Willie Taggart tip-toed the line of salvation on Monday. As you may have noticed, things have not gone well through his first 15 games as Florida State's coach.

Saturday marked the latest clunker, a 31-24 loss at ranked Virginia.

For the third straight game, the Seminoles blew a second-half lead. In all three games, stamina could be considered at least one factor. FSU has seen combined second-half leads of 38 points evaporate.

But on Saturday, in the dying moments of the game from, as Florida State sat on the Virginia 4-yard line with no timeouts, tailback Cam Akers almost inexplicably ran the ball out of the Wildcat. Almost predictably, he was tackled short of the goal line.

Time ran out.

"I'm not going to tell you that play," Taggart told reporters Monday. "We could use it again, so nevermind. It's not what you think it was, I'll put it that way."

That suggests there were options to the play other than Akers trying to cover the 4 yards with the clock running out. Like, a pass from a talented tailback who looks destined for the NFL?

Gosh, just say it, Willie.

Using a gadget play in the situation would have lessened the criticism. It would have made a heck of a lot of sense than a Wildcat sweep. Taggart wouldn't explain further. Just like his team has frequently this season, he didn't finish (the thought).

OK, so explaining the play fully wouldn't exactly qualify as salvation, but it sure as heck might have turned down the heat.

"We're a fragile team," Taggart told CBS Sports on Monday.  A fragile team that, Taggart said, just needs to win to turn the corner.

The Seminoles have started 1-2. Their only win over Louisiana-Monroe almost seems like a net loss. FSU survived in overtime after the War Hawks missed an extra point. That followed Florida State blowing an 18-point lead to Boise State in the opener -- at home in the heat of Doak Campbell Stadium.

Then, Taggart's weird "hydration" explanation took on a life of its own. The excuse, or whatever it was, went viral.

"I was asked that at my radio show, what were we going to do the week of Louisiana-Monroe," Taggart said. "It had nothing to do with the Boise game. I [said] we got together with the medical staff being on the guys early in the week about hydrating, not waiting until Friday. Make sure they drank and carried their bottles around. I don't think we did a good job of that earlier in the week.

"It was taken out of context. They thought I was making an excuse for the game before."

Nevertheless, there was this assessment at the time from offensive lineman Baveon Johnson after the Boise State game: "Conditioning wasn't our strong suit. That is what we plan to work on and plan to improve this week. ... I feel like it was just conditioning overall. That is what we need to get better at."


It hurts to watch Florida State like this. The sport is better with the Noles in the conversation. At 6-9 since Taggart has led the team, they are anything but. Taken as a whole, the last 14 games mark one of the lowest points in their history.

The last time FSU was 6-9 at any point in its history was 1973-74 (1-14 over two seasons).

Taggart was asked about his job security.

"That's part of the business that we're in," he said. "Those things come when you're not winning. I get it. There's not a coach in this country year in and year out that doesn't deal with it."

Even in these impatient times, it seems almost foolish to fire a coach after two seasons. But since 2003, at least four Power Five coaches have been fired for performance reasons after only two seasons at the helm of their respective programs.

  • Keith Gilbertson was fired only 20 games into his tenure at Washington in 2004. The veteran Huskies assistant (three different times) finished 7-16. The 1-10 mark in '04 was the worst in UW history.
  • Walt Harris was shown the door at Stanford in 2006 after a two-year mark of 6-17. The Cardinal's 1-11 record in 2006 was its worst in four decades.
  • Turner Gill was fired at Kansas in 2011 just two years into a guaranteed five-year contract. He got all $10 million for going 5-19.
  • Former Colorado star Jon Embree went a combined 4-21 in 2011-12 before being canned.

If Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt isn't the next two-and-skidoo, might Taggart be that guy?

Most indications are that the administration is backing him. The fans certainly have had their say.

Taggart, 43, had been considered one of the brightest young coaches in the country. He still might be. A coaching protégé of Jim Harbaugh, he renovated a fixer-upper at Western Kentucky for three seasons. He did the same at South Florida where he took the Bulls from 2-10 to 11-2 in four seasons. There was a Power Five jump to Oregon for a season in 2017. The Ducks are still bitter about his departure.

But Taggart called Florida State his dream job. At times, a quarter of the way through his second season, it has been more like a nightmare.

"I've been through it," Taggart said. "It's different here because no one has ever been through it here at Florida State. There's got to be someone with a level head to get us through this."

Taggart oversaw the end of the program's 36-year bowl streak in 2018. Veteran observers told CBS Sports that they had never seen such a disorganized offensive line as that group. Even to the untrained eye (hand raised), it looked like the once-proud core of Florida State football couldn't line up right at times.

Back to this season. Florida State has lost to a Boise State team that traveled 2,400 miles, had to change venues (from Jacksonville to Tallahassee because of Hurricane Dorian) and seemed the fresher team down the stretch. It then barely survived an FBS also-ran (Louisiana-Monroe) and blew a game against an ACC rival it had dominated (Virginia has won four times in 19 meetings).

Yes, there were injuries and FSU has a young roster. Still … these are the 'Noles. Ultimately, the season might be saved by a mediocre ACC.

Sure, there is No. 1 Clemson. There's also Georgia Tech, which lost to The Citadel. Miami is off to its worst start in 41 years. NC State just got blitzed by 17 by West Virginia.  Boston College was embarrassed by Kansas on Friday with the Jayhawks picking up their first road win over a Power Five team in 11 years. Among those, only GT doesn't face FSU.  

Regardless, a football brand like FSU being this down has been one of the top headlines of the early season.

About those blown leads. They were by 18 to Boise State, 13 to Louisiana-Monroe (FSU led by 21 in the second quarter) and seven to Virginia.

The 'Noles wore down again Saturday, allowing 14 unanswered points in the final 6:02 to the Cavaliers, now ranked No. 21. That was after Boise State scored 23 unanswered in the last 33 minutes of the opener. Louisiana-Monroe scored 31 points in the second half alone.

After halftime, the Noles have been outscored 75-31 this season.

"Like I told our players, no need to get frustrated or mad at what people are saying. What we need to do is give them what they want," Taggart said.

Only six teams have committed more penalties. Only two have given up more explosive plays of 10+ yards (59). No team has had as many plays run against it (259). On average, FSU's defense has given up one of those explosive gains every 4.38 plays run against it.

Taggart recently hired his old Oregon defensive coordinator, Jim Leavitt, as an analyst. The head coach was asked if that was a slight at sitting DC Harlon Barnett.

"[Barnett] was actually excited," Taggart said. "Someone else in that room he can bounce stuff off of. They've been in the room, doors locked, grinding."

Some at Florida State have suggested Jimbo Fisher left the program in such bad shape that Taggart is faced with a long-term turnaround. He seemed to take his shots at the team's low APR score achieved under Fisher in May.

"I understand the frustration of our fan base," Taggart said. "Once you got that first win, the rest of them got to come. I think we're close. I think it's going to happen."

First, someone at Florida State has to finish.