Revisiting FSU''s first losing season since 1976
After starting the 2018 college football season ranked in the top 20, the campaign turned out to be one to forget for Florida State. The Seminoles finished just 5-7 — all while watching streaks of 41 straight winning seasons, 36 bowl appearances and five straight wins over Florida come to an end.
Under new head coach Willie Taggart, the Seminoles were nothing short of a disaster in 2018. Six of the seven losses for FSU came by at least 19 points. The exception was a 28-27 loss at Miami in which FSU blew a 20-point second-half lead — the largest in program history.
On the bright side, Florida State did wrap up ACC play with a thrilling win over a then-No. 20 Boston College for its first win versus a ranked opponent in two years. The Seminoles also received contributions from a number of younger players, providing some hope for the future of the program.
Offensive MVP: Tamorrion Terry, WR
A 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman, Terry was the top offensive threat for the Seminoles. Terry finished the season tied for the team with 744 receiving yards (Nyqwan Murray). Terry also led the ACC with a 21.3 yards per catch average and tied for second with eight touchdown receptions in the regular season.
Defensive MVP: Brian Burns, DE
Over the final half of the season, the Florida State defense completely fell apart, but that was never the case for Burns. The junior, who has declared for the NFL draft, finished what will be his final season in Tallahassee with a career-high 10 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles. Burns ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in each of those categories. He was Florida State's only first-team All-ACC selection.
Best Freshman: Tamorrion Terry, WR
Terry had a breakout 2018 and was named a third-team All-ACC selection. Despite his tall (6-4) frame, Terry got behind defenders with ease and was virtually uncoverable in one-on-one situations. His eight touchdown grabs were the most for an FSU freshman since Greg Carr's nine in 2005.
Best Play of the Season: Tamorrion Terry’s Game-Winner Against Boston College
Trailing 21-16 with just under two minutes to play in the ACC finale against Boston College on Nov. 22, FSU knew the contest would come down to its final drive. At its own 26-yard line, FSU went for the jugular as quarterback Deondre Francois heaved one down the field for Terry, who was locked up in man coverage. Terry was able to make the catch and outrun defenders to the end zone for the winning 74-yard score in a thrilling 22-21 win over the Eagles.
Best Performance by a Player: James Blackman vs. NC State
After becoming the first true freshman to start for Florida State at quarterback in 32 years in 2017, Blackman made just one start in '18, but he made the most of it. In a 47-28 loss to NC State to open the month of November, Blackman passed for 421 yards and four touchdowns along with an interception. The 421-yard performance was the most for an FSU quarterback since Jameis Winston put up 444 against Clemson during his 2013 Heisman Trophy campaign. Blackman may have thrown for more, but had a completion of nearly 60 yards negated by a penalty.
Best Game (Team Performance): 38-17 win over Wake Forest
Florida State’s best performance of the season was a 38-17 home win over Wake Forest on Oct. 20. The Seminoles overcame a 10-0 deficit in the win while piling up 485 yards of offense and a season-high 38 points. FSU also held Wake Forest to less than four yards per play. Brian Burns and Joshua Kaindoh each had two of the six sacks for FSU while Deondre Francois passed for 353 yards and a pair of scores.
Defining Moment: Roughing the Kicker vs. Clemson
The moment where all the air seemed to come out of Florida State’s sails for the 2018 season came on the final Saturday of October against No. 2 Clemson. The FSU offense never could get out of its own way, but through the early parts, it looked as though the defense would keep the Seminoles in the game. After a scoreless first quarter, FSU forced Clemson’s Greg Huegel to attempt a 40-yard field goal. Huegel’s kick was pushed to the right, but a roughing the kicker call on freshman Asante Samuel Jr. extended the Clemson drive, which culminated in a touchdown and began a run of 52 straight points in an eventual 59-10 win for the Tigers. The 49-point loss would be the largest ever for FSU at home and from there, the season never got back on track.
Biggest Surprise: Hamsah Nasirildeen, S
This category could also belong to Tamorrion Terry, but he’s got enough of the spotlight so far. There weren’t many bright spots for FSU but Nasirildeen leading the team in tackles was not expected. The sophomore safety finished the season with 91 total stops, including 51 of the solo variety. Nasirildeen still has a long way to go in coverage but he improved as the year went along and made his first career interception in the Nov. 22 win against Boston College. His 15 tackles against NC State on Nov. 3 were the most for a Florida State player this season.
Biggest Disappointment: Defense Down the Stretch
The offensive line was the biggest sore spot for Florida State in 2018, but that was a significant question mark coming into the year. What wasn’t expected — especially midway through the season — was the way that the Seminoles melted down on defense down the stretch. After a strong showing early on, FSU allowed at least 41 points in each of its final four losses. The Seminoles were gashed both through the air and on the ground and wound up allowing nearly 32 points per game — the most in program history.
Senior That Will Be Missed the Most: Nyqwan Murray, WR
Murray was never the most consistent player and sometimes let emotions get the best of him, but he was always capable of making a big play and tended to show up with the Seminoles needed him to. Over his final two seasons, Murray either led or was tied for the team lead in both receptions and receiving yards. His most memorable moments were game-winning touchdowns to beat Michigan in the 2016 Orange Bowl and to win at Louisville this past season.
Player to Watch in 2019: Khalan Laborn, RB
With Jacques Patrick graduating, Florida State will be looking for a fresh face to help Cam Akers carry the load on the ground. The face that FSU fans have been waiting to see is Laborn. A Virginia native, Laborn wowed the Doak Campbell Stadium crowd last spring en route to being named MVP of the spring game. Laborn’s only touch of 2018 was a 37-yard reception on a screen pass against Virginia Tech. One week later, Laborn dislocated his kneecap and did not return in 2018. If FSU can shore up its issues on the offensive line, Laborn and Akers should be one of the best backfield duos in the ACC in 2019 — if not the country.
Offseason Storyline: How Does FSU Bounce Back From Rare Losing Season?
After its first losing season since Bobby Bowden’s first year as head coach, Florida State will have to figure out how to right a ship that sunk in 2018. With offensive coordinator Walt Bell leaving to be the head coach at Massachusetts, there will be a staff shakeup. The name circulating right now is Kendal Briles, who has a proven track record of righting offenses. That likely won’t be the only staff change. How Willie Taggart and crew finish on the recruiting trail and which players stick around will also have a bearing on the outlook for 2019.