TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — In times of coaching uncertainty, Florida State has turned to long-time assistant Odell Haggins.
And for the second time in three years, the interim head coach has guided the Seminoles through a coaching transition.
James Blackman threw three touchdown passes and Khalan Laborn had two TD runs as Florida State defeated FCS Alabama State 49-12 on Saturday.
The Seminoles (6-5) are bowl-eligible under Haggins for the second time in three years. Haggins is 4-0 as an interim coach, first filling in at the end of the 2017 season after Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M and now after the dismissal of Willie Taggart on Nov. 3.
“We won’t be in a New Year’s Day bowl,” said Haggins, who has been a Florida State assistant since 1994. “But we’re going bowling. That’s something we can build on as a university. And we’re going to build on it.”
Florida State saw its 36-year bowl streak end in 2018 when the team went 5-7. But now regardless of what happens in the regular-season finale at Florida in two weeks, the Seminoles will be back in the postseason.
Blackman tossed a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tamorrion Terry and a 39-yard touchdown pass to Tre’Shaun Harrison as the Seminoles racked up 525 yards on offense. The redshirt sophomore had 246 passing yards.
After an up and down season, Blackman has led the Seminoles to a road win over Boston College and now the victory over the Hornets (5-5) to help Florida State get to a bowl.
“It’s a blessing that we are bowl-eligible right now and we just are going to keep striving,” Blackman said. “We want to win out and we are going to keep going to work, working hard and putting our best foot forward and make sure we put ourselves in the best position to win out.”
Laborn had 12 carries for 55 yards, filling in for injured tailback Cam Akers (hand). Backup quarterback Jordan Travis also had a 61-yard run as the Seminoles had 208 rushing yards.
KHA’Darris Davis threw for 262 yards, including a 34-yard TD pass to Jahod Booker for the Hornets (5-5). Booker had six receptions for 84 yards to lead Alabama State.
“We knew coming into the contest it was an uphill fight going against a very good football program, a Power 5,” Alabama State coach Donald Hill-Eley said. “I’m just very impressed with my young men and how hard they fought for four quarters. They continued to fight even though we had things happen here and there. They have been showing resilience all year and today, if nothing else, we take away that these guys played hard for each other.”
Hamsah Nasirildeen also had an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown and 11 tackles for the Seminoles.
Alabama State: The Hornets generated a touchdown and two field goals on their first seven drives but also missed two more field-goal attempts. They were able to build some long drives on a day when they were overmatched in talent.
Florida State: The Seminoles had played in 36 straight bowl games before the streak was snapped in 2018. Florida State paid Alabama State $425,000 to play Saturday’s game, and it was worth it for the program to be bowl-eligible in 2019.
CAMPAIGN FOR HAGGINS
Florida State players took to social media on Twitter in the week leading up to the game to thank Haggins for coaching the team but also to endorse him as a candidate for the permanent head coaching job. Administrators have not said who the candidates are, but players think Haggins is a good option.
“He’s a great leader,” defensive tackle Cory Durden said. “I feel like it wouldn’t be as much of a coaching change. I feel like everybody has bought in, just within the two weeks that we’ve had him and he’s been our coach. … He has support from underclassmen to upperclassmen, so I feel like it’s a no brainer with this coaching decision.”
Alabama State plays host to Prairie View A&M on Nov. 28.
Florida State plays at Florida on Nov. 30.