SO MUCH Florida college football on just one day. Check out these upcoming games: UCF at Temple, FSU vs. Delaware State, and FAU taking on FIU.
TALLAHASSEE – Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher has thoroughly experienced the highs and lows of college football during his 30 seasons as a coach.
Fisher saw both sides of the spectrum firsthand as an assistant under Terry Bowden at Samford and Auburn before he helped Nick Saban mold LSU into a national champion in 2003 and rebuilt the FSU program with his own national title in 2013 after the Bobby Bowden era.
But this season’s 3-6 campaign — hindered by a two-week layoff thanks to Hurricane Irma in September, season-ending injuries to two key starters and poor depth at some positions — has become the worst season of his career.
Fisher said Monday he did not expect this season’s adversity to stretch “to the extent it went and to have key people go away.”
But it has turned into quite a learning experience for
Fisher, whose team needs wins in its final three games of the regular season to extend the nation’s longest bowl streak to 36 years.
Florida State begins that pursuit by hosting Delaware State (2-8, 2-6 MEAC) on Saturday at noon in Doak Campbell Stadium, hoping to build on its last win against Syracuse Nov. 4 and an encouraging 31-14 loss at Clemson Saturday.
“You learn as a coach, too, every day how you’re going to handle it, what goes on and it gives you something to revert back to,” Fisher said Monday during his weekly press conference.
“Again, the thing I’m the proudest of is our kids and the fighting spirit which they have and the ability to allow you to keep pushing them. There’s no doubt. But that’s what life is. You never know what’s around each turn. You’ve got to figure it out and move on.”
The Seminoles were on the brink of making things interesting at No. 4 Clemson last week, after using some trickery to get tight end Ryan Izzo free for a 60-yard touchdown and forcing a fumble on the ensuing defensive drive in what was a 17-14 contest.
But FSU quarterback James Blackman threw his eighth interception of the season on the play after the turnover, deflating the Seminoles’ chances for an upset and morale-boosting victory.
A season that has been hampered by the loss of quarterback Deondre Francois (knee), starting offensive lineman Landon Dickerson (foot) and depleted depth at receiver has also translated into losses against Alabama, Miami, NC State and Louisville, putting the Seminoles in a peculiar position to end the season.
“We’re going out there trying to win every single game. We’re trying to win all three,” FSU starting offensive lineman Alec Eberle said.
“… We know there’s a bowl streak, it’s 35 straight and this will be the 36th straight bowl game. We don’t want to ruin that. Of course, it’s in the back of our minds.”
Among the lessons Fisher has learned this season: the persistence needed to push a team that has succumbed in late situations to Miami and Louisville, the patience to guide a true freshman quarterback learning his complex pro-style offense and the desire to continue FSU’s winning tradition cultivated during the past 40 years.
But FSU’s dropoff can be traced back to the middle of the 2015 season, during which FSU started 6-0 but has since gone 15-12 against its past 27 Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
The Seminoles’ six losses this season is one shy of the number of defeats they have suffered in the last four seasons combined.
Fisher may make some widespread changes to his assistant coaching staff at season’s end, but in the meantime hopes the Seminoles can avoid their first losing season since FSU finished 5-6 in Bowden’s first season in 1976.
“The standards can’t change,” Fisher said. “Standards for success and what you do, how you practice, the amount of time you put in — the standards don’t change. They are what they are. It takes what it takes.
“That’s why you’ve got to get [the players] to understand that, and then as coaches, we’ve got to make the adjustments.”
Despite the adversity his team has faced, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has been impressed by its resiliency.