HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Florida State has lent credence to the expression "rollercoaster season" in 2017.
After their starting quarterback Deondre Francois went down with a torn patella in the Seminoles' season-opening loss to Alabama, FSU limped to a 3-6 season. After two straight wins, the 'Noles needed just one victory to become bowl eligible for the 36th straight year. Then, after seven seasons as the Florida State head coach, Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M prior to the regular season finale against Louisiana-Monroe.
Interim head coach Odell Haggins led the Seminoles to a win and a week later learned they would be playing Southern Miss in the Walk-Ons Independence Bowl on December 27 in Shreveport.
"Everybody's real excited to get up there play, you know a power school.," said USM senior wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. "Everybody's ready to get after it."
Freshman quarterback James Blackman has stepped up in the absence of Francois, passing for 1,997 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Clinton High School grad Cam Akers leads the Seminoles with 930 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his freshman season.
Despite a number of FSU starters announcing they will sit out the Independence Bowl as they prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft – linebacker Matthew Thomas, safety Derwin James and defensive end Josh Sweat – the Golden Eagles know their hands will be full on Wednesday.
"They're a great team," said USM senior defensive lineman Xavier Thigpen. "The running back Cam Akers, he's real good. The quarterback's long and lengthy. great pocket passer. He gets out the pocket and makes some throws on the run. Offensive line probably the best we've seen so far. We just gotta come out and just play our Southern Miss brand of football and just execute."