James Blackman shows surprising poise for Florida State

Oct 07, 2017
Florida State’s James Blackman looks downfield during the Seminoles’ loss to Miami. A true freshman from Belle Glade, Blackman led three late scoring drives for FSU. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

James Blackman’s first three quarters couldn’t have gone worse, as the Florida State offense struggled to move the ball and he tossed two interceptions.

But the true freshman from Glades Central bounced back with a fantastic fourth quarter, completing 9 of 10 passes for 142 yards and tossing touchdown strikes to Ryan Izzo and Auden Tate. The Seminoles briefly took the lead after Blackman’s second TD, a 20-yarder to Tate with 1:24 left, but Miami answered in the final seconds for a 24-20 victory on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

It was easily Blackman’s best 15 minutes of college football, guiding FSU (1-3, 1-2) to three scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Even though it was in a losing effort, and ended FSU’s seven-year reign in the series, the late-game performance showed Blackman’s composure — especially in a tight rivalry game.

“He responds really well,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He is growing. It will gradually slow down more and more. We have to continue to grow with him.”

That growth will come in time for Blackman, who made his third college start against the Hurricanes. Blackman and FSU struggled to produce points for the first 45 minutes, as the Seminoles had seven punts, a field goal and two interceptions.

FSU had 205 offensive yards through three quarters but was just 2 of 11 on third downs as too many drives stalled. Blackman’s interceptions, his first at FSU after turnover-free games against NC State and Wake Forest, were also a reflection of his inexperience — making poor reads and forcing passes into tight spots.

“James made a couple poor decisions there coming out in the second half,” Fisher said. “Didn’t see it right and then regrouped and did a great job moving the ball back down the field and did a heck of a job putting us in a position to win.”

FSU got the ball with 14:47 left in the game, trailing 10-3, and Blackman engineered three consecutive scoring drives (77 yards, 44 yards and 75 yards). The Seminoles’ offense was on a roll and finishing off drives like it wasn’t able to do in the first three quarters.

The lead see-sawed against Miami (4-0, 2-0) four times in the final 12:17. Blackman put FSU ahead 20-17 on his 20-yard touchdown pass to Auden Tate with 1:24 left, setting off a raucous celebration as the Seminoles appeared to have continued its recent dominance of the Hurricanes.

But the Hurricanes’ response was quick and deafening, silencing the crowd, as Malik Rosier connected with former Santaluces standout Darrell Langham on a 23-yard touchdown with six seconds to go and put away seven years of FSU dominance in the series.

It was the second consecutive week that Blackman had helped FSU rally. He connected with Tate for a 40-yard touchdown in the final minutes as FSU picked up a 26-19 road win at Wake last week.

On Saturday he grew up, playing his best 15 minutes of football and setting aside 45 ineffective minutes. A loss to a rival is a difficult thing, but FSU veterans found positives in how Blackman performed.

“He got comfortable,” junior running back Jacques Patrick said. “He made some big plays for us down the stretch. He’s stepping up, he’s still growing.

“There are going to be growing pains, but he’s playing well.”