The last time Florida State lost a game by 30-plus points, it had an entire offseason to get over it. The Seminoles don’t have that luxury this time.
Just about 48 hours after the 63-20 beating at Louisville , coach Jimbo Fisher was trying to move past being shell shock and address the glaring problems as his 13th-ranked Seminoles prepare for Saturday’s game at South Florida.
“Ranting and raving and yelling isn’t going to do anything right now,” Fisher said, adding that of course he’s mad and upset. “At the same time, it happened. … Now you have to fix it, figure out how to do it, you have to go back to work.”
After winning 35 of 36 games from 2012 until midway through last season, including a national championship in 2013, the Seminoles are 6-4 in their last 10. The lone loss during that 2012-15 run was a 59-20 thumping against Oregon in the 2015 Rose Bowl, which until Saturday was the largest defeat of the Fisher era.
Fisher is trying to make sure this loss doesn’t completely derail a season where most expected the Seminoles to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“You’re going to find out what defines us,” he said. “When you have success, you grind, you do the little things, which I thought we had done, but not well enough.”
Florida State (2-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hasn’t dropped two straight games since Fisher’s second season in 2011. That year the Seminoles won their first two games and were ranked fifth before dropping their next three and falling out of the Top 25.
If the Seminoles are going to get back on track, they need to immediately address issues on the offensive line and pass defense.
The offensive line, which returned most of its starters from last season, has struggled in both run blocking and pass protection. Dalvin Cook hasn’t had many open creases to run through and has yet to post a 100-yard game.
Fisher said he didn’t envision the line struggling quite as much, especially missing some cut blocks in the run game.
Deondre Francois was sacked five times against Louisville and has taken his share of hard hits the first three games. Sometimes it has been protection issues while others can be attributed to the redshirt freshman holding on the ball too long.
The 11 sacks allowed are the most in the ACC and tied for eighth most among Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
“We’ve tried two or three things. We slid some protection (on Saturday) and got beaten out a couple times,” Fisher said. “That’s why you try to see us try to throw early downs and things like that, when it’s not big blitz downs.”
Communication problems in the secondary have led to the Seminoles allowing 14 completions of 20-plus yards, including three in the first half against Louisville. Part of it can be attributed to youth where three starters — cornerback Tarvarus McFadden along with safeties A.J. Westbrook and Marcus Lewis — are sophomores.
The next three games pose their own set of challenges.
The Bulls are 3-0 for the first time in five years after last Saturday’s 45-20 win at Syracuse and are the lone unbeaten team in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division. The Seminoles then host North Carolina on Oct. 1 followed by a trip to No. 15 Miami on Oct. 8.
Since last season‘s 34-14 loss in Tallahassee, South Florida has won 10 of its past 12. The Bulls also run an option game that has given the Seminoles problems this season.
South Florida is seventh in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 49.7 points per game.
“I think it will be big, just from respect and getting national attention. That’s something we as a program said we wanted to do, we want to earn respect,” South Florida coach Willie Taggart said during Monday’s AAC teleconference. “We don’t want anyone to give it to us. We want to earn it and it’s an opportunity for us to go out and do that.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.