Florida State, Louisville each searching for 1st ACC win
By GARY B. GRAVES
Florida State and Louisville hoped to be contending in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division at this point of the season.
Instead, both are in search of their first conference victory when they met this Saturday. They are a combined 0-3 in league play.
"There's definite frustration, there's no question about that," said Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, whose team gained just 214 yards in a 27-3 loss at Virginia in its ACC opener. The yardage and scoring totals were lows for the Cardinals under Petrino.
"We have players that are competitors and certain things aren't happening the way we expected, (or) they expected. ... The way you make confidence is you make plays, you have success."
Doing so requires addressing concerns on both sides of the ball, particularly at quarterback after ineffective play by the starter forced a switch for the third consecutive week. Malik Cunningham's first career start lasted just over a quarter in Charlottesville before he was replaced by Jawon Pass, who also struggled.
Petrino hasn't said whether Pass or Cunningham will begin behind center against FSU but offensive consistency remains the mission.
"We have an understanding who's going to start and how we're going to play him," Petrino said. "It doesn't do us any good to tell everybody that. But we do need to improve and get better there, and obviously everybody understands that."
Louisville has won the past two meetings and FSU wants to be ready for either QB - or both- to avoid a third straight loss to the Seminoles that would end any hopes of division contention.
The Seminoles (0-2 ACC) hope to follow up their 37-19 nonconference win over Northern Illinois with a significant victory for first-year coach Willie Taggart. The Seminoles outgained NIU 473-221 and held NIU to just six yards rushing, their lowest total since limiting Colorado to minus-27 in 2007. Their run defense ranks 11th in FBS at 97.5 yards allowed per contest.
Their next step is doing it again to string together wins for the first time.
"We have talent on this football team," Taggart said. "We as coaches have got to help teach them how to win again and play winning football."
Other things to watch as FSU visits Louisville:
THE FRANCOIS FACTOR
Seminoles junior QB Deondre Francois has thrown for an ACC-best 1,083 yards and ranks second in yards per game at 270.8. He threw for a season-high 352 yards against NIU but faces a Cardinal pass defense ranked sixth in the ACC at 198 yards allowed per contest.
Louisville's injury-plagued defense will welcome back sophomore linebacker Dorian Etheridge, who missed the past two games with a sprained ankle. Held out last week at Virginia as a precaution after dressing, he's eager to return after being a sideline spectator. "I was seeing everything," he said, "talking to them out there and trying to be a good teammate. But it's nothing like being out on the field."
FSU needed 57 carries to gain 121 yards last week and enters with the ACC's rushing attack at 102.75 yards per contest. Cam Akers (274 yards) and Jacques Patrick (153) have combined for just one touchdown and Taggart acknowledged that it's a work in progress.
FSU's last visit here in 2016 ended with the emergence of Louisville QB Lamar Jackson as the Heisman Trophy favorite after he accounted for 362 yards of offense and five touchdowns in a 63-20 rout. Jackson, then-FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and many players from both sides are gone and the memory of that game seems to have faded, at least for some remaining Seminoles. "That's the past," defensive tackle Fred Jones said. "We can't do nothing about that. But we can set up for our future."
AP Freelance Writer Bob Ferrante in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.
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Updated September 28, 2018