Entering last season’s national championship game, one of the few criticisms leveled against the Florida State football team was that it hadn’t been tested all season. That it might not know how to handle itself in the fourth quarter of a close game.
It’s safe to say that this year’s Seminoles won’t have that problem.
Top-ranked FSU never trailed Saturday night but still had to sweat out the final moments of a 37-31 victory over Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Florida State jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but as the night progressed it fell victim to mid-game miscues that allowed the Cowboys to climb back in. The Seminoles led by as little as three points on two occasions in the second half.
Not until an Oklahoma State onside-kick attempt sailed out of bounds could FSU exhale, assured that it would steer clear of disaster.
“This was an eye-opening game,” said FSU junior cornerback P.J. Williams, who forced a late fumble that helped keep the Cowboys at bay.
“We know we’ve got to go out there and do a lot better in practice and clean some things up.”
That last point has Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher feeling good about things after Saturday’s game.
Fisher has spent months reminding his team that last year’s accomplishments won’t add up to wins for this group. And that, with the week-to-week target that comes with being No. 1 attached to their backs, the Seminoles will at times have to be even better than they were in 2013.
It’s one thing to hammer that point home in a meeting room. The Cowboys on Saturday provided a first-hand seminar.
“I definitely feel like this is a lesson,” Seminoles junior defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said. “We can’t practice bad or OK and expect to just turn it on and have a phenomenal game.”
Edwards admitted that FSU’s practice habits in the week leading up to the game weren’t up to standard. He believes that led to the mental mistakes that allowed Oklahoma State to score two long touchdowns — one a 55-yard pass to a wide-open David Glidden and the other a 24-yard run by quarterback J.W. Walsh — in the second half.
Still, those types of lessons are far better received after a win, no matter how close. FSU still won for a school-record-tying 17th consecutive time. And, even better, Fisher has plenty he can harp on in practice between now and this Saturday’s home opener against The Citadel.
“As a team, we’re a work in progress,” Fisher said. “We all know that. We have some good players but we still have to play good, and I have to coach better.”