In many ways Tuesday night’s 31-10 win in the Discover Orange Bowl was a microcosm of the Florida State Seminoles’ entire season.
There were moments when the Seminoles’ athleticism and potential looked staggering, times when Florida State showed glimmers of a team that should have been in the national title hunt. There were points in the game where one couldn’t help but scratch their head and question how FSU hadn’t been more successful this year.
And then typically within a play or two the Seminoles would answer that question.
Yes, Florida State won the Orange Bowl on Tuesday night. It was its first BCS win in 12 years, their first BCS appearance in seven and it gave FSU just the third 12-win season in the program’s storied history.
But did Seminoles fans leave satisfied last night? Probably not.
You can spin Florida State’s season really well if you want to. EJ Manuel improved his bowl record to 4-0 (3-0 as a starter). Jimbo Fisher improved his own bowl record to 3-0 as a head coach. The program just enjoyed its best season in at least seven years.
But in many ways the season was a lot like EJ Manuel’s night. The stats and numbers sound a lot more impressive than the actual results. It’s what Florida State left on the table Tuesday night — and all season — that will haunt Seminole fans over the next eight months.
All season the Seminoles have squandered opportunities and missed chances to crash through the college football line of demarcation that separates the good teams from great ones.
This was a very good Florida State team. But they should have been great.
That was on full display during the Orange Bowl. The Seminoles should have crushed Northern Illinois. They had better athletes, more depth and came in battle-tested, having faced a better brand of competition.
Northern Illinois even provided the Seminoles with a gift in the form of Jordan Lynch’s arrogant pre-Orange Bowl comments to The Sporting News. But in typical Florida State fashion they never showed the killer instinct needed to make a team great.
After stifling the Huskies’ offense for the first 30 minutes, Florida State had a chance to put Northern Illinois on the ropes during its first drive of the second half.
Instead, after driving the ball to the Northern Illinois 2-yard line, the Seminoles got called for a false start on second down, EJ Manuel missed two receivers and Florida State only managed to tack on a field goal. They could have been up three scores with their foot on the Huskies’ neck. Instead they left points on the field and gave the ball back to NIU with just 14 points separating them.
Northern Illinois wasted no time getting back into the game. In six plays Jordan Lynch drove the Huskies 87 yards and pulled them to within a score. An onside kick caught Florida State flat-footed, and the entire momentum shifted to the Huskies.
Suddenly Florida State was locked into a tight game with an opponent they clearly outclassed. It was shades of FSU’s inexplicable 17-16 loss to North Carolina State all over again.
Here was a team that the whole nation knew was better, playing down to a team that just minutes earlier looked like they didn’t even belong in the game.
Yes, this Florida State team would go on to pull the win out in the fourth quarter and ended up winning the Orange Bowl. They ended the season 12-2. They had a good year.
But they could have been great.
Florida State fans came in to the Orange Bowl hoping for a blowout, they left with a victory that was closer than it looked. Florida State fans came into this season looking for a national title, they left with a “pretty good’’ season.
Good but not great.
And that’s what people are going to remember about the 2012 Florida State Seminoles.