TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A mid-November matchup with Alabama State was supposed to be a break from ACC play for Florida State, allowing the Seminoles to recharge before the rivalry showdown at Florida to end the regular season.
Saturday’s against the FCS Hornets now has more meaning with the Seminoles (5-5) looking to become bowl-eligible under interim head coach Odell Haggins.
“We’re still fighting for one common goal and that’s a bowl game,” junior tailback Cam Akers said. “We still got life in us.”
Florida State has had an emotional few weeks after the dismissal of coach Willie Taggart on Nov. 3 and then a feel-good 38-31 victory at Boston College last week. The Seminoles had not won a road game in more than a year, dating back to a victory at Louisville on Sept. 28, 2018.
Haggins was an All-American defensive tackle in the 1980s at Florida State and has been an assistant coach at his alma mater since 1994. He is in his second stint as an interim head coach and is 3-0 — Haggins went 2-0 at the end of the 2017 season when Jimbo Fisher left to go to Texas A&M.
Haggins is a link to Florida State’s past, having played for Bobby Bowden and then coaching alongside him. He was on Bowden’s staff for the 1999 national title as well as Fisher’s staff that guided the Seminoles to the 2013 national championship.
The voice mail box has filled up for Haggins and he can’t respond to all the calls and text messages. But he did take time earlier this week to make calls to Bowden as well as his former Florida State assistant coaches.
“I called coach Bowden, I called Mickey Andrews and coach (Jim) Gladden and Coach (Wally) Burnham,” Haggins said. “I said, ‘Thank you, thank you all very much.’ They said, ‘Why?’ They said, ‘You did that.’ And I said, ‘No, coach, y'all did it the Florida State way, I learned a lot from y'all. What y'all see in me now, that's what I learned from a lot of ya'll and my mother.’
“And they instilled integrity in us and character and never quit. And that's why I'm able to stand up here now and talk and be the interim head coach because of men like Coach Bowden, men like Mickey Andrews, who was honest with you and will work you and love you and didn't lie to you.”
Some other things to watch in Florida State’s game against Alabama State (5-4):
Florida State has not settled on a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game. James Blackman has started seven games, while Alex Hornibrook has started three games. Jordan Travis also saw his first playing time last week against BC, rushing for a 66-yard touchdown and a 26-yard touchdown. It’s possible that the Seminoles will start Blackman or Hornibrook while also finding opportunities here and there for Travis.
A dozen scholarship seniors will play their final home game at Doak Campbell Stadium, including linebacker Dontavious Jackson, guard Cole Minshew and defensive back Levonta Taylor. Two graduate transfers, quarterback Alex Hornibrook and offensive tackle Ryan Roberts, will also be honored.
A CAREER DAY
Safety Hamsah Nasirildeen had 22 tackles in Saturday’s win at BC, the most by a Florida State player since Dale McCullers set the school record with 29 in 1968. Nasirildeen leads the Seminoles with 85 tackles.
MIX AND MATCH ON OL
Florida State has started six different offensive line combinations in 10 games. That includes using three true freshmen – Dontae Lucas, Darius Washington and Maurice Smith — at various times this season. Smith earned his first start at BC in place of Lucas, who was out due to injury.
RECRUITING A FOCUS, TOO
Haggins said that the staff has been active in communicating with Florida State’s 2020 commitments. With the early signing period in December, it’s critical for the team to keep in contact with prospects until a permanent head coach is hired.
“We’re calling and we’re texting them every day,” Haggins said. “And the best way to handle recruiting, this coach thinks so, is keep winning and letting them know that we’re going back to the Florida State way. Of course, we are going to have some de-commitments. But the kids, they want to see what’s going on. … A lot of families, that’s what they want to see, they want to see a plan in recruiting."