In what was the marquee game of opening weekend, no. 3 Florida State was dominated by no. 1 Alabama 24-7 on Saturday in the teams’ season opener. The Seminoles struggled to keep up with the Tide throughout. What was supposed to be an even match between two top-three teams in the country became another Bama clinic that left the rival team looking for answers. Ultimately, Florida State was forced to ignore the score when they lost something bigger than the game late in the fourth quarter.
On third and 4 with just under six minutes left in the game, quarterback Deondre Francois rolled to the right looking for a wide receiver to convert the first down when he was tackled from behind by Alabama’s Ronnie Harrison and rolled over his left leg, hurting it badly enough that he couldn’t place pressure on it after he was helped off the field.
Not good..— Leading Sports Media (@LeadingSports_) September 3, 2017
Francois goes down. pic.twitter.com/1OHRZXRQ3T
All night, Alabama dominated the trenches and forced Francois to scramble out of the pocket. He was sacked three times and threw two interceptions before he was injured. After being examined on the sideline, Francois used crutches to get to the cart which took him into the locker room. After getting x-rayed, he wore a brace on his left leg.
FSU QB Deondre Francois just exited the x-ray room. Hopped on cart in obvious pain. Large black brace on left knee. pic.twitter.com/2T61CdWA9l— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) September 3, 2017
Florida State, with their depth and talent, could easily overcome a Week 1 loss and still make the playoffs at the end of the season. But Francois’s injury is a far more consequential setback that could put the Noles out of commission, not only for their goal of a national title, but for meeting their most basic expectations as a championship-contending team.
Last season, as a redshirt freshman, Francois threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns and ran for nearly 200 more yards and five touchdowns—the second best on the team. He was expected to have a breakout year his sophomore season and lead Florida State back to the playoffs. Now, his future—and the team’s—hangs in the balance. Francois is one of college football’s most dazzling, talented players, and the carburetor that makes the Seminoles’ offense go. Losing him after only one game is a disappointing development in the backdrop of a single season—Florida State will have no choice but to put in his backup, J.J. Cosentino—but is more so in the potential setback for him as a player.
The severity of Francois’s injury may take him out of this season altogether, possibly stumping his potential to get to the next level. It’s another reminder of how quickly the trajectory of a star can change and how football often forces the young and talented to make a risky bet on their health, knowing it could change and alter their futures at any moment, even in the waning minutes of a suddenly meaningless game.