TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Willie Taggart flashed what might have been his widest grin in a month.
Odell Haggins urged the crowd to keep cheering, well after the clock hit zero.
And the Seminoles, gathered in front of the Marching Chiefs in the south end zone at Doak Campbell Stadium, sang the FSU Fight Song at the top of their lungs.
Coach Taggart celebrates his first statement win as head coach of the Noles. pic.twitter.com/sSMekoFgMA
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A win is always worth savoring, especially when it’s the first in four weeks. And even more so when it helps preserve a 36-year bowl streak for at least one more week.
Florida State beat No. 22 Boston College, 22-21, at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday, emphatically snapping a three-game slide and creating some welcome good vibes heading into next week’s regular season finale against Florida.
“Coach Taggart was dancing,” FSU kicker Ricky Aguayo said with a smile. “All the coaches were dancing. I was dancing. It was fun.”
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) November 18, 2018
It had been a while since the Seminoles could say they had this kind of fun.
A series of laboring losses, first to Clemson, then at North Carolina State and Notre Dame, had cast a pall over the program and its fan base, and after last week’s lopsided defeat in South Bend, the Seminoles seemed destined for their first bowl-less season since 1981 and their first sub-.500 campaign since 1976.
The job isn’t yet done – the Seminoles still have to win against Florida to even their record and secure a bowl bid. But that wouldn’t have mattered had they not first beat Boston College.
“This one was everything to us,” sophomore defensive back Stanford Samuels III said. “You could see the whole game, everyone was flying around. We haven’t had many games like that.”
Which might be the most encouraging part of what happened on Saturday afternoon.
Because, throughout all his team’s recent trials, Taggart was steady in his insistence that the Seminoles were a resilient bunch.
That they practiced hard and hadn’t given up.
And that, despite their record, they were doing all the things away from the field that led to victory on it.
“We needed it the most, in the worst way, this game,” Taggart said.
It took more than 57 minutes. But, against Boston College, they finally broke through.
“It was very important for us to believe,” Aguayo said. “One thing (special teams coach Alonzo) Hampton says, before we get on the bus is, ‘Do you believe?’
“And all the team says, ‘We believe,’ three times. And I feel like our team really did believe. We meant what we said, and all of our habits in practice just paid off today. It just feels so good.”
For the Seminoles, it felt good to see Francois bounce back from an uneven first half (12 of 26, two interceptions) to throw for 165 yards and the fateful touchdown in the second.
It felt good to see Cam Akers, bottled up for much of the year, break free for a 55-yard gain in the fourth quarter and top 100 yards for the first time this season.
It felt good to see the defense, told all week of Boston College’s physical style, respond with a punishing effort of its own.
And it felt good to see the Seminoles’ special teams provide three field goals after their first attempt of the day was blocked.
“Man, it felt real good,” linebacker Dontavious Jackson said. “Our fans deserved it. We’re better than we’ve put on the field. Our coaches deserved to win. I feel like we’ve been underplaying. So I’m just happy, just happy for everybody. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
With this win secured, the Seminoles all of a sudden have a chance to totally change the complexion of their season.
Consider that with less than three minutes to play, Boston College had a five-point lead, possession of the ball and a chance to convert a third down that might have sealed the game.
Instead, BC punted, FSU escaped with a victory and, with one week to go, has some significant goals within reach.
The Seminoles can maintain their dominance over rival Florida – they’ve won five straight and six of seven over UF – they can reach a bowl for the 37th consecutive season and they can secure an NCAA-record 42nd straight winning campaign.
If they do all of those things, it would mean finishing Taggart’s first season with a three-game winning streak that includes at least two victories over ranked opponents (and potentially a third in a bowl) while sending Taggart and his staff onto the recruiting trail with a wave of momentum.
That’s an awfully far cry from where things stood as recently as last week at Notre Dame.
But for a team that Taggart insisted was more resilient than outside observers might realize, things might have changed in a hurry.
“You probably heard me say a lot that we’re close,” Taggart said. “And it’s good that our guys kept believing and found a way.”
“Now,” Jackson added, “we know we can do it.”