TALLAHASSEE -- Last year, for all intensive purposes, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons ended Florida State’s season.
After dropping games to Oklahoma and Clemson, the Seminoles badly needed a victory in Winston-Salem, N.C. Instead, they suffered a back-breaking defeat, literally and figuratively, losing 35-30, with the Deacons effectively ending the Noles’ Atlantic Coast Conference title chances and also ending starting tailback Chris Thompson’s season with two broken vertebrae.
“We were upset. It was our third loss in a row; we had all these high expectations of what we wanted to do as a season, as a team,” senior quarterback EJ Manuel said. “It was just a rough day; it’s not something we’re planning on going through in our own house.”
A year later, as the fifth-ranked Seminoles prepare to host Wake Forest, those on the team insist they have moved on, that this is a different group, and revenge isn’t a factor.
“It’s a different year,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Totally different year; this is a totally different team, and we know what we have to do. Wake does what they do, we’re going to do what we do. We’ve got to play well.
“I mean, you always want to play well against teams that have beaten you in the past or whatever, but year to year the teams change. They’re not the same team.”
But if revenge isn’t a factor, one also gets the sense around Tallahassee that it wouldn’t hurt to get revenge. Wake Forest has won four of the past six meetings. Before that, Wake had won just two of 24 games in the series.
The Seminoles know they’re in for their first real test. After breezing through two opening games against Football Championship Subdivision opponents by a combined score of 124-3, FSU hosts a 2-0 Wake team led by fifth-year senior quarterback Riley Skinner in its ACC opener.
“This guy here now is the real deal,” Fisher said. “He can make plays. He’s accurate, knows where he’s going with the ball, good arm, keeps plays alive with his feet, very instinctive, and he’s a really good player now. I like him.”
The Seminoles know Wake is a well-coached team that won’t give them anything on either side of the ball. But they also have a decided advantage along the defensive line, where the Demon Deacons are admittedly “in flux,” as coach Jim Grobe put it Wednesday.
The Seminoles boast a deep rotation of pass rushers up front led by Bjoern Werner (five sacks), who should have little problem overwhelming an undersized, inexperienced Wake Forest offensive line.
The game will be an emotional one for Thompson, who feared he might never play football again after breaking his back against Wake last season.
Thompson has seen limited action in FSU’s first two games, like most of the Seminoles starters, but will be needed to anchor the ground attack Saturday in a game that’s more meaningful than the Noles are letting on.
“All the guys know it’s pretty much going to be an emotional day for me,” Thompson said. “And I know those guys are going to go out and play hard just because [of] the effect [last year] had on all of us.”