TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — If a disappointing start isn’t a big enough chip on Florida State’s shoulder, the Seminoles can draw some additional incentive from their opponent Saturday.
The Louisville Cardinals.
Yes, the Cardinals who dealt the Seminoles one of their worst losses in school history in a 63-20 rout last September. That was also the game that helped catapult Lamar Jackson — who scored five touchdowns in the blowout — to being named the Heisman Trophy winner.
Cornerback Levonta Taylor said the memories of that game remain vivid in his teammate’s minds.
“We take it very personal because of last year, what happened,” he said.
The 43-point loss wasn’t the worst in school history (that remains a 49-point thrashing against Florida in 1973) but it did start a run where the Seminoles have gone just 10-6 over their past 16 games.
Coach Jimbo Fisher has stressed to his players that last year’s game doesn’t matter anymore, but that might be easier said than done.
“Different team, different place,” Fisher said. “You don’t take any of that (what happened last year) personally. If you take it personally, then it gets in your head and you make bad decisions “
Fisher’s bigger concerns are on stopping Jackson.
The Cardinals’ signal caller grew up in Pompano Beach and will have plenty of family making the trip from South Florida. He leads the nation in total offense at 430.3 yards per game, which is more than 80 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, including Florida State (346.6).
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior had 362 yards, four rushing touchdowns and a TD pass in three quarters against the Seminoles last season. Louisville led 14-10 in the second quarter before breaking it open with 49 straight points.
“He’s definitely the most dynamic player I have faced. He is agile and quick. You just have to contain him,” linebacker Matthew Thomas said. “Looking at the film it was obvious that we had a lot of mistakes on defense, too big of mistakes.”
Jackson had 512 yards of total offense in last week’s 45-42 loss to Boston College , including 180 on the ground to become the school’s all-time rushing leader. He also accounted for five touchdowns, including two passing.
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said this week that Jackson “is playing as well as anyone could ever play.” The Cardinals (4-3, 1-3) won their ACC opener against North Carolina but have dropped their last three in conference play.
Jackson has accounted for eight touchdowns the two times he has faced FSU. His first 300-yard passing game came in Tallahassee two years ago in a 41-21 loss.
Fisher compared Jackson to Michael Vick, saying that both players were great with their natural instincts.
“He has the complete ability to read and throw down the field and create long plays, throw it short,” Fisher said. “And then the complete ability not just to run or run over you, but I mean you can’t get your hands on him.”
Even though Florida State (2-3, 2-2 ACC), has struggled against dual threat quarterbacks the past couple seasons, it comes into the game 28th in total defense (330.6 yards per game). Safety Derwin James, who leads the team in tackles with 29, missed last year’s game due to a knee injury but is one of the better open-field tacklers on the team.
Taylor remarked that he hoped having James back there “might put a little bit of fear in Lamar Jackson’s heart just seeing him back there. Hopefully he can come in and be an impact in the game.”
The Seminoles, who lost to No. 16 North Carolina State and No. 8 Miami earlier this season at home, are trying to avoid going 0-3 at Doak Campbell Stadium for the first time since 1974.
Follow Joe Reedy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joereedy