TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Willie Taggart spent the offseason preaching speed and simplicity.
After watching Florida State’s debut on Monday night, perhaps patience is in order, too.
In front of a packed Doak Campbell Stadium, desperate for any reason to get excited, the 19th-ranked Seminoles had the look of a rebuilding program.
And their opponent, the 20th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies, looked like a team in Year 3 with their current staff.
Virginia Tech marched down the field for a touchdown on its opening drive, extended its lead to two touchdowns late in the second quarter, then methodically finished off the second half for a startling, deflating 24-3 victory over FSU.
It marked FSU’s first home game without a touchdown since 2008.
The Seminoles are 0-1 for the second straight season and will look to even their record Saturday at home against Samford.
After a rocky start – the Hokies opened with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive – FSU seemed to be slowly turning the tide midway through the second quarter.
That feeling, however, fell by the wayside when Virginia Tech blocked a Logan Tyler punt near the goal line and returned it three yards for an easy touchdown that made it 17-3.
FSU could get no closer, although that wasn’t for lack of opportunities.
The Seminoles outgained Virginia Tech 327-319, finished with a higher-yard-per-play average and had fewer penalty yards.
They were undone by some familiar foes: turnovers and poor production in the red zone.
FSU finished just 1 of 4 in the red zone, which includes a missed field goal from 32 yards, a failed fourth-down attempt and a fumbled exchange between a pair of running backs operating out of a “wildcat” formation.
Not included in that figure, but just as crucial, was a 30-yard completion from Deondre Francois to Nyqwan Murray that ended with Murray ruled down at the Virginia Tech 1-yard line.
Replays showed that Murray might have crossed the goal line before his knee was down, but the play wasn’t reviewed. FSU was flagged for a false start on first-and-goal and the drive ended with a 22-yard field goal.
Making his return to the lineup for the first time since suffering a season-ending injury in last year’s opener, Francois was mostly sharp. He completed eight of his first 10 passes and finished 22 of 35 for 233 yards but also threw three interceptions.
FSU’s ground game, meanwhile, sputtered for much of the night. Cam Akers, bottled up for most of the night, finally broke free for an 85-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter. That play put FSU at the Virginia Tech 6-yard line, and with the Seminoles still trailing by just two touchdowns, brought the 75,237 fans in attendance to life.
That excitement, however, was short-lived. Akers was stuffed for no gain on first down, the Seminoles lost yardage on second down, and then Akers and Amir Rasul gave the ball away with a botched handoff.
It was third of five FSU turnovers, three of which happened in the final 15 minutes.
A few moments later, Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson connected with Eric Kumah for a 49-yard touchdown, and any hope for some opening-night magic had been extinguished.