TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Deondre Francois had ice bags strapped to both knees and another one wrapped around his right shoulder.
He was sore, sullen and stunned.
One year after injuring his left knee, Francois was back on the field for Florida State on Monday night. His return was as dismal as coach Willie Taggart’s debut with the Seminoles.
Francois threw a career-high three interceptions in a 24-3 loss to then-20th-ranked Virginia Tech , was sacked five times and knocked around even more often behind a shaky offensive line.
“Too many self-inflicted wounds, too many self-inflicted mistakes,” Francois said outside the locker room. “We beat ourselves. On all of our drives, we made a couple big plays but we just couldn’t finish. We got in the red zone, a lot of times we just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone.”
Indeed. The Seminoles managed a field goal in four trips inside the 20-yard line. They missed a short field goal. They failed to convert on a fourth-and-3 play. They fumbled at the 10-yard line with the game still in reach.
Even FSU’s lone score was a debacle.
Francois connected with Nyqwan Murray for a lengthy pass in the second quarter. Murray was ruled down at the 1-yard line, although it was clear his knee never touched the ground. Instead of challenging the call, the Seminoles rushed to the line and were flagged for a false start.
FSU ended up having to settle for a three points.
“I could do way better,” Francois said. “There’s a lot of things I could do better. Get the ball out of my hand quicker, execute the offense better, finish drives. Too many mistakes. I take the blame for that as the leader of the team and as the quarterback. I need to play better.”
Francois completed 22 of 35 passes for 233 yards.
He kept scrambling and kept taking hits. At least he kept getting up.
Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury in FSU’s opener last year against Alabama. He had surgery three days later to repair a patellar tendon.
If he’s going to have any chance at success this fall, he has to get better protection. Virginia Tech’s young defense had its way with Florida State’s offensive line, stuffing the ground game and putting steady pressure on Francois.
“It was a sloppy game, and that’s on all of us starting with me,” Taggart said. “We’ve got to do a better job.”
The Seminoles should have much better results against lower-division Samford on Saturday. But they still much tougher games looming against Miami, Clemson and Notre Dame.
“I just told them, ‘We have to stick together,'” said Francois, who threw for 3,350 yards, with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions and was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s rookie of the year in 2016. “We’ve been here before. It’s just going to see what type of team we are.
“We’re not going to break up like we did last year. It’s a brotherhood. It’s a family. No matter what, we stand together. It’s a long season. It’s just one game.”
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