When you have designs on competing for a national championship, when you dream of raising the trophy in your home state, how do you refocus and prepare for the probability of … the Russell Athletic Bowl?
That’s life for the Florida State Seminoles, who saw their ACC title hopes realistically sunk well before Columbus Day.
“No one around here is used to losing,’’ Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’re not going to get used to losing.’’
But FSU (3-2) must deal with the sting following last weekend’s shocking 37-35 home defeat against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The Noles must travel to face one of their biggest rivals — the Miami Hurricanes (4-0) — for a Saturday night game when things could get even worse. Miami wants to go for the kill shot and end a six-game losing streak against the Seminoles.
It’s a huge game for Miami, which will probably get its first real test under coach Mark Richt,
but it’s an even larger test for the Seminoles, who can show their true colors. So far, it doesn’t exactly look like a garnet-and-gold bunch after watching FSU’s defense curl up and surrender against Louisville and North Carolina.
Before attempting to defeat Miami, FSU must fix itself.
Had the Tar Heels failed on their final-play 54-yard field-goal attempt, maybe the Seminoles would’ve dusted themselves off and said, “Whew! We survived another one.’’ Things would seem on track.
However, that field goal split the uprights. Despite erasing a 21-point deficit and rediscovering their offensive rhythm, the Seminoles suffered a crushing loss.
Of course, it was upsetting for the FSU offense, which did everything necessary to win, only to see a late collapse from the defense. Seminoles junior running back Dalvin Cook denied any talk of a rift between the offense and defense, saying there had been no finger pointing.
Frustration, though? Absolutely.
Fisher knows it:
“Do you know how many behind the scenes meetings the (2013) undefeated team had because guys had arguments where a guy wasn’t playing to his potential or not preparing to his potential or off the field wasn’t doing something right or wasn’t going to class?
“Those happen all the time. They’re always brought more to light when you’re not having success in what you do.’’
In other words, maybe it’s not the best of seasons for Showtime to have an all-access show on the FSU Seminoles.
But we digress.
“Guys get frustrated when they don’t get results,’’ Fisher said. “What frustration has go to lead to is, ‘How do I change my behavior? How can I take what I’m doing and translate it to somebody else?’
“That’s what leadership is.’’
That’s what we’re about to learn.
Who are the leaders? How much pride will show up now?
“Right now, you’re going to find out the pretenders and the contenders on your team, who they are and what they really want to be,’’ Fisher said. “That’s what this game is all about.
“Just because you’ve had a down spell, that does not mean your program is going (down) or your team’s going (down) or anything else is going (down). You continue to do the same thing, make adjustments as you go, tweak and turn, adjust.’’
Sounds simple. It’s not.
The Seminoles are wounded, and the schedule isn’t getting any easier.
FSU’s effort and execution on Saturday night will display more about the Seminoles than any championship game. The Seminoles are backed into a corner, and their response to some unexpected adversity will be very telling.