavy hitters made their mark.
Junior running back Cam Akers scored twice, from five and 11 yards out, and redshirt sophomore Khalan Laborn totaled 55 yards on 12 carries in his unofficial return from mid-season knee surgery.
“Just to be able to get back in here and compete in front of our fans and give them what they want, that’s what you look forward to doing,” Akers said.
And, as a result, those fans might just have something to look forward to.
It’s only natural that much of FSU’s post-game media session centered around last year – how much progress the offense has made since last year, and how much better the team feels now as compared to this time last year.
The obvious answer to both of those questions is: “A lot.”
But, nearly a to a man, the Seminoles said afterward that they got to this point by not thinking too much about last year.
They all know what happened, and how difficult it was at times to move the ball.
They also know that wallowing in it won’t change the results, nor will it serve them any good in moving forward.
“We put the past in the past,” Matthews said.
And, after getting to know their revamped offensive staff, the Seminoles had an easy time looking to the future.
Terry said that Briles, the former play-caller at Baylor, Florida Atlantic and Houston, has brought a “swagger” to Florida State’s offense.
Center Baveon Johnson said that new offensive line coach Randy Clements is “what we need.”
And Matthews said he’s seen the receivers make big strides under new position coach Ron Dugans.
When all those pieces come together – and they’ve still got nearly five months to fine-tune – the Seminoles expect things to look a lot like they did on Saturday.
Asked about how much the offense has improved this spring, Blackman smiled and answered, “How much do you think?”
A few feet to his left, Terry had a similar reaction when asked a similar question:
“This offense? This offense right here?”
He then trailed off, looked down and started laughing to himself.
“We’re fixing to do something with this offense,” Terry continued. “I trust Coach Briles. He knows what he’s doing. It’s a fast tempo. A real fast tempo.
“We’re just going to go out there and it prove it to everybody that’s doubting us.”