Nov. 3, 2013
The biggest crowd in Doak Campbell Stadium history saw more than just another statement win Saturday night in what appears to be No. 3 Florida State’s freight-train trek toward a chance at a national championship.
All 84,409 of the fans that packed into the ‘Noles’ house after a long day that started with ESPN’s early-morning College GameDay broadcast and concluded with a late-night 41-14 mauling of No. 7 Miami were witnesses to a perfect example of what Jimbo Fisher has built since taking over as FSU’s head coach prior to the 2010 season.
In three-plus seasons leading the Seminoles, Fisher has handcrafted a machine in Florida’s capital city. He’s served as the chief architect in the creation of a program that is deep enough, talented enough and strong enough to legitimately compete for college football’s crown.
“This is a very good football team,” Fisher said. “That’s a very good football that we just played and beating them by four touchdowns, that doesn’t happen very often. Again, I say this, I love our football team. I love our football team.”
‘Noles opponents surely don’t feel the same way. FSU has now scored 40 points in a school-record eight consecutive games this season and has outscored ranked opponents 155-28. Credit the all-star roster that Fisher has put together.
Saturday, the Seminoles clung to a 21-14 halftime advantage and then the defense pinned its ears back and held the ‘Canes scoreless in the final two frames. A quick scan of the personnel on that side of the ball and it’s clear that the ingredients make up the winning recipe.
From Lamarcus Joyner to Jalen Ramsey to Telvin Smith and Christian Jones to Timmy Jernigan and Mario Edwards, Jr. and on and on and on, four years of successful recruiting has stacked the defensive cupboard despite the loss of several NFL-bound ‘Noles defenders earlier this year.
Under new coach Jeremy Pruitt — a rookie defensive coordinator hired by Fisher because of his championship pedigree and proven success as an assistant — the Seminoles transitioned from Mark Stoops’ 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 before evolving mid-season into a ferocious 3-3-5 that is physically and mentally punishing opponents.
“We are doing some pretty good things around here,” Joyner said. “I see a chemistry and a continuity around here that may not be broken. We started from spring when we knew that it’s us against the country. We built a standard and a belief and brotherhood around here that cannot be broken.”
Even on a night when Heisman-hopeful quarterback Jameis Winston wasn’t his best, the redshirt freshman still threw for 325 yards and orchestrated an offense that out-gained the ‘Canes 517-275.
And the weapons he has at his disposal are aplenty.
Miami, Fla. native Devonta Freeman took it to his hometown team with a memorable performance that saw him register 98 yards receiving and 78 yards rushing while totaling three touchdowns. Including Freeman, Winston’s offense also features a host of future NFL draft selections in Nick O’Leary, James Wilder, Jr., Karlos Wiliams, Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, as well as an offensive line that may be the country’s best.
FSU finished the game 11-of-15 on third-down conversions and consistently kept Miami back-pedaling. It’s depth, playmaking ability and sustained success make it virtually impossible for a defense to derail.
It’s toughness and grit — like that showed by the defense — also played a role, as it has all season. Playing big, playing fast and playing physical has always been Fisher’s No. 1 goal, and with this 2013 team he has those traits all rolled into one seemingly unstoppable squad.
“Just because you’re physical, doesn’t mean you’re not skilled,” Fisher said. “Just because you’re skilled doesn’t mean you’re not physical. That’s the way we want to be. I want to be the most physically dominating team that has great skill.
“When you have a good football team, that’s the way you play football.”
That’s the recipe for Alabama’s recent success as a dynasty that has won three of the last four national championships. And the Crimson Tide’s formula has always been Fisher’s blueprint.
A disciple of ‘Bama coach Nick Saban, it’s clear Fisher has created a Tuscaloosa clone in Tallahassee. All that’s missing is a championship — and if the Seminoles keep playing as well as they have through these first eight games, that might not be too far off.