Syracuse-Florida St. Preview
(AP) – For the first time in three years, Florida State returned to the practice field to begin preparing for an upcoming game coming off a regular-season loss.
The challenge for coach Jimbo Fisher and the No. 17 Seminoles is preventing the defeat from having a negative snowball effect. Florida State’s 28-game ACC win streak was snapped in shocking fashion with a 22-16 loss at Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Lance Austin returned a blocked field goal 78 yards on the final play to stun the Seminoles, dropping them eight spots in the Top 25 this week.
"You say you wish you could win them all, but that’s part of it. You’ve got to adjust and go," Fisher said Monday, turning his attention to Saturday’s game against Syracuse. "One loss can’t become two. But you’ve got to remember the things, you made mistakes and why you made mistakes and you’ve got to correct them."
The biggest mistakes Fisher will be looking to correct are inefficiencies in the red zone. The Seminoles (6-1, 4-1) need to score more touchdowns to finish drives and cut down on penalties when they get inside the 20.
They managed one touchdown in four red-zone trips against the Yellow Jackets and are 12 of 25 for the season. The 48 percent efficiency rate on TDs is 110th out of 128 FBS teams. The 10 field goals in the red zone are tied for eighth most.
Fisher said it has been a combination of things that have kept the Seminoles out of the end zone once they get inside the 20, including dropped passes at inopportune times.
Florida State has failed to score three times in the red zone this season, with the one against Georgia Tech looming larger than others.
Leading by three late in the fourth quarter, Everett Golson threw an interception in the end zone on a pass intended for Travis Rudolph, who caught it and then bobbled it. The ball was intercepted, the first time that had happened in 200 pass attempts by Golson dating to last season at Notre Dame.
Golson has completed 67.1 percent of his throws this season, but in the red zone he is 12 of 25 with seven touchdowns and an INT.
Fisher, though, did not single out Golson for the struggles.
"We kind of took turns, be it linemen, be it him, be it (a) back, be it a receiver," Fisher said. "It’s funny in football … guys can grade well, but all of a sudden you have limited possessions and all of a sudden this guy does it, this guy does it, this guy does it. As a unit, it’s not cohesive enough to get done what you need to get done. That’s what we’ve got to do is clean that up."
Golson may have to shoulder more of the offensive load since Fisher ruled running back Dalvin Cook has out with an ankle injury Thursday. Cook, who is second among FBS rushers with 1,037 yards and 11 TDs while averaging 8.2 yards per carry, has also battled hamstring injuries over the past three games.
The more frustrating thing has been penalties. Florida State has been whistled for nine false starts the past two weeks, with seven of them called on the offensive line.
Fisher said sometimes the false starts have been the result of being too anxious and not relaxing. Some of the penalties have been come on silent counts, but there have also been a couple silent counts where the ball was snapped early and Golson wasn’t prepared.
Even though Florida State’s hopes of getting to the College Football Playoff have been all but dashed, it has an outside shot at making it to the ACC championship game for the fourth straight season. That would require the Seminoles winning their last three conference games, including a Nov. 7 showdown at third-ranked Clemson.
First up is Syracuse, which Florida State has beaten seven straight times. After starting the season 3-0, Syracuse has dropped four straight with the last two losses coming on the final play of the game. The Orange are 1-2 in the conference.
The most recent against then-No. 25 Pittsburgh on Saturday was particularly painful, as Syracuse was poised to beat a ranked team for the first time in nearly three years, only to be undone by a trick play. A fake punt for a first down helped set up Chris Blewitt’s 25-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the Panthers past the Orange 23-20.
"It really is just tough, the last four weeks," said linebacker Zaire Franklin, who had a game-high 11 tackles and two sacks. "Being in the position to win a game, but not being able to find that play. I feel like we’re close."
Florida State has won all three meetings with Syracuse at Doak Campbell Stadium. Fisher’s focus, though, is more on getting to Saturday than the game itself.
"It’s about the process of how you prepare and how you play each play at a time. If the process is right, the results come and then you can live with those things," he said. "We’ll get back to reminding them of that, and then go out and have a great practice."