Florida State came into the 2019 season with renewed optimism after missing out on the postseason for the first time in 36 years.
While having the athletes to compete with any roster in the nation, the Seminoles’ problems in 2018 were glaring: horrendous offensive line play, a lack of discipline and overall lacking any sense of urgency when adversity hit. In response, Florida State hired Houston offensive coordinator Kendal Briles hoping to infuse some life into an offense that ranked 112th in scoring and averaged 22 points per game last season.
It seems an offseason of change hasn’t done anything for those problems as Florida State blew two 18-point leads on Saturday, losing to Boise State 36–31 in a game that was moved from Jacksonville to Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee because of the Hurricane Dorian. It was the third straight season that FSU lost its season opener.
The first half looked as if everything was working. Seminoles quarterback James Blackman came out on fire, hitting Tamorrion Terry on a screen that he took 75 yards for a touchdown and minutes later finding tight end Greg Nabers for a five-yard score.
While the Broncos continually settled for field goals, Blackman went to work again in the second quarter, going deep for 58 yards to Keyshawn Helton to give FSU its biggest lead at 31–13. Blackman was 12 of 15 for 278 yards and three touchdowns going into the break.
The same team that went into the locker room at halftime with a 12-point lead, seemingly stayed there as the offense sputtered, allowing Boise to grind down its defense and get back into the game.
Here is a snapshot of Florida State’s second-half possessions: punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs.
It didn’t help that Boise ran 108 plays, kept the ball for 40 minutes and had 621 yards of total offense. The Broncos took control of the game toward the end of the third quarter, using a seven play, 69-yard drive capped off by freshman Hank Bachmeier finding Khalil Shakir for an 11-yard score to bring the score to 31–26.
The next time Boise got the ball, an 11-play drive got the job done, ending in a Robert Mahone one-yard plunge.
Florida State missed an opportunity for a turnover on the drive when George Holani fumbled after catching a pass, but the ball was recovered by Boise State, allowing it to score two plays later.
Bachmeier was poised under pressure all day, completing 30 of his 51 passes for 407 yards, with one touchdown, an interception and six sacks. The Broncos' running game, though sometimes not as effective as it was in the first half, kept going to the well, running for 215 yards on 57 carries, led by Mahone’s 142 yards and two touchdowns.
The Seminoles had a chance to drive for the game-winning score, starting their final possession on their own 25 with 2:25 remaining, but failed to convert on fourth down. After scoring 31 points in the first half, they were shut out in the game's final 30 minutes.
For Florida State, the disappointing start to the season can be looked at in two phases. While the offense moved the ball at will in the first half, star running back Cam Akers only carried the ball 15 times. The defense can be blamed for the loss as well, allowing Boise to convert 10 of 19 third downs.
All hope is not lost, as Florida State's next four games range from winnable to highly winnable before it travels to top-ranked Clemson on Oct. 12.
Meanwhile, Boise State now has the momentum it needs to possibly end UCF’s run as the standard in the Group of Five. If Bachmeier struggles at any point, the Broncos can rely on a potent running game and use their tempo on offense to punish teams into submission. This is a team that will be tough to deal with moving forward.