There's plenty to look at in the wake of Florida State's 21-15 win over Georgia Tech to claim their first ACC crown in seven years.
"We knew the road was going to be hard any time you win the championship and our kids fought hard and overcame circumstances and our offense played a great first half, our defense played a great football game overall," said Jimbo Fisher afterward.
We'll start with the good. Florida State's defense was able to clamp down on an offense that it was incredibly unfamiliar with. In the midst of all the distractions circling around this week and with starter Nick Moody getting knocked out on the opening kick the Seminole defense made good on its stated intent to send Mark Stoops out with a bang.
The Yellow Jackets still managed 301 yards of total offense but their run game stalled out early and it wasn't until an EJ Manuel fumble that they managed a touchdown. Things were interesting late, but a Karlos Williams interception solidified the 'Noles' win.
"I was behind [Nick] Moody all week in practice," said Williams. "Getting good reps, making sure I knew my assignment alignments, and after he went down the first kickoff my name was called and I was kind of nervous, but it's the game of football, you've got to go out there and step up and it was my time and I think I played pretty well tonight."
With the game on the line in the waning seconds Williams caught a deflected pass and raced up the sideline to assure Florida State of their first ACC crown in years.
"Coverage was called, they're trying to get the ball downfield, really spread the ball out, trying not to really so much milk the clock, but try to run a little hurry up and I was covering 3, 3 to the field," said Williams. "He came across and the quarterback threw a pretty bad ball. I just broke on it and tried to tip it up and bat it down, but luckily it tipped up in the air and I just tried to make a sure catch and that's what happened. I'm just happy I got the call and we're ACC champs."
This was a game where Florida State's defense entered at a disadvantage but they managed to turn in a solid performance. That made all the difference.
NC State All Over Again
Midway through the fourth quarter when it was 21-15 and Florida State had to drive and run out the clock, things started to feel eerily similar to the game in Raleigh. That's because this game was extremely similar to the NC State loss. After scoring a few times in the first half the Florida State offense got conservative, a little sloppy and failed to add to its 21 points in the final two corners.
The only difference between Raleigh and Charlotte was this time the Seminoles had enough of a lead.
Make no mistake about it though the Florida State offense was not in rhythm in the second half and it almost cost the Seminoles. After the game Jimbo Fisher also saw the similarities, but also saw growth:
"Exactly right. As I said, you find ways to win games. Good teams win games in different ways. The Clemson game we outscored them. This game we played great defense," said Fisher. "The NC State game we couldn't make enough plays either way. But again, that goes part of being a champion. There's a point in time you point back and you look at it and you say, that was it. That's the time that you got over that hump and you got there and you didn't let the circumstances blur your vision, and they did that.
"The defense -- and we were able to make that play. They were determined, they said at halftime we're going to do whatever we've got to do, and they did."
While I see Fisher's point about the defense stepping up, I don't see the same progress Fisher is lauding. Push came to shove and the offense disappeared again, the play-calling got conservative and the Seminoles found themselves holding on for dear life in the final minutes.
The only difference on the offensive side of the ball was that Florida State won.
The Early Run
Florida State got just enough offense out of its rushing game in the first half when it ran for 147 yards and all three of their touchdowns.
"You couldn't play a better first half than we did offensively," said Fisher. "We scored three out of four drives, we had the ball, ate the clock up, ran the ball, scored 21 points, missed a 3rd and inches, which is ridiculous.
"And then the second half come out with self-inflicted things. I thought we played a great first half offensively and a great defensive first half, then the defense continued to play well in the second half and on offense we just shot ourselves in the foot."
Devonta Freeman started things off in the first quarter before James Wilder Jr. turned in a dominating second quarter. Wilder finished with 10 carries 69 yards and a couple touchdowns, good enough for MVP honors.
Stoops is Gone for the Bowl Game
Mark Stoops confirmed after the game that he will not stay on with FSU through the bowl game. The writing was on the wall about that when Kentucky announced his availability in Lexington tomorrow back in the middle of the week, but now it's official.
No word yet on who will run the defense in his absence.
"[I've got] some different thoughts and how we do things, and we'll get organized and I'll get back on that trail tomorrow," said Fisher. "Thanks. I was trying to enjoy something for five minutes. I can't even enjoy --now I'm back to that mode."
On to the Orange Bowl
FSU is 1-5 in BCS games. They last played in one in 2005 when Joe Paterno beat Bobby Bowden in a triple OT game 26-23. The result was later vacated though, so technically I guess FSU is 1-4 or 2-4, but really 1-5. The Seminoles lone BCS victory was at the end of their 1999 National title campaign when they beat Virginia Tech (then of the Big East) for the BCS Championship.
It's likely FSU will get Lousiville in the game. The Cardinals joined the ACC this past week, FSU and Louisville haven't met since 2002 when the Cardinals upset the Noles on a Thursday night.
Check back tomorrow morning for more...