By Bob Thomas, Associate Sports Information Director
ARLINGTON, Texas – Whether Florida State’s closer-than-expected 37-31 victory Saturday night over Oklahoma State will serve the same purpose as last season’s scare at Boston College remains to be seen. That can only be answered over time.
What remains clear in the post-script of the Seminoles’ school-record-tying 17th consecutive victory, is there are no shortage of correctable areas coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff will get to work on as the team begins preparation for the home-opener against The Citadel.
Fisher was especially pleased with the resolve the Seminoles demonstrated after letting most of their most of a 17-0 second quarter lead get away. Though his team never trailed, Fisher said that momentum had clearly swung in the favor of the Cowboys. Winning required the FSU defense to come up with two key fourth quarter stops, the second of which led to Rashad Greene’s difference-making 50-yard touchdown reception.
“We’ve got something to learn from,” said junior cornerback P.J. Williams. “It’s all on film…Last year we didn’t get this game until Boston College, when we realized we had to get better. Now we get it after the first game. We’re going to turn up after this.”
No phase of the team – offense, defense or special teams – was without room for significant improvement.
- The Seminoles’ running game produced 106 yards on 31 attempts (3.4 ypc) behind a veteran offensive line, but did manage to grind out some key yards late to work the clock;
- While quarterback Jameis Winston passed for 370 yards, he clearly leaned on Greene, who produced a career-high 203 receiving yards on 11 receptions, but was targeted 20 times. Winston was intercepted twice in the first half – once in the red zone with the Noles leading 10-0 – while trying to get the ball to Greene;
- FSU was penalized eight times for 71 yards, and some of those proved costly. Back-to-back defensive substitution and personal foul penalties set OSU for a first half field goal attempt (which was missed). A defensive holding penalty kept the Cowboys’ first touchdown drive alive and another personal foul set up their field goal at the end of the half. A fourth quarter holding penalty quashed a potential touchdown drive as FSU settled for a field goal;
- The kicking game, while producing three field goals, was unable to swing the field position game in FSU’s favor. In addition to a net punting average of 29.4 yards, short kickoffs and breakdowns in containment allowed OSU speedster Tyreek Hill to roll up 140 return yards on six tries.
“Hopefully this will be a good learning lesson for our guys in that, you know, you’ve got to play great,” Fisher said. “It is not about being great; it is about playing great. And our preparation and things, we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to hone in on some little things and all the phases of what's going on. And, as I say, we are in an opening game and hopefully we'll make a lot of improvements in the next week and keep getting better.”
It surprised no one on the FSU side that the Cowboys would run an up-tempo offense, but Mike Gundy’s team found its rhythm by effectively changing speeds, especially in the second half.
“I think we did pretty good in the first half,” said safety Nate Andrews, whose first half interception return for a touchdown helped the Noles to a 10-0 lead. “In the second half, I wouldn’t say we got tired, but it was just confusing how we were playing. … They kind of got us out of whack.”
“[The coaches] really emphasized beating them (Oklahoma State) back to the ball, getting eyes on coach and getting the play,” said Mario Edwards Jr. “A lot of times it was so loud in there. We were hustling, getting back to the ball and looking over but couldn’t quite understand what coach was signaling in and they would catch us out of alignment.”
Added defensive back Jalen Ramsey:
“We knew it was coming, it was just a matter of lining up and getting the calls in quick enough. They were going a little bit quicker than we expected, so we really didn’t get lined up perfectly, then we didn’t execute because we were worried about lining up. That’s things we can fix.”
Both Fisher and several Seminole defenders acknowledged that the team’s preparation was less than stellar in the week leading up to the game.
“We didn’t practice to the Florida State standard,” Ramsey said. “We practiced OK and it showed tonight. Our habits came to the light and that’s what happens when you don’t practice like a champion.”
Some of those preparation issues could have well led to the Seminoles using a shorter defensive rotation than usual, which could account for some late-game fatigue. The Cowboys did amass 235 of their 364 total yards in the second half.
Afterward, Fisher gave the distinct impression that his team’s focus wasn’t where it needed to be.
“I don’t think we let down,” Fisher said. “I think we were just worrying ….worrying, ‘OK, I don’t want to lose this game.’ Worrying about results. I keep telling them, ‘You don’t worry about results. You worry about the process of playing well, executing well (and) doing the little things.’ The results will come.
“And quit worrying about everybody else’s expectations and play your own game.”
That message was not lost on the Seminoles.
“At the end of the day I sensed something that says, everybody in [the locker room] knows we’re a lot better than we played and we need to get back in the lab and we need to work on it and create better practice habits,” Greene said. “Guys know it’s time to work. It’s time to get back to what we do. The first game is in the bucket. Now it’s time to get better.”