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After Willie Taggart’s first spring game at FSU, a new Sunday dawns for Florida State football

A good morning for the Seminoles.

NCAA Football: Florida State Spring Game Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

In 1977, Lionel Richie and the Commodores sang about the feeling of being “easy like Sunday morning.” The ballad details the liberating vibe of breaking free from the strictures of a prior relationship. On Saturday night in Tallahassee, Willie Taggart’s new-look Seminoles showed their fanbase the beginning of a new day for the program, and many are probably waking up to a rather different sensation than they’ve experienced in the recent past after watching ’Noles football.

For following a magical national championship run in 2013, Sunday mornings have often been far from “easy” for the garnet and gold faithful of late. The 2014 FSU squad needed one comeback after another to survive the regular season unscathed on the field, though the national media did its best, at every turn, to dig up whatever dirt it could off the gridiron, however unsuccessful those attempts may have been. Still, the College Football Playoff debacle against Oregon felt like it was a long-time coming.

2015 saw the calamitous loss at Georgia Tech, and the beginning of Clemson’s rise to overtake Florida State in the ACC, a reign that remains unbroken for the Tigers, now one national title richer.

2016 brought the worst defeat in program history, at Louisville, and personal pledges required of players after a home loss against North Carolina. And of course, the entirety of the season was chronicled for all to see on premium cable.

And then there was 2017’s 7-6 campaign during which Jimbo Fisher and much of his staff simply quit on the program. Once Fisher and his staff departed toward the end of that tumultuous season, hope turned to the horizon, and the possibility that only future prospects can bring— even if we weren’t necessarily certain what that might entail.

That new hope was ultimately manifested in Taggart and his own crew, and early returns were positive. Taggart said all the right things at his initial public appearances, and his energetic practices turned many a head around ’Nole Nation. But Taggart isn’t being paid for what he does behind a podium or on the practice field. And although a spring game is certainly a glorified practice in and of itself, something happened on Saturday night that made the events that transpired in Doak Campbell Stadium so much more important than that.

I’m not, at least in this piece, going to write a single word analyzing the actual play during the spring game. I still want to re-watch it, if for no other reason than that my journalistic habits are still so attuned to Fisher’s deliberate pace that I often had my head down typing or checking stats while the ball was being snapped on the next play. And I’ll stand by what I posted on Saturday morning about making too much of the on-field product in a spring contest.

Which works well, actually, as my purposes here are much less focused on the quality of play than on the fact that, for the first time in a long time, what occurred between the sidelines on Bobby Bowden Field actually resembled just that again: play.

We’ve heard Seminole gridders throughout spring practice talk about how football was suddenly fun again, and I think that the real magic that occurred among over 60,000 FSU fans on Saturday was the refreshing feel of remembering that football is a great game, one meant to be enjoyed, and celebrated, not slogged through and endured. We once again got to experience the feeling that every snap is an opportunity for something amazing to happen, not just the next chance for disaster.

A spring game is a culmination, a final showpiece cultivated by weeks spent sweating in the sun, during which bright lights illuminate where a program is going. Taggart and his new ’Noles embraced that spotlight, while welcoming Florida State fans into its warm glow. The inclusion was on display in myriad forms, from numerous Seminole legends returning, to the lap that several players and Taggart himself took around the stadium to greet fans. There was a genuine, mutual respect, and abounding enthusiasm.

Yes, this euphoria will be put to the test when FSU loses. But for now, an authentic optimism pervades Florida State culture— an optimism by which the best mornings are characterized.

So enjoy a bit of a different Sunday morning than you’ve known of late, Seminoles. Don’t toss and turn restlessly— sleep in. Walk your dog instead of kicking him. Sip on a hot cup of coffee, rather than reaching for the bleach. Yeah, it’s just a spring game, but as far as atmosphere goes, it couldn’t have come off much better, so take it. And take it easy.