The first was losing star quarterback Deondre Francois to a season-ending leg injury. Then came the effects of Hurricane Irma and the separation it created. Two games were canceled and time to build chemistry was cut short. Players had to attend to their homes and families as football was not the priority during the event.
This team, considering the players that have departed to the NFL from the previous season, became even more unfamiliar when their crucial cog went down and complications came from the weather disaster. Already taking loses, two starting linemen, Baveon Johnson and Jauan Williams suffered season ending injuries as well.
Things weren’t looking too promising, and here comes a true freshman from Belle Glade, Florida to take the helm at quarterback.
At 6’5, 185 pounds, James Blackman does not have your typical sturdy frame. He is tall and skinny. The first thing you will probably say to yourself is “how is this guy going to withstand a hit?”. On the contrary, this kid has proven to be as tough as the critics. Having to take leadership of a team with a depleted offensive line, he has been sacked nine times in his first two games by opposing defenses that have elite caliber players. However Blackman, while struggling due to blocking. It is not a lack of skill; he has still been efficient.
Blackman has a rocket for an arm and can be very accurate in time of need. In their loss to NC State, which was Blackman’s first game, he threw for 278 yards and a touchdown while getting pummeled by the Wolfpack’s defensive line for four sacks. While the game was not won, the young quarterback gave the Seminoles coaching staff a promising look.
Sitting at 0-2, the Seminoles had to travel to Winston-Salem and face a more stringent defense. Given more time to work with the offense, Blackman hoped to create success through connecting with his teammates. Wake Forest was 4-0, having a possibility of becoming ranked with a win.
Led by Duke Ejiofor, the Demon Deacons’ defense came in looking championship strong and swarmed the young quarterback for five sacks. Blackman was under fire the whole game, but he and the team did not give in.
Florida State’s offense was not able to get anything going through the air and strictly beat the Deacons with the ground game.
After the game, Coach Jimbo Fisher recognized this. “We’ve gotta have balance. I don’t care. You gotta line up the run. Even if you’re not making a lot of yards, you still have to make people respect the run”.
It was a game plan executed to perfection. and after a persistent effort, the Seminoles tallied up 149 rushing yards against a highly regarded defensive front. Of those yards, 120 came from junior RB Jacques Patrick, who’s looking to be a formidable one-two punch with freshman Cam Akers, who totaled 58 yards (team had less total yardage due to negative rushes by Blackman). The belief and faith Fisher had in his team was a step forward in creating a turnaround for the season, and it was a much-needed win for the ‘Noles.
Blackman did indeed throw the game-winning touchdown. However, what led him to complete that amazing 40-yard toss to WR Auden Tate was the excellent field position the running game continued to put them in. Blackman only had 121 passing yards on 11 completions, but his game-winning throw shows for a chance at a high ceiling and a growing connection with the veteran receiver will be tremendous for them. The ending moments of this game might have been the kind of plays the team and the university needed to turn things around.
Now sitting at 1-2, Florida State has another tough matchup with ranked Florida neighbor, the Miami Hurricanes. Although the game is at their home field in Tallahassee, the Canes are surging up the rankings and are hopeful for an undefeated season.
Already having faced adversity and thriving, Jimbo states “You play your way in, you gotta play your way out. That was what we told them and we gotta do it again. We believed in ‘em. We’re gonna come right back. We’re gonna be aggressive, and we got it.”
The strong message from Coach Fisher may just be where the rallying begins. He says that it is very important to not underestimate the feeling of winning. The Seminoles notched their first victory since the Orange Bowl in Miami on Dec. 30, 2016, so they must be letting it sink in as much as possible. It would not be a surprise if they rode this moment out the rest of the way.