Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State football team are at a crossroads without a sense of direction.
The Seminoles, overly concerned about finishing the season with a winning record to become bowl eligible, suffered their biggest loss of the season Friday night. FSU fell 35-3 after trailing wire-to-wire at Boston College in front of an announced crowd of 40,629 at Alumni Stadium.
Florida State, which was ranked No. 3 in the preseason polls, trudged off the field as Eagles fans rushed on it to celebrate as the Seminoles continue to sputter as a dejected group in the midst of the worst season of Fisher’s eight-year tenure.
“Of course, it’s embarrassing. We’re Florida State,” said standout defensive back Derwin James after the defeat, which dropped the Seminoles to 2-5 and 2-4 in the ACC this season.
“… To lose 35-3, it’s embarrassing because we work so hard. But it’s out of our control.”
Boston College, which has rejuvenated offensively after averaging just 16.3 points in its first six games before an 86-point outburst in two road games, had its way with Florida State’s defense and won its first ACC game at home since 2014.
The Seminoles lost to a team whose starting quarterback gained fewer than 75 yards and saw a seven-game win streak against the Eagles come to an end.
“In every phase, they beat us,” Fisher said. “They lined up, kicked our tails and outplayed us, out-coached us. They did everything.
“We have to do a better job,” Fisher added.
It would be too easy to pin this loss on Florida State’s youthful, but struggling offense, which did not score a touchdown in a game for the first time since 2008.
For the first time since 1972 when freshman were eligible to play college football, the Seminoles started a true freshman at quarterback and running back.
James Blackman and Cam Akers relived a severe case of déjà vu during FSU’s first trip to the red zone in the first quarter, botching a handoff exchange for a demoralizing turnover. It was similar to the major error in the fourth quarter a week ago at home, spoiling a comeback attempt against Louisville.
As the offense continued to struggle — despite glimpses of energetic gains from Blackman, Akers, receiver Nyqwan Murray (three catches, 102 yards) and running back Amir Rasul (4 carries, 25 yards) — the Seminoles received no help from their defense, which started the season heralded as one of the nation’s top units filled with experience and some NFL potential.
Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown completed only 6 of 20 passes for 54 yards and a passing touchdown, with only three carries for 20 yards and a rushing touchdown in the second quarter that gave his team a 21-0 lead.
Boston College running back AJ Dillon finished with 142 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries and backup quarterback Darius Wade scored on a 1-yard carry. The Eagles capitalized on an early trick play, with receiver Kobie White catching a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Smith in the first quarter to set the tone for the Eagles’ dominance.
“It’s on us,” FSU sophomore defensive end Brian Burns said. “We have to stop them no matter where they’re placed on the field. We have to stop them.”
FSU’s defense allowed Boston College’s freshman duo of Brown and Dillon flourish and didn’t give the Seminoles’ freshmen offensive leaders a chance to stay in contention.
After an Akers’ 47-yard halfback pass to Murray to put FSU in the red zone before its fumble, the Seminoles got back in the red zone only once more in the contest to no avail.
FSU scored its first points of the game, a 36-yard field goal by Ricky Aguayo, with 44 seconds left before halftime.
The Eagles added two touchdowns in the third quarter after a mishandled punt by FSU cornerback Tarvarus McFadden and a turnover on downs at its own 24-yard line to put the game out of reach.
Blackman completed 11 of 26 passes for 102 yards and an interception after a pass to tight end Ryan Izzo was stripped for the second turnover of the first half. Akers finished with 18 carries for 42 yards with three catches for 7 yards.
“We didn’t play up to our potential, and we got outplayed,” FSU offensive lineman Alec Eberle said.
FSU is unfamiliar territory, off to a 2-5 start for the first time since Bobby Bowden’s first season of his legendary coaching career with the Seminoles in 1976. FSU finished 5-6 that season, the last time the Seminoles finished below .500.
The Seminoles would need victories in each of its last four regular season games to reach bowl eligibility with six wins this season. FSU could receive an invite with five wins and ideal APR scores.
But with the inconsistent performances the Seminoles have turned in every week, it’s likely Florida State’s nation-leading 35-year bowl game streak will be snapped this year.
“We have a lot of guys that are pressing, again, worrying about everything of what everybody is saying: if you don’t go to a bowl, you don’t do this. You can’t worry about that,” Fisher said.
“You have to play yourself through it, and not worry about the tragedy, but worry about how you can come through it.”