(Eds: With AP Photos.)By BRENT KALLESTADAssociated Press
Florida State’s dreams of climbing back among the college football elite will have to wait at least another year.
The Seminoles (2-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have dropped three straight games to fall from No. 5 in the national ranking to completely off the radar – an unexpected free fall that prompted a team meeting resulting in players deciding to put away their social media accounts until at least the end of the season.
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”We need to focus in and not be up at night worrying about Twitter and not be up at night worrying about Facebook and stuff like that,” junior quarterback EJ Manuel said Monday. ”It’s just extra stuff we don’t need right now.”
The Seminoles last lost three straight games in former coach Bobby Bowden’s final season two years ago.
”There’s disappointment, there’s doubt, there’s questions,” second-year coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday. ”That goes with athletics.”
And his team will have to get back on the winning track without starting tailback Chris Thompson and offensive tackle Andrew Datko, who faces shoulder surgery. Thompson is out for the year with two broken vertebrae suffered on his first carry in Saturday’s 35-30 loss at Wake Forest.
”We’ve got things we’ve got to fix,” Fisher said. ”We need to play better football.”
Florida State ranks 113th nationally in rushing, 116th in turnover margin and has surrendered 70 points over the last two games. The Seminoles don’t have a 100-yard rusher – for the season. After five games, freshman James Wilder Jr. is the team’s leading rusher with 86 yards.
Fisher’s club hasn’t won since Sept. 10 when they defeated lower-division Charleston Southern, which is winless this season and has a loss to a Division III team. Florida State’s other win came in the season opener over Louisiana-Monroe (2-4).
”Who would have thought back in August that this would happen to us?” Manuel asked. ”But it has happened. You’ve got to fix it.”
Fisher noted some of the harsh criticism aimed at players and coaches after Saturday’s loss at Wake and said he supports their decisions.
”You find out they love you when you win and they’re brutal when you lose,” he said. ”I don’t think it’s a good thing for college kids.”
And while the Seminoles may be favored again for a third straight week when they visit an improved Duke team that has won three straight games, nothing is a sure thing for them anymore.
Some personnel changes are in store with Datko’s injury and Thompson sidelined in addition to several youngsters moving past veterans on the depth chart, most notably freshman Rashad Greene, who is on a pace to become just the eighth Florida State player to reach 1,000 yards receiving in a season and is now listed as a starter on the tentative depth chart for Duke.
Fisher sounded confident Monday that a turnaround was at hand.
”You have to go through trials and tribulations to get there sometimes,” he said. ”It’s not time to have a pity party. There’s still a lot of things to play for.”