Florida State is Back
By Matthew Osborne
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While the talent has always been present at Florida State, some of the invaluable aspects of the game – the toughness, the preparation, the desire – had gone missing in recent seasons.
When compared to the storied history of Florida State football during the heyday of the Bobby Bowden tenure, it has been a tough past decade for Seminole Nation.
After an amazing stretch of 14 consecutive seasons in which the Seminoles won at least ten games and finished the year ranked in the top four in the national polls, Florida State has finished with a double-digit win total just once in the previous nine seasons.
For a program accustom to competing at a championship level, such a drastic “fall from grace” was difficult to stomach. When 10-win seasons become the norm, repeated eight and nine-win season simply will not suffice.
Although the program’s fan base had become increasingly frustrated by the team’s recent inability to return to national prominence, Saturday night’s 49-37 triumph over No. 10 Clemson has tremendously alleviated much of their pent up anxiety.
Saturday’s performance was important for a variety of reasons. Not only did it keep the Seminoles (4-0, 2-0) squarely in the hunt for a conference and national title; it potentially signified a return to the “Glory Days” of Seminole football.
“I’m gonna tell you, from an athletic perspective, the depth is so great right now and the athleticism is so great, it does remind you of the dynasty years when Florida State would get the top recruiting classes and the second and third-string guys were as fast and athletic and strong as the first-team guys,” former Seminole running back Dexter Carter remarked about the current state of the FSU program.
Talent, however, has really never been the prevailing concern for the Seminole program. Despite the recent downward trend of their season records, the Seminoles have remained a perennial national power on the recruiting trail.
The problem, instead, appeared to be powered by a dramatic shift in the culture of the program. Whether it was spurred on by complacency or the immense outside pressure placed on the program, the Seminoles did not seem to be playing with the same fire and intensity which had long been their trademark.
Recognizing the problem at hand, head coach Jimbo Fisher has made a concerted effort to severely alter the mindset and the attitude of the Florida State program, from the players and coaches, to the fans.
“One thing that I see is that Jimbo is teaching these young men that this is a whole process, and that you take it as a business and you perform and you practice and you prepare yourself for the game,” Carter commented. “Once it’s done, you enjoy it and it’s over after 24 hours. These guys here have goals that are greater than just winning over Clemson, so I believe they’ve got some more big wins in them.”
Though Saturday’s win over Clemson was certainly not the first big win for Florida State during the past decade, it did serve the purpose of making amends for a series of sub-par performances in the Seminoles’ most high-profile regular season games in recent seasons.
Most notably, the Seminoles were unable to attain victory against highly-ranked Oklahoma squads the past two years. A win in either contest almost assuredly would have legitimized the Seminoles as contenders on the national level.
The losses to the Sooners only seemed to the fuel the fire for Florida State detractors who argued that the program had completely fallen from grace.
The win over Clemson, however, served notice that this Florida State team is markedly different from Seminole teams of the recent past. If anything, Florida State used Saturday’s contest as a platform to announce that this year’s teams shares many of the same qualities that made the teams of the Seminoles’ dynasty years so dominant.
“Back when we played, we had no doubt that we were going to win the way that we won because of our preparation,” Carter reminisced of his successful playing days in Tallahassee. “And now what I see at Florida State, the first two years that Jimbo and I coached together prior to the staff change, Jimbo had started infusing that same thought process. He teaches, ‘don’t worry about things you can’t control’.”
It has taken some time, but it appears that the culture change which Fisher hoped to implement upon his hiring as head coach has finally come to its final stages.
While the talent has always been present, some of the invaluable aspects of the game – the toughness, the preparation, the desire – had gone missing.
Fisher has reestablished a culture of winning in Tallahassee, and the rest of the country undoubtedly has taken notice.
Saturday’s win does not immediately complete the return to prominence for the Seminoles, but it does serve as a significant leap towards the ultimate goal of once again competing for a national championship.
Nothing is certain in the sport of college football, but for the time being it appears that, thanks to the efforts of Jimbo Fisher, Florida State is back.