Yesterday Florida State capped its first perfect regular season since 2000 with a 37-7 win over rival Florida in Gainesville.
"I’m very proud of this group of seniors and this whole team," said Jimbo Fisher after the game. "And this team, why it was able to do that was because it played one game at a time. It never looked ahead, it doesn’t worry about the results, it doesn’t worry about the outcomes, it doesn’t worry about what it has in front of us, it’s a very mature group that buys into our philosophy of one game at a time and the process of how we do things.”
Florida State abides by a faceless opponent philosophy. They take the logos and colors off the helmets and just focus on playing well. That comes down to a good week of practice, good film study and trust in their teammates and coaches.
There was no better evidence of how much Fisher's team has bought into his philosophy than how they handled questions about achieving just the third 12-win season in school history yesterday.
“It’s big, but we can’t get too high with the highs, too low with the lows, we can celebrate a little bit but know that we’re trying to get beyond that, we still have to go to the ACC and beat Duke, so we can’t sleep on them either," Mario Edwards said.
Added Kelvin Benjamin: “It was a great victory, we’re 12-0 we really happy, it’s the third time it’s happened in school history. But next week we have Duke so we have to forget about it and move on."
Up and down the roster the Seminoles were already beginning to focus on the next game, their biggest game -- the next is always the biggest in Fisher's opinion.
“You never want to get satisfied, always want to stay hungry, never want to get complacent," said DT Tim Jernigan. "Duke is next on the schedule and we’re going to enjoy this win tonight, then tomorrow and Monday we’re going to start focusing on Duke.”
Added Jameis Winston: "One thing we discussed after the game is it’s not over yet guys. We don’t care who we play, it’s a faceless opponent. Just because we’re playing Duke doesn’t mean that we let up, doesn’t mean that we think less of them, I mean they deserve it. In the ACC they won their side of the division so this is going to be a hard fought game. Obviously they’ve got a lot to prove. Florida State? We don’t have anything to prove we just have to keep getting better every single week and I promise you if we keep getting better and doing what we’ve got to do it’s going to be hard to beat us.”
Defense Stands Tall
Florida's offense wasn't able to muster a whole lot against the Florida State defense. The Seminoles surrendered just 193 total yards and seven points.
While FSU wasn't going to talk about it in the build-up to the game, this was a statement game for their defense after UF essentially called them soft in the aftermath of last year's loss in Tallahassee.
“They had a few quotes last year, the coach was saying that they ran against better defenses or something like that," said Terrence Brooks after the game. "I mean we really took that to heart because that’s our pride, our defense, we don’t ever want to be disrespected and we don’t ever want to show weaknesses or stuff like that. So we really took that to heart this week and we remembered that at the same time on the field too, I mean that was just our motivation the whole time.”
The Seminoles printed those quotes and put them in every player's lockers. Not just for this week either. Through 4th quarter drills, Spring practice, Summer camp and every week this Fall the 'Noles have seen the Gators' words every time they went into their lockers.
“We see it every day so we remember that, like ‘hey we never arrived.’ There are still people out there who think we’re not as good as we are," Brooks said.
On Saturday the Seminoles got their chance for a rebuttal. They used it well. Skyler Morhninweg averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt and the Gators managed just 78 rushing yards -- 50 of which came on one Trey Burton run.
"We kick ourselves in the butt for that one, we didn’t get lined up before the snap right," said DE Mario Edwards. "So it wasn’t something that they did so spectacular it was just something that we didn’t line up right and play the assignment.”
Beyond that run UF averaged just 1.2 yards per carry.
“We definitely took it personally that they thought we were soft, so we just wanted to go out there and prove it," said Edwards. "We didn’t want to talk or any of that we just wanted to prove that we were tougher than what we thought they were.”
Practice Makes Perfect
The UF secondary had planned to press and play a lot of man coverage against Florida State's receivers. That wasn't a terrible idea given how gifted Florida's secondary is.
One thing that gets discounted though is that UF's secondary hasn't had to play against receivers the caliber of FSU's all year. Especially not in practice. While UF has a fairly depleted wide receiving corps right now, FSU's is loaded and their secondary -- which is already quite talented in its own right -- practices agaisnt them every day when the team goes ones vs. ones in practice.
“Going against that offense, that helps us get better every day, those receivers are just phenomenal, the line is great, the running backs are really good. Getting to go against them every day just gets us that much better," said Brooks. "I think it’s a standard that we hold when we practice in everything that we do and that’s why we’re able to do so good.”
FSU's secondary leads the country with 23 interceptions. The players they practice against every day are likely a big part of that.
Winston Breaking Records
Jameis Winston has now thrown for more touchdown passes in a season than any quarterback in Florida State history.
Winston -- who finished 19/31 for 327 yards, three touchdowns and a pick -- entered the game tied with Danny Kanell (32 TD’s in 1995) for second in the program’s history. By the time FSU’s redshirt freshman QB had hooked up with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for two first half touchdown passes, he was in sole possession of first. The previous record holder, Chris Weinke, threw 33 back in 2000.
Winston is still technically one TD pass behind Kanell in the unofficial tally though.
Whereas Winston threw his 35 touchdown passes in 12 regular season games, Weinke and Kanell threw theirs in 11. Weinke was held without a scoring pass during his 12th game, the 2000 Orange Bowl (bowl statistics didn’t count towards season stats until 2002), and Kanell threw for four in an Orange Bowl win against Notre Dame in 1995.
That gives Kanell -- unofficially -- 36 in 1995.
Despite playing in an extra game than his two predecessors though, Winston has attempted far fewer passes. Weinke threw 431 times in 2000, Kanell threw 402 times in 1995. Winston -- who seldom plays past the middle of the third quarter -- has attempted just 317 passes this season.
The 6-4 225-pound signal caller needs just one TD pass next week in the ACC Championship game against Duke to tie the unofficial mark, two to break it.
Jimbo and Jameis "Talk"
Many fans saw the first half interaction between Jameis Winston and Jimbo Fisher where Fisher pulled Winston by the facemask and yelled at him. Here's what the two had to say about it after the game.
“That’s how we communicate, obviously I was just so amped up in the moment, I thought we were about to score a touchdown and I was like, ‘my fault, man, I mean I got the play, you know what I’m saying...’" said Winston. "And coach Fisher was like, ‘BOYS! You do it! You take control, it’s not on me!’ And I was like ‘yeah, you right coach.’
Said Fisher: “I just pulled him to me so I could talk to him, because I couldn’t hear him. He was trying to talk back and tell what was going on and I said, ‘no, come here, let’s talk.’ He knows when we do that it’s time.”
Winston admitted he can't let himself get so emotional after the game, but that's also part of Fisher and Winston's relationship. They'll argue, they'll yell at one another and they'll even get heated at points. But Winston can see the message for the message -- not how it's delivered -- and Fisher has grown enough as a coach to admit when he's wrong and Winston is right (as he did following the Miami game this year).
“That’s just the way he and I communicate," said Fisher. "That’s normal.”
Aguayo Making His Groza Case
Roberto Aguayo is a finalist for the Groza award -- given annually to the nation’s top kicker -- and he kicked like it on Saturday. The redshirt freshman hit three field goals and four extra points to send his point total to 138 points this season. Aguayo is 84/84 on extra points and 18/19 on field goals.
In total he is 102/103 on his kicks this season and has outscored FSU’s opponents by a combined score of 138-132 this year.
More Thoughts From the Morning After:
##- Jameis Winston on the 96-yard drive that got the offense started:
“Before that 90 yard drive I got the team together and I was like, ‘look, listen, guys, this is going to define this game right here. If we can just shove it down their throat this drive, 96 yards, we will win this football game and they looked in my eyes and said ‘I got you’ and I said Ok, let’s do it, then we broke it and got the roll," said Winston.
##- When FSU faced a 3rd and 26 on that drive:
“I’m just thinking like, that’s how you hurt teams," said Winston. "They’re just like ‘how do they convert on third and 27, third and 26?!’ And I was like, ‘that’s what we do.’ At that’s when we got crunk, instantly.”
##- FSU had some protection issues early on, they got them ironed out but Fisher attributed them to UF being well coached.
“They were hitting us with some stunts, they were blitzing and getting on the edges, you know pulling the guys through and getting a loop through and we started getting our depth back and getting on the edges and keeping our shoulder squares -- it was good technique by them on the pass rush, they’re just very well coached.”
##- Jimbo Fisher is now 7-1 against in-state rivals. He is 3-1 against Florida and 4-0 against Miami.
##- Jameis Winston has thrown for at least 200 yards in the first half of a game eight times this year. He has thrown for over 300 in a game six times.
##- FSU failed to score a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time in the last 8 games on Saturday.
##- Rashad Greene now has a reception in 27 straight games.
##- Florida State hasn’t trailed in a game since September 28th against Boston College.
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