With three losses under their belt, the fallen-from-grace Seminoles are still looking at this season as a rebuilding effort. The ACC championship is all but out of reach with Clemson surging week-to-week, so we are playing for a bowl game. But does that mean Florida State has lost the excitement?? By no means! This week the Florida State Seminoles are looking forward to an all-out battle against the N.C. State Wolfpack, because last week they manhandled the Maryland Terrapins.
It went like this:
That was Maryland's frightened quarterback failing to slide to avoid a tackle. That is the fear the Unconquered will strike in the Wolfpack's eyes this week. How do I know? The Noles have much to play for and could finish the season a nine-win team with an entertaining bowl game. The Maryland game showed that determination and much more.
Here's what else we think we learned from FSU's most recent win:
1. Whooping up on Maryland was a sign of greatness.
Most people would counter here and say, "Come on, Maryland has only two wins on the season!" - but take a look. They upset Miami in week one, and then lost very close games to West Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Clemson in consecutive weeks, will all three opponents ranked. Then they came to Doak Campbell. This is not a team that get's deflated. This is not a team that backs down. And we took them down. Maryland won't be a contender this year, but they normally put up one hell of a fight, and we routed them. Go Noles.
Looking forward: N.C. State has four wins, including then-ranked Georgia Tech and non-factor Virginia, and also a loss to Wake Forest. While this doesn't sound like as impressive a resume, the Wolves average 30+ points per game and have a quarterback that has slung over 1700 yards and 19 TDs, comparable to Wake Forest's Price (1800+ yards, 14 TDs). In other words, a threat.
2. When E.J. Manuel is healthy, the Seminoles win games.
Plain and simple, when E.J. plays well, the team plays well. Florida State's has lost three games: Oklahoma, Clemson, and Wake Forest. Each of those losses featured an injured E.J. Manuel and forced the Seminoles to turn to the freshman back up Clint Trickett. With E.J. at the helm since then, we saw a nice display of his no-longer-injured shoulder against Duke, and then the exact same score (41 points) posted against a more formidable opponent in Maryland.
Manuel averaged 10.2 yards in the air for 268 yards, 1 touchdown, and only 1 pick.
(Note: I am not hating on Trickett, he pushed the Noles to 30 points at Clemson and threw a TD over Oklahoma for the lead. Still, he has much to learn, weight to gain, and the Noles also happened to lose those games. he was downright awful against Wake.)
3. Florida State has a distinct home field advantage.
The same Maryland offense that wreaked havoc on Clemson and Miami looked pitiful in Doak Campbell Stadium. Florida State has three losses, with only one at home - then #1 Oklahoma, in which momentum was not lost until Manuel was injured. Last year's only loss at home was a 2-point upset from North Carolina and this week face N.C. State, who has only won against Virginia on the road. The Doak is an efficient weapon, and FSU will continue that trend for Parent's Weekend on Saturday.
4. The running game is alive and well!
Last week Florida State was still searching for a running game. With key injuries to all of last years leading rushers, the Seminoles finally turned to freshman Devonte Freeman against Duke, and we went wild. This week he proved it was no fluke. He had 11 carries for 100 yards and a TD, his second consecutive week with the most carries for the Seminole offense, at least 100 yards and a touchdown. Impressive. As a freshman, he stands 5'8" and 200 lbs. For comparison, Maurice Jones Drew is 26 and stands 5'7" at 208 lbs.
5. The defense played with confidence and discipline.
Wait, what? It's true. The defense held the Terps to 3.72 yards per play before garbage-time and passed the eye-test of a team that was well prepared and not messing around, as opposed to the "bunch of kids having fun" mentality.
Noles fans had been calling for Mark Stoop's head the last few weeks, and had yet to recant after Florida State held Duke to 16 points, but holding off Maryland to 16 points seems to have quelled most fears. When the defense faces the Wolfpack on Saturday they will see an offense with twice the ability of Maryland (judging by passing yards and points scored) and will have to show they can stop a team in the air as easily as they stopped the Terps running game.