The Daily Nole

Column: FSU Win Over Samford Feels Like Jacksonville State in 2009

FSU athletics

Florida State fans probably are running short on patience and fingernails after watching Saturday’s hard-fought contest between the Seminoles and Samford. FSU ultimately prevailed 36-26, thanks to a Deondre Francois touchdown pass to Tre’ McKitty with 4:03 to play and Levonta Taylor’s game-sealing 63-yard interception return for a touchdown.

As I noted in a piece last week, these short weeks after Labor Day have traditionally been tougher than anticipated for Florida State. As agonizing as last week’s contest with Samford was, one could argue that it was not nearly as bad as the 2009 contest against Jacksonville State.

Like 2018, FSU began the 2009 season with a home loss on Labor Day. In a heartbreaker against rival Miami, wide receiver Jarmon Fortson couldn’t haul in a pass in the end zone on the final play of the game in a 38-34 defeat.

The very next week, FSU found itself down 9-7 to Jacksonville State in the game’s final minute. Running back Ty Jones scored the game-winning touchdown from a yard out with 35 seconds left. Like Taylor did last week against Samford, FSU was able to pad the final score with a defensive touchdown in 2009 as defensive end Kevin McNeil returned a Ryan Perrilloux fumble 33 yards for a score in a 19-9 victory.

On a side note, the 2009 season was my first out of college and I took my now wife to this game, thinking it would be a stress-free, easy victory. I didn’t do work as an FSU writer, so I could be just a fan, less analytic and objective and more boisterous in my viewing. During a play in the second half, Perilloux threw a pass into the ground while being pressured well behind the line of scrimmage.

After no flag came, I threw my cap about 15 rows, freaking my now wife out. On my way to retrieve my cap and apologize to the fans below, they threw the flag. It was like I won the argument. She also still agreed to marry me.

The concerns for FSU fans at the time were about the same as they are now. The following week, Florida State made the long trip to Provo, Utah and topped No. 7 BYU, 54-28.

Although Syracuse isn’t anything close to a top-10 team, the Seminoles are again making a long trip with doubters internally. For FSU to achieve anything close to the optimistic expectations heading into 2018, it will probably need to leave the Carrier Dome with a victory.

The agonizingly close victory against an FCS team followed by a long trip the following week is about where the parallels stop between 2009 and 2018 — at least for the time being. The 2009 campaign would end for FSU with a 7-6 record and the forcing out of legendary head coach Bobby Bowden. The Seminoles had to win four of their final six games in 2009 to become bowl-eligible and five of its final seven to avoid their first losing season in 33 years.

While 2009 brought about the end of something special, fans hope 2018 is the beginning of such with head coach Willie Taggart at the helm. The early parts of his tenure have not brought the results that many had hoped, but new beginnings do require growing pains.

Under the now legendary Nick Saban, Alabama finished just 7-6 in his first year on the job of 2007 with a home loss to Louisiana-Monroe and a neutral-field loss to an FSU team that finished 7-6. Georgia’s Kirby Smart lost to Vanderbilt at home and narrowly escaped Nicholls, 26-24, in 2015. Brian Kelly began his Notre Dame tenure in 2010 with a record of 4-5 and losses to Navy and Tulsa.

Only time will tell whether Taggart ever appears in the national championship game as each of the three coaches mentioned above have. What does seem certain is that we’ll find out a lot more about his FSU football team this week against the Orange.

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

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