James Blackman helps Seminoles to win in first Swamp visit


James Blackman grew up admiring the Florida Gators. And on Saturday, he could admire a crowning achievement in his young career: a Florida State win in the Swamp.

Blackman’s statistics weren’t pretty: the true freshman completed just 10 of 21 passes for 128 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in Saturday’s 38-22 win over Florida. But Blackman was composed under a constant pass rush, delivered precise passes and prevailed to secure his first win over a rival.

“James was awesome in the game,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “For a young freshman, in this environment, thought he handled it well.”

The former Glades Central star didn’t have an easy day at the office, not against a Florida defense that pressured him from start to finish and when FSU’s receiver dropped four or five passes (including one bobbled pass by Auden Tate that resulted in an interception). But Blackman played at his best in situations, making accurate throws that helped FSU pick up a win and give the Seminoles (5-6) a chance to earn a bowl berth with a victory next week over Louisiana Monroe.

While opportunities to build drives were limited, Blackman guided an FSU offense that was 4 of 4 in the red zone. He made the most of the first one, a 21-yard touchdown strike to Nyqwan Murray in the second quarter that put FSU ahead 14-7. The Seminoles also had a 25-yard field goal, a Cam Akers 10-yard TD run and Blackman finished off the Gators with a a 3-yard TD pass to Tate.

“I can’t say enough about him,” tailback Jacques Patrick said. “I love him. I love the way he plays. I love his energy out there. He made big-time plays for us, in his first game in the Swamp. To go out there and make those plays is amazing to see.”

Blackman has had an up-and-down season, which was expected for a true freshman trying to step into a high-pressure role while running Fisher’s complex offense. There have been frustrating fourth-quarter losses, and a blowout defeat at Boston College.

After a shaky night at Clemson, Blackman has put together back-to-back positive performances as FSU has defeated Delaware State and Florida (the first time the Seminoles have had consecutive wins in 2017, too). Teammates have noted Blackman’s upbeat attitude and that he’s coachable even in what has been a challenging year.

“When something goes down, he doesn’t keep his head down,” defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi said. “When something goes wrong, he doesn’t get pouty about it, he just moves on and tries to learn and move forward. I feel like he’s really maturing in the position right now as a quarterback and as a player on this team.”

For much of FSU’s season, through fourth-quarter losses to NC State, Miami and Louisville, there were questions about the players’ confidence. But that isn’t an issue with Blackman, who is gaining a level of comfort with the playbook and chemistry with receivers as the season progresses.

“Each game James is better and better,” center Alec Eberle said. “You can tell he’s maturing, you can tell he’s getting more confidence. As long as he continues to do this, what he can become, it’s endless.”



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