Sunday, November 19, 2017
Colleges

Jones: Deondre Francois injury makes bad weekend worse for state football

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ATLANTA — What an awful Saturday for college football in the state of Florida.

And it got worse Sunday with the crushing news out of Tallahassee.

The college football season is barely under way and it already feels like it's going to be a long season. In some ways, it feels over already.

What a bummer.

In Dallas, the Gators were once again showing that nothing is new. Same ol', same ol'. An offense that was crummy under Will Muschamp is even crummier under Jim McElwain. Wasn't McElwain brought in specifically to fix the offense? The Gators were routed by Michigan, and there's likely a booster or two lighting a flame under McElwain's seat as you're reading this.

And who would blame them? If you're a Gator fan, how much confidence do you have in McElwain at this point?

Meantime, back in Tampa, my goodness, what a mess. Isn't USF supposed to be good? Like really good? Like undefeated good? Yet, the Bulls are lucky they aren't winless at this point after struggling to beat San Jose State and Division I-AA Stony Brook. What's going to happen when the Bulls play real teams?

And, in Atlanta, the most sobering game of all. Florida State, the program with the highest hopes of any team in the state, saw its night go from bad to worse on one play. Now the season looks to be in serious trouble.

The bad part: The Seminoles played their guts out, but they weren't nearly good enough. In the end, they got knocked around by top-ranked Alabama.

The worse part: Quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a knee injury late in the game, and it's being reported he will miss the rest of the season.

Climbing out of an 0-1 hole and fighting all the way back to the national title game — and a possible rematch with the Crimson Tide — was going to be hard enough with Francois. The chances of doing that without him rest somewhere between slim and none.

What a shame.

Until Francois got hurt, it wasn't a totally lost night for FSU. While you never had the feeling, especially in the second half, that the Seminoles were going to win, they weren't blown out of the swanky new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. There were actually some positive signs.

The stats for the night were pretty even, and even though they lost 24-7, the Seminoles showed they have a heck of a defense. Put in tough spots all game, the defense hung tough and gave Florida State a puncher's chance.

Unfortunately, FSU couldn't find a haymaker when it needed one in the second half.

"They kept us in the ball game," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said of his defense. "A couple of times, Alabama had a chance to put it away and we kept them at a two-score game at 21-7."

Florida State's biggest issue was special teams. It had a field goal blocked. It had a punt blocked. It fumbled a kickoff. Add those moments up and you're talking about a 13-point swing in a game that was decided by 17 points.

"Those are big, critical plays in the game," Fisher said.

Alabama is hard enough to beat without giving it help.

"When you play good people like that," Fisher said, "you've got to be perfect."

Just when it looked like FSU was going to get out of Atlanta with nothing worse than a competitive loss to the best team in the country, the night turned dire. With just a few minutes left in the game, Francois drifted back to pass, rolled to his right, then was caught from behind by Alabama safety and Tallahassee native Ronnie Harrison.

Francois' left leg buckled underneath him and he had to be helped off the field. How concerned is Fisher?

"Oh, I'm definitely concerned because that's your starting quarterback," he said after the game.

Maybe this is as bad as it will get this season for FSU, UF and USF.

Maybe Francois' long-term replacement, whether it's freshman James Blackman or someone else, will be better than anticipated and the Seminoles, led by that terrific defense, will go on a roll. Maybe McElwain will find the right quarterback and the Gators will go on a roll. Maybe USF will stop hitting the snooze on the season and go on a roll.

But it doesn't feel like it at the moment.

And it's not as if Miami or UCF is going to go undefeated.

Oh brother. When does hockey season start?

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