Florida State's players know what they lost in Raleigh a couple weeks ago and they also know heading forward that their margin for error is razor thin.
Aside from the regular season finale when Florida comes to call, the Seminoles play conference opponents in every other game from here on out. With NC State technically in control of their own destiny, the Seminoles must wait for the Wolfpack to lose and win out themselves to capture their division in the ACC.
"The biggest thing is just settling down and playing Florida State football," said DT Tim Jernigan. "It's things like just lining up right, you know the simple stuff, none of it's the big part which is like effort and stuff, we’re good with effort. Effort is not the case with this team.”
Heading into Miami the Seminoles are well aware that every team moving forward really will give them their best shot. And truth be told Jimbo Fisher's teams have never been flat against rivals. But Florida State cannot afford another slip-up either.
Everyone on the team says that won't happen too, but unfortunately that's a story that Florida State fans have heard a lot lately.
Toshmon Stevens for one has an interesting take. I've said before I think he has coaching in his future, and his ability to talk up a loss is just another reason. Pointing to the fact 'it's a process,' Stevens thinks the loss to NC State was a necessary catalyst to get this team to reach its potential.
“We were in a place where we just knew were weren’t going to be beat and we took teams for granted," admitted Stevens. "The first team we took for granted was USF, and look how that turned out. We were able to finish it off because we executed in the end but that could have been bad, that could have been a loss there. The NC State game we actually did lose it because we weren’t focused.
"And we came together, we were sad for a while and then we started thinking, ‘why’d we lose this game?’ We started out thinking it’s not because we’re not athletic and we can’t do our jobs it’s because we weren’t focused. We weren’t as hungry as were in the outset of the season...
“These things happen but I really think that loss helped us.”
I followed up a little and asked Stevens if he was saying that Florida State wouldn't have reached its potential without dropping a game like this?
“I really do feel that way," said Stevens. "Because say we would have won that game, the next week against Boston College we probably would have beaten them the same way, who knows, but we wouldn’t have had that hungriness that we need to have to play the rest of the season. So there would have been another team that would have done us the same way.”
Whether or not Seminoles fans want to hear that, time will tell if it's true. If Florida State comes out and wins handily the rest of the way, there might be some veracity to it though. That is a fair critique of Jimbo Fisher's teams so far, staying grounded and not overlooking lesser opponents on the schedule has been an issue several times.
Whether or not this was the loss that finally got the lesson to stick remains to be seen.
Regardless, Florida State knows it's going to get Miami's best shot on Saturday and everyone else's best show from here on out.
“It’s a big rivalry game and of course we want this one, we deserve it," said Jernigan. "The key thing is just focusing, not trying to do more than you can do, not trying to be Superman just do your job and making plays in the scheme so that’s what we’ve been focusing on.”
One big thing that's changed, FSU seems angrier this time. Not wreckless, but definitely looking to pay forward their frustration and disappointment. Whether they hang on to that feeling is another story, but for now the team is motivated.
"From now on, I don't care if we're winning by 1,000 we're going to keep hitting them in the mouth, I don't care who is in front of us," said Jernigan. "NC State kind of woke up a monster, so everybody else they just have to deal with it."