TALLAHASSEE -- For the first time in the Jimbo Fisher era, Florida State fell to an in-state rival on Saturday night.
“We didn’t play well. I thought our kids wanted to win and played hard and tried to battle back,” said Fisher, who is 5-1 against Florida and Miami in his three years as Florida State’s coach. “We played a heck of a third quarter to battle back out there.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The Seminoles trailed 13-3 at halftime before a 17-point third quarter put them up 20-13 going into the fourth quarter.
But a lopsided time-of-possession deficit put Florida State’s defense on its heels in the fourth quarter, and UF was able to capitalize on turnovers and fatigue to beat the Seminoles 37-26 down the stretch.
“People are disappointed,” FSU sophomore running back James Wilder Jr. said. “If you’re a competitor, you are going to be disappointed after a loss, but we know we are tight, we are a family, we are brothers, and we can look each other in the eye and know we gave it our all. There is nothing to be sad about. We know that we gave it our all, but we know we have to move on next week to the ACC championship.”
The No. 10 Seminoles (10-2, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) cannot afford to let disappointment carry over into their next game.
Florida State will head to Charlotte, N.C., to square off with Georgia Tech on Saturday for a chance to win their first ACC title since 2005. Georgia Tech lost 42-10 to Georgia on Saturday in its rival game.
“We’ve got to recover; we’ve got a lot to play for,” Fisher said. “We’ve got a conference championship [this] week. Back to business [Sunday]. Hats off to Florida, they did a great job in the ballgame. Our kids played hard, we just didn’t play well. We’ll have to move on and get better, and I have to do a better job of coaching them.”
The Seminoles turned the ball over five times and possessed the ball for nearly 13 minutes less than the Gators, yet still led the game heading into the fourth quarter and had chances to win it late.
“It was just a lack of our execution,” FSU junior wide receiver Kenny Shaw said. “The guys played their best. It really didn’t come down to any one man messing things up — it came down to a lack of execution as a whole.”
Now the Seminoles must put this loss behind them. There is still plenty left to accomplish this season.
“We got the 24-hour rule,” Wilder said. “When we wake up [Sunday] morning, we have to leave this behind us. We still have two of our goals out there that we need to go get.”
If the Seminoles defeat Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, they will head to Miami to play in an Orange Bowl matchup against the winner of the Big East. Florida State has not won a BCS bowl since its last national title in 1999.
Although a 10-2 record was not what many Florida State fans envisioned, 12-2 with an ACC title and an Orange Bowl win would still end up being a successful year for a Seminole program that has spent the past decade out of the top tier of college football.
“We are a family, so we aren’t pointing fingers,” Shaw said. “We just have to focus on Georgia Tech and getting that ACC championship because we haven’t won that it in seven or eight years.”