If you’d have asked Jimbo Fisher at the beginning of the season if going 11-2 to win the ACC and end up in the Orange Bowl is going to please him, the Florida State head coach was going to agree with you. Seeing as how the season went, there’s a slight feel of disappointment and underachieving in Tallahassee.
Beating Georgia Tech 21-15 in the ACC Championship game is a bit of a deceiving scoreline, as the Seminoles were up 21-6 at half time and chose to see what the Yellow Jackets had to offer during the second half. It brought Georgia Tech within a touchdown of a win, but despite EJ Manuel throwing an interception to give Paul Johnson’s team a chance to win, they couldn’t get out of their own half on the field on the final drive.
There was something of a depressing feeling about the game. Maybe because it was played in Charlotte, or maybe because of the obvious differences in strength between the sides prior to the kickoff, and the obvious disparity shown during the first half. EJ Manuel had a bad game, throwing for only 134 yards and an interception, but they didn’t need their departing quarterback to have good one. Even without Stepfan Taylor, the Seminoles rushing attack, ranked 23 in the nation with over 200 yards per game, was too much for Tech to handle.
They ran for 194 yards on 37 carries, averaging 5.2 per carry. James Wilder Jr. ran for 69 yards and two touchdowns, both of them in the second quarter which was when the Seminoles applied their crunch time effort to see the game off. Devonta Freeman ran for 59 and a score as well.
The defense was the bigger part of the story, forcing two interceptions and forcing Tevin Washington to running. Washington completed only four of his 14 passing attempts, scoring Tech’s only touchdown on a run play in the fourth, but he was also limited to 20 yards on 10 carries.
So Manuel could have had a better game on his goodbye from the conference and FSU feel like this season could have gone a bit differently. They still win their first conference title since 2005, and a program that was struggling to find its way back to the elite of College Football seems to be on the rise, under the right coaching staff. Mark Stoops, the DC, is leaving to take the head coach job at Kentucky, but he leaves an impressive legacy with one of the best defenses in the nation, allowing only 15.1 points per game throughout the season, 7th in the nation.
Jimbo Fisher understands that the ending to the season, especially with the loss to Florida, was a tad anti-climatic. Still, he knows what a big step forward this season was, knowing it brought Florida State a bit closer to were they were used to be for nearly two decades.
Everybody wants you to win the national championship. You got to win a conference championship before you win the national championship and keep getting in that hunt. Now our kids understand what it takes, how hard it is. But you know they’re champions and I’m going to tell you it means something. You think different. You act different. You become different. Hopefully it will translate into the offseason with our young guys and we can keep that culture around here like it used to be.