The Daily Nole

Rivalry Contest Could be a Defining Moment for FSU’s Blackman athletics

You can throw the records out when Florida and Florida State meet on the gridiron. In a season like 2017, both programs would actually like to see the records thrown out as both come in at 4-6.

For one Florida State player however, Saturday’s contest in Gainesville has a chance to be a defining moment. That player is true freshman quarterback James Blackman.

The rivalry between the two schools from the Sunshine State has a way of making heroes and goats. Players like Rock Preston and P.K. Sam had stellar Florida State careers, but will always be remembered for their late scores against Florida.

Preston scored the game-tying touchdown in 1994 in a contest dubbed “The Choke at Doak” as the Seminoles rallied from 28 points down in the fourth quarter to tie the contest, 31-31. Sam reeled in the game-winning touchdown from Chris Rix with under a minute to play in a 38-34 victory in Gainesville in 2003.

Other lesser-accomplished players like quarterback Marcus Outzen and tight end Jeremy Kerr will forever be known by performances against the Gators. Outzen led FSU past Florida 23-12 in 1998 in what was just his second career start for the injured Chris Weinke. Kerr’s only career catch was a 1-yard scoring grab on 4th-and-goal for the game’s first touchdown in a 27-2 victory in 2015.

While Saturday gives an opportunity for a defining moment for any player on either, all signs for FSU point to Blackman. The Belle Glade native is the first true freshman to start under center for Florida State in 32 years and Florida will likely do all it can to force the youngster to win the game with his arm.

It’s been an up-and-down campaign for Blackman, who would have likely received a redshirt had starter Deondre Francois not gone down with a season-ending injury in Week 1. Blackman has shown a big arm and teammates have raved about his demeanor and leadership ability, but not surprisingly, the consistency hasn’t been there.

Blackman has been noticeably vocal and upbeat for most of the season, but there were questions about his confidence after committing crucial fourth quarter turnovers in losses to Louisville and Clemson. Although it was against lowly Delaware State, Blackman is coming off arguably the best performance of his young career in which he went 11-for-15 passing for 179 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, which should serve as a confidence booster heading into Gainesville.

With a victory, Blackman would become the fourth straight FSU quarterback to beat Florida in his first try. A win would give FSU a school-record five straight victories over the Gators, keep Florida State in line for a 36th straight bowl appearance and potentially give the team positive momentum heading into 2018.

It might also send a strong message that Blackman is a realistic candidate to be FSU’s starting quarterback again next season. Not getting the job done would cement the worst season for the Seminoles since prior to the legendary Bobby Bowden taking over as head coach in 1976.

Either way, the freshman will have a lot of weight on his shoulders Saturday.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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