Jimbo Fisher

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N.C. State hangs on to upset sluggish No. 12 Florida State

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A year after failing to pull the upset on the road against Clemson, N.C. State (3-1, 1-0 ACC) managed to take advantage o a Florida State team coming off an unusual layoff. The Wolfpack took a 10-0 lead on No. 12 Florida State (0-2, 0-1 ACC) in Tallahassee and managed to hold on for a 27-21 victory.

It was expected Florida State would start the game somewhat slowly, and they did. Starting a true freshman at quarterback and not having played a game since the opening week of the season against Alabama due to having to alter the schedule from Hurricane Irma’s path through the state of Florida meant the Seminoles might not be all on the same page early on. This was the case, although N.C. State brought the kind of gameplan and talent to take advantage of the situation, and credit them for doing just that.

Ryan Finley passed for 230 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Wolfpack to the win, but the defense did its part too by allowing just four third-down conversions by Florida State out of 14 attempts. The lone turnover of the game was coughed up by Florida State as well, although N.C. State was not able to score any points off the turnover, but the fumble came at a costly time for Florida State as it appeared the momentum could be on their side with a drive down the field in a 10-7 game.

Making his first start for the Seminoles in place of the injured Deondre Francois, James Blackman was under pressure for much of the afternoon. N.C. State had a clear gameplan to get in Blackman’s face, and there were moments when Blackman reacted to it well and managed to drop some beautiful deep passes to his receivers. Blackman ended his first career start going 22-of-38 for 278 yards with a touchdown and one lost fumble. Auden Tate was the top receiver for Florida State with 138 yards and a touchdown.

Down 27-16 in the fourth quarter, Florida State did have their chances to grab the game in their home opener, but a turnover on downs after recording a safety and being held to a field goal after taking the football at the NC State 23-yard line following a blocked punt prevented the Seminoles form avoiding their first loss in a home opener for the first time under head coach Jimbo Fisher.

Florida State now has two losses and still has games to play against Clemson and Louisville. The preseason favorite in the ACC and for a spot in the College Football Playoff is now looking to make history if there is a chance to do so. No College Football Playoff team has had two losses. Making the playoff is obviously quite an uphill battle at this point. That uphill climb will begin next week on the road against Wake Forest.

For N.C. State, the painful stain of a bewildering loss in the opener is a distant memory and now the Wolfpack hope to build off this major win next week at home against Syracuse.

 

Nick Saban says Florida State is built like Alabama

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The 2017 college football season is kicking off with a mega matchup between Alabama and Florida State. Some are already suggesting the two could be the top two teams in thew preseason polls, but we will find out later this summer if that will be accurate. Regardless, the way Jimbo Fisher has constructed Florida State since taking over for Bobby Bowden as the head coach of the Seminoles has drawn plenty of praise, which is to be expected given he has coached a national championship team and a College Football Playoff contestant with a Heisman Trophy winner along the way. On Wednesday at SEC media days, Fisher and Florida State received praise from his former boss, Nick Saban.

The comparisons connecting Florida State to a SEC team have been made before over the years. The Seminoles traditionally recruit very well in a region that is otherwise flooded by SEC schools filling up their rosters with prime talent. There is a reason Florida State has routinely been one of the top ACC programs on an annual basis. In recent years, Clemson has been worthy of similar praise.

Saban is always one to sprinkle praise on his opponents while bringing his own team’s hype level down as much as he can. That’s just what coaches do. And Saban will always throw out compliments to his former assistants. Fisher coached under Saban at LSU before getting to Florida State. The two have never faced off against each other, and Saban has a clean record against his former assistants. By offering praise of Florida State, Saban is also sending a message to his team about just how difficult the season-opening opponent will be.

Jimbo Fisher on Deondre Francois: He is a big-time player, he can lead

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It has been a few years since Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has had reason to feel comfortable with his starting quarterback position in the spring. After Heisman Trophy-winning Jameis Winston moved on to the NFL, Florida State has had options at the position but never felt it had a sure-fire answer to plug in. That seems to be a bit different this spring in Tallahassee as Deondre Francois has already taken control of the position and gained the confidence in Fisher along the way.

He is a big-time player,” said Fisher of Francois, according to the Associated Press. ”He can lead. He is tough, accurate and can throw the ball.”

Anyone who watched Florida State last year would agree. Francois can definitely throw the football. He opened the season by throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns against Ole Miss to get things rolling. Ole Miss didn’t know what hit them.

Francois played in all 13 games for the Seminoles last season as a freshman. In those 13 games, Francois completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He also rushed for 196 yards and five more touchdowns, proving capable of helping out on the ground when needed without being labeled a dual-threat. Francois proved he could be a reliable player to lead the offense last fall by completing 12 percent more of his passes in the second half (although his third quarters were much more efficient than his fourth quarters), and 15 red zone touchdown passes without a single interception inside the opponent’s 40-yard line all season long.

“I’ve been focusing on consistency and doing a better job of managing the game and situations,” Francois said. ”I feel like I have gotten a lot better from experience. I made some mistakes last year and this spring I am getting the opportunity to improve.”

Francois may not have ended the season on a great personal note in the Orange Bowl by completing just nine of his 27 passes against a very stingy Michigan defense, but he clearly took some lumps as a freshman that can be used as teaching tools moving forward.

No. 10 Louisville and Lamar Jackson KO No. 3 Florida State to shake up ACC (and playoff?) picture

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On a day that saw No. 10 Louisville host one of the biggest games in program history and honor the late Muhammad Ali, Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals floated like a butterfly and stung No. 3 Florida State (1-1) like a bee. Or perhaps a giant swarm of bees. It could have been called after one-half. Louisville blasted Florida State, 63-20, to lay claim to being the best team in the ACC this season after three weeks of play.

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 146 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 216 yards and another score in the win, continuing one of the most dominant starts college football has to offer. If the question was about what Jackson could do against a team that actually provides a defensive stat after piling up the stats in the first two weeks, then it is fair to say Jackson aced the exam. He should be expected to pile up some more big numbers next week against Marshall, as the Thundering Herd were seen giving up 55 points at home to Akron Saturday afternoon. Jackson’s top receiver, James Quick, led all players with 122 receiving yards, eight more than Florida State’s team combined for.

Louisville did a good job of keeping Dalvin Cook from being much of a factor. Florida State’s own Heisman-hopeful this season was limited to just 54 rushing yards on 16 attempts and one eight-yard reception. He did not score in this game. Freshman quarterback Deondre Francois showed he still has room to grow as well, completing seven of his 18 pass attempts with one touchdown, one interception and a fumble.

This was no fluke, like Apollo Creed being taken the distance by a scrappy Rocky Balboa. This was a rout from the start by a Louisville program that continues to grow and develop. The move to the ACC has been a great one for the entire athletics program, and Saturday’s decisive victory put the rest of the ACC on notice. Louisville is not messing around. After taking on Marshall next week, Louisville will prepare for their biggest road test of the season at Clemson. That game will provide a chance for the Cardinals to grab a firm hold of the ACC Atlantic Division or allow Florida State to stay alive before seeing the division slip away quickly.

And that’s the key for Florida State. There is still a really talented team in Tallahassee, and writing them off now would be unwise. Yes, this was the ugliest loss in Jimbo Fisher’s career, but next week offers a chance to bounce back. Florida State takes on USF in Tampa next week and then returns to ACC play against ACC Coastal competition with North Carolina and then Miami. This will be a key three-game set to see how the Seminoles respond after getting knocked around.

No. 4 Florida State goes on 33-0 run to take down No. 11 Ole Miss

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Orlando, Florida may be home to the happiest place on Earth, but No. 11 Ole Miss (0-1) is leaving town with nothing but disappointment. The Rebels blew a 22-point lead against No. 4 Florida State (1-0) in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando. The Seminoles ripped off 33 straight points on their way to a 45-34 victory. It was the largest come-form-behind victory in Florida State history.

Freshman quarterback Deondre Francois went through some growing pains in his first start for Florida State at quarterback, but gained some confidence in leading a late touchdown drive in the first half and came out looking like a brand new player in the second. Francois passed for 420 yards and two touchdowns without an interception or a fumble (one fumble by Francois was overruled upon video review). He looked like a freshman starting his first game in the first half, because he was a freshman starting his first game in the first half. And he was going up against a solid Ole Miss defense, which crumbled in the second half as Florida State gobbled up a decisive edge in the time of possession department.

Ole Miss did have success running an up-tempo offense against Florida State early on, which played a part in building a 28-6 lead in the first half, but the wear and tear on the defense showed in the second half as Florida State looked like the fresher of the two teams. The Rebels saw Chad Kelly look confident and living up to the hype of being the best quarterback in the SEC with three touchdowns in the first half, but he also cooled off in the second half and was picked off three times in the game, the last coming with under three minutes remaining in the game to essentially put to rest any hope of a win for Ole Miss.

THREE QUICK THOUGHTS

1. You cannot turn the ball over against Florida State and expect to win. Ole Miss did so three times, with a trio of interceptions thrown by Kelly among them. Florida State is not going to dig holes too often this season the way they did Monday night, and there are only a small handful of offenses that will be able to hang with Florida State and have the potential to overcome a deficit in the turnover margin (Clemson, Louisville… Miami?).

2. One observation to take from Sunday night’s Texas-Notre Dame game is the Longhorns could be turning a corner but must still learn how to finish a game. Texas had a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter before seeing Notre Dame battle back and eventually get the game to overtime. Texas escaped with the win, but it was a lesson that could be learned in Austin. The same experience must be earned in Oxford. Ole Miss was in command of the game shortly before halftime, when Florida State scored a late touchdown to gain some momentum at the break. The Seminoles then went on a tear with a 24-0 run in the third quarter and a 33-0 run overall before the Rebels got back on the board, going from up 28-6 to down 39-34. Perhaps this can be an assessment of the coaching. Jimbo Fisher held a decisive edge while Hugh Freeze will have some questions that need answers.

3. Dalvin Cook turned in a fine effort, even if he did have the bonehead play of the game. Cook was mere yards away from reaching the end zone in the second quarter on a pass play but for some reason switched the position of the ball in his hands before he crossed the goal line, uncontested. The ball dribbled loose out of bounds and instead of a touchdown, Florida State was reduced to settling for a field goal. All was forgiven later, as Cook ended his night with 192 all-purpose yards, including 101 receiving yards.

Florida State opens its home schedule next week against Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers gave North Dakota State a solid test in the FCS opener two weekends ago and demolished Kentucky State at home this past weekend. As good as they may be in the FCS ranks (and they are really good), Florida State should manage to avoid any real threat of a massive upset in Tallahassee. Ole Miss also gets an FCS opponent next weekend at home when they host Wofford. Wofford opened its season with a 21-7 road victory at Tennessee Tech on Thursday night. After getting by Wofford, Ole Miss has two pivotal game sin SEC play at home against Alabama and Georgia. Then comes a revenge game against Memphis. Memphis upset the Rebels last season.