Sept. 17, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Fifty-one weeks ago, Florida State was in the same position. The only difference is that this time around the stakes are much higher.
Last year the third week of the season was spent preparing for Oklahoma and the national spotlight that would shine on Tallahassee for the Seminoles' matchup with the Sooners.
It's the same this season -- albeit the fourth week of the year -- but instead of gearing up for a tough out-of-conference clash No. 4/4 Florida State is focused on Atlantic Coast Conference foe No. 9/10 Clemson.
ESPN's College Gameday will air live for the nation to see from Langford Green like it did before that Oklahoma game but the implications for this year's 8 p.m. contest on ABC are far greater than they were a season ago. This time, there's a conference title-chance hanging in the balance as the team that falls on Saturday loses the ability to control its own destiny in the race towards the ACC crown.
"We have a great opponent, we've got a great challenge ahead of us," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday at his weekly press conference. "Y'all get to have the circus of the national media and all that goods stuff. It'll be very interesting to see how we handle that; how mature we are to handle those situations from a year ago as those big games up how we do things.
"I think we'll do very well; I think we'll handle it well. I think we learned some lessons."
The 'Noles lost that game to Oklahoma a year ago in a hard-fought battle that came down to the final moments. People around the program and the campus still talk about the atmosphere and fanfare that surrounded the showdown, from the early-morning campouts by fans hoping to be seen by ESPN cameras to the sold-out Doak Campbell Stadium crowd that was perhaps the loudest that hallowed brick structure has ever seen.
The game against the Tigers figures to be much the same atmosphere-wise. And it figures to be the same preparation-wise for the Seminoles as it has been for early-season games against Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest.
It's just another week and another test for a team with championship aspirations.
"Why will you be here Saturday?" Fisher asked rhetorically. "Why will Gameday be here Saturday? Why will everybody be watching Saturday? What's going on? [A football game.] Exactly. … You eliminate the rest and play a football game. In the end, that's what it's all about."
EJ Manuel, who addresses the media after Fisher every Monday, echoed similar sentiments.
His Sunday -- his first day of game week -- was spent the same way it had been through three previous Sundays, filed with preparation for the next opponent on the schedule. His teammates did the same.
"Everybody showed up 15 minutes early, dressed and ready to go," Manuel said. "We were able to get in and do what we had to do and go home. And that's what a mature team does. Last week was a big week for us. We thought Wake Forest was a great team and we prepared for them like they were. We are going to do the same thing this week."
"This is a very important game, but hopefully during our time at Florida State we are going to play a lot of important games," Fisher added.
As of early Monday afternoon, there were still a limited number of tickets to Saturday's game. Fans that wish to attend the highly-hyped matchup can order tickets do so by clicking here or calling 1-888-FSU-NOLE.
"I think any school wants a home-field advantage and that support from their fan base," Fisher said. "And I think they'll be a great environment, I really do. I think it's very important."
WIDE RECEIVERS HELP SPRING THOMPSON FOR CAREER DAY
Chris Thompson was the player of the game in FSU's 52-0 win over Wake Forest thanks to his career-best 197 yards rushing.
But for everything Thompson did well -- and there was a lot of it, from running with speed, authority and vision to helping pass protect -- the FSU wide receivers did everything they could to help turn those two stretch plays into touchdown runs of 74 and 80 yards.
"You look at that second touchdown run, well all of them … [Jarred Haggins] cut his safety, [Kelvin] Benjamin takes the corner into our bench and Kenny Shaw cuts off the backside corner and sets the wall down our sideline. I mean that's what I talk about all the time. The line gets you five [yards], the 'back's got to have some God-given ability and the fullbacks to block down field and then those receivers can get you that extra 30, 40, 50, whatever they need and the 'back's got to finish."
Fisher did add that it the wide receivers weren't perfect blockers in the win and they will work to clean up some deficiencies in blocking during bubble screens.
FSU EXCELS AT FORCING 4TH DOWNS
Florida State held Wake Forest in check in virtually every offensive category Saturday, including dominating the Demon Deacons in third-down conversion attempts.
The Seminoles permitted Wake Forest to convert just one third down attempt on 16 tries. Through three games to start the season, the 'Noles have allowed their opponents to convert third downs on just 11 percent of their chances (5-of-44).
"We were able to get pressure to the quarterback, which makes the ball come out; you don't have to cover as long," Fisher said. "That rush makes a difference, now. When you control the line of scrimmage and make that ball come out guys can't double move you. They can't run all the way across the field."
Manuel has a unique perspective during those third-down stands from his defense.
"I'm expecting to get ready to come back in there and play," Manuel said. "I start warming up and get a ball and throw it around. … They have been doing a great job."
THOMPSON, CARRADINE NAMED ACC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
During the press conference, the ACC announced its players of the week and FSU's Thompson and Cornellius Carradine were both recognized.
Thompson was the league's top tailback this week after his incredible performance against the Demon Deacons and Carradine took home the defensive lineman honors for registering a career-best 2 1/2 sacks in the victorious effort.