In a move that shocked the college football world on Sunday, Florida State opted to fire second-year head coach Willie Taggart after just 21 games at the helm. So, interim head coach Odell Haggins will now bring the Seminoles into Chestnut Hill on Saturday afternoon to take on Boston College football in a matchup that means a lot for both sides.
On one side, the Eagles (5-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast) are fresh off an impressive 58-27 win over rival Syracuse, racking up a program-record 691 total yards of offense. A win would mean another year of clinching bowl eligibility for head coach Steve Addazio—and this week is key with tough road games looming against No. 16 Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.
Then, there’s the Seminoles (4-5, 3-3), who enter having lost three of their last four—with the lone win also coming over the Orange. Now, with an interim head coach, they’ll be looking to close the season strong despite the circumstances. They’ll need two wins to reach a bowl, and those victories will likely need to come in the next two games against the Eagles and Alabama State with No. 10 Florida looming.
Don’t expect any conversation from Addazio and Haggins about the distractions from Taggart’s unceremonious departure, though.
“I don’t pay attention to any of that stuff,” Addazio said in his weekly press conference, per BC Eagles. “It doesn’t mean anything to me. We’re going to roll through practice this week and roll in Saturday morning, and they’re going to roll in, and two teams are going to square off. Just don’t waste any energy on it, to be honest with you.”
Haggins struck a similar tone, and he’s well versed in stepping up. Back in 2017, Haggins took the reins once Jimbo Fisher departed to Texas A&M, and he guided the Seminoles to a regular season finale win over Louisiana-Monroe before a rout of Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl.
“We’re not talking about a bowl streak. We’re not talking about all that,” Haggins said, per 247Sports. “We’re talking about Boston College. Not trying to be sarcastic, seriously. That’s what this team is thinking about and the coaching staff. What’s next; that’s what it must be.”
Haggins isn’t in an enviable position, as the Seminoles are coming off a week in which they crossed midfield twice, struggled with penalties, and lost to Miami, 27-10. FSU’s vaunted rushing attack—headlined by star Cam Akers—managed under three yards per carry while quarterback Alex Hornibrook was sacked nine times. The Seminoles were susceptible to big plays defensively, but did well against the run, which will help them against the white-hot duo of AJ Dillon and David Bailey.
Dillon, the ACC Running Back of the Week, and Bailey went off against the Orange for a combined 414 yards and five touchdowns. The Eagles finished with 496 rushing yards in total and Syracuse’s defensive coordinator Brian Ward lost his job as a result. Throw in the fact that Dennis Grosel was nearly a perfect 8-of-10 through the air for a trio of touchdowns, and BC really did whatever it wanted to offensively against the Orange.
Still, Addazio cautioned against his team being too one-dimensional, as the Eagles were able to get away with lopsided rushing numbers against N.C. State and Syracuse, but he knows that won’t always be the case. The play-action passes that BC ran against the Orange worked well, and an uptick there seems to be expected.
“We don’t want to be a one-dimensional team now,” Addazio said. “It worked out that way in our last two wins. We just really overpowered the last two teams in the run game, but that was up until that point of the season, we have been very explosive in other ways, and we were last week explosive in the play-action game.”
The Seminoles are a good opponent to try and throw the ball more against. They enter ranked second-to-last in the ACC in passing defense (only ahead of BC) in allowing an average of 279.4 yards per game through the air. FSU has a much stouter rushing defense, ranking fourth, so if the Eagles can’t establish the run—which all indications seem like they will be able to after the performance last week—it could mean leaning heavily on Grosel, who is still completing just 41 percent of his passes on the year.
“I will tell you that, quite frankly, this is the biggest, most physical front we’ve played, and I thought we played a couple good ones, right?” Addazio mentioned. “But this is the biggest and most physical front that we’ve played, beyond a doubt. They’re big.”
That sentiment was shared by Haggins as well, setting the stage for a physical showdown on a day where the projected temperature at kickoff stands just a few degrees above freezing at 35 degrees.
“We’ve got to plan well, you’ve got to play low up front, you’ve got to strike blockers and play fundamentally sound football,” Haggins added. “And you’ve got to be gritty. You’ve got to bring your big boy pants because Boston College runs the ball very well.”
Featured Image by Richard Shiro / AP Photo