I'm wrapping up here at Doak Campbell Stadium for the last time this year. How we've already made it through an entire college season escapes me, but time flies when it comes to football.
Tonight was senior day for Florida State and this group of seniors went out with a disappointing 37-26 loss to their rivals. It was the first loss to an in-state rival suffered under Jimbo Fisher and it was surely not the way this group wanted to leave.
EJ Manuel did not play the type of game he would have liked to have finished his career in Tallahassee with. Manuel was pressured by a very talented UF defensive front all night and he made a number of costly mistakes that factored heavily into the outcome.
"Honestly, I can't say whether it was mental or if it was something they did," said Manuel. "The interceptions were very uncharacteristic, especially three."
Manuel finished 18-33 for 182 yards, a touchdown and the three interceptions. He also had a fumble on what was arguably the key play of the game. On a broken play, Antonio Morrison made the hit of the night early in the 4th quarter when he blew EJ Manuel up, forced a fumble and gave UF field position deep on the Seminole side of the 50.
There's going to be a lot of discussion about that hit in the coming days, here's why: FSU maintains it was a rib injury, at least per Jimbo Fisher. But both Kenny Shaw and EJ Manuel mentioned he got hit in the head and Manuel was being evaluated on the sideline like a player with a concussion not like a guy with a rib injury.
I'm not saying EJ Manuel had a concussion, I'm not saying he didn't. What I am saying is that Florida State will need to monitor its senior QB closely this week.
As for the impact the play had on the game itself, you cannot understate how much the momentum changed in the ten seconds that play took. UF punched it in a play later for a touchdown to go back up by three, and then took their momentum into their next defensive drive where they forced FSU into a three and out and scored again on offense.
"They were good," said Manuel. "I thought we could have executed better but they did a great job on defense. They had a good pass rush, great DB's, good linebackers. I'm not going to take anything away from them. They did a good job, I just thought I could have executed better."
EJ Manuel is going to leave Florida State with a complicated legacy. In many ways he's a victim of the expectations he came in with, and there will be many Seminole fans who are unhappy with his career despite him being the quarterback who helped bring FSU back to relevence. Look at where FSU was when Manuel entered as a freshman and look where they ended up after his last home game.
Bear in mind that EJ Manuel had to bail FSU out of a losing season in Bobby's first year when he was just a redshirt freshman. By the time he was done he had FSU at 10-2 and competitive on a national stage. I can't imagine EJ feels good mentally or physically tonight, but personally I hope fans look back at his time on Florida State favorably. He's had a solid career.
Werner is Coming
Bjoern Werner had himself a day and a half, even if the rest of the Florida State defense struggled at times. Werner recorded 3.5 sacks and recovered a fumble in what will, in all likelihood, be his last home game as a Seminole. Right now Mel Kiper has Werner rated 10th overall in his draft rankings. That was before Werner dominated an SEC offense unlike any other SEC defensive end has done to it all season.
I'm pretty sure Jeff Driskel leaves Tallahassee with a Werner shaped imprint between his shoulder blades and a rudimentary knowledge of German based on the amount of interaction those two had on Saturday night. Werner is an absolute force to be reckoned with on the Florida State defensive line and he is going to make a ton of money playing on Sunday soon.
Tank Carradine, As Always
While Bjoern Werner was making the flashy plays, Tank Carradine was just making tons of them. Once again Carradine lead the Seminoles in tackles, finishing with 11 and a half sack, despite leaving the game early with an injury.
Like Werner, Carradine is a considered a sure-fire first round NFL prospect. On Saturday that was on display once again as Tank made plays against the pass and the run, while displaying the level of athleticism that Seminole fans have come to expect this season. Carradine, without a doubt, has been the biggest revelation on this Florida State team all year. Prior to the season Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner made it a point to give Carradine some hype. By the end of September it was clear they weren't kidding.
Carradine left the game with an injured leg. There's no word yet on his status, but Florida State could ill-afford to have him out for next weekend against Georgia Tech.
Next weekend I'll be in Charlotte as the Seminoles prepare to take on the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game. FSU can still go 12-2 with a BCS win and a conference title this year. While many fans wanted BCS title or bust, it would be hard to look at a 12-2 year with a conference championship (especially given the past decade) as anything but a resounding success.
Of course, Florida State has to flush this loss and move on first.
A loss next weekend and the season does become disappointing...