By: Fletcher Keel | WCTV Eyewitness Sports
September 25, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Florida State head coach Willie Taggart is returning to his roots this weekend, and not just back to his Old Kentucky Home for the Noles' matchup against Louisville.
After spending his playing career and his first three seasons as a college head coach at Western Kentucky University, Taggart is making his first return to Kentucky since leaving the Hilltoppers following the 2012 season. (However, Taggart did face off against his alma mater as head coach of South Florida in the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl, a game the Hilltoppers won, 45-35.)
But this week is more than a return to familiarity on the field, as Taggart has implemented an old coaching tactic he used while at WKU to help curb a problem with ball security.
According to The Athletic's Tashan Reed, Taggart is teaching his players the importance of taking care of the football after losing three fumbles against Northern Illinois and after logging a -6 turnover margin through the first four games of the season.
Tre McKitty had a big fumble against Northern Illinois. His punishment? He has to carry a football around everywhere all week. Class, meetings, everywhere. Everyone who fumbled has to do the same.— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) September 25, 2018
The tactic employed by Taggart isn't a new one; he did something similar in his final season with WKU.
Taggart made football players at Western Kentucky do the same thing after they lost 3 fumbles against Alabama in 2012, a game that would have been closer than 35-0 without those fumbles (all came in Bama territory) #Noles #WKU https://t.co/7VCIidiqs0 https://t.co/MAtrBe8JvS— Fletcher Keel (@FletcherWCTV) September 25, 2018
While there are some differences in the 2012 Hilltoppers and 2018 Seminoles (mainly: WKU's loss to Alabama was their second game of the season and only lost one fumble in their season opener), there are also some similarities in the timing of Taggart's strategy.
Chief among them was timing in the schedule; despite it being early in the year for the Tops, conference play began two weeks later and four of their next six games were going to be played on the road.
Not unlike the upcoming stretch for FSU, which'll see the consecutive road games against Louisville and Miami before coming home against Wake Forest and a matchup with Clemson, a stretch that could make or break the Seminoles' season.
And, while we don't know the result of Taggart's implementation with the Noles, what happened with the Hilltoppers?
Over WKU's next four games - road games against Kentucky, Arkansas State and Troy and a home matchup with Southern Miss - the Toppers lost just three fumbles (one against the Wildcats, two against the Trojans). WKU also went 4-0 in that stretch and won five of their next six before ending the year on a 1-3 slide, on their way to their first ever FBS bowl bid.
While we can't know for sure how this will affect FSU yet, anything is worth a shot for a team with a -6 turnover margin, having forced just five turnovers to giving the ball up 11 times.