Seminoles need solutions right now

By Andrew Carter
Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State players and coaches have had 12 days to

reflect on the Seminoles’ worst start since 1976 — 12 days to attempt to fix an

offense plagued by missed opportunities and 12 days to fix a defense that is by

far the worst in Mickey Andrews’ 25-plus seasons here as defensive coordinator.

And if FSU is to salvage the season and keep alive its 27-year streak of

bowl appearances, the awakening must begin tonight in a nationally televised

game at North Carolina. The Tar Heels are hosting a Thursday night game for the

first time and both teams are hopeful tonight marks the beginning of a reverse.

The Seminoles, who were last seen losing 49-44 on Oct. 10 against Georgia

Tech, are well aware that time is running out to make something good of a season

gone bad.

“The games are dwindling,” FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said.

It was Fisher, he said, who gathered the Seminoles earlier this week and

told them to keep fighting. They are 2-4, winless in the Atlantic Coast

Conference after three games for the first time in history.

FSU Coach Bobby Bowden, who arrived here in ’76 and built the Seminoles

into a national power, has come under the harshest criticism of his career.

Andrews’ defense appears lost. And people are wondering when Fisher —

designated in 2007 the program’s head coach in waiting — will have his chance

to take over the program. That’s the big picture of a program in dysfunction and

disarray.

“If you’re down, you’ve got to get yourself off the ground,” Fisher said,

repeating the words he said he told the team. “Nobody’s going to pick you up.

And that’s what we’ve got to keep reminding ourselves — that you’ve got to

fight through this.

“And things that you persevere through, that are hard, are the things

that you always remember the most. And the tough times . . . and this is a time

of your life that you measure your character and who you are . . . can you learn

to overcome?”

That’s the big picture. The more narrow focus is finding a way to succeed

tonight at Kenan Stadium against the ACC’s best defense. And finding a way to do it in a

Thursday night game, which haven’t been kind to Florida State over the years.

FSU lost its first ACC game on a

Thursday night, in 1995, at Virginia. More recently, the Seminoles lost on

Thursday nights in 2006 at N.C. State and in 2007 at Wake Forest.

Sophomore Bert Reed described the game as a “showtime” game. “It’s an

opportunity, man,” the FSU receiver said. “We’ve had a couple of opportunities

to show that we aren’t dead in the water. But I think this next opportunity, we

have to take advantage of. And show that we’re still Florida State. And a lot of

guys are counting us out but I think we believe in each other.”

Even more troubling than FSU’s historic problems on Thursday nights is

the Seminoles’ lengthy injury report. Four regular starters — receiver Richard

Goodman, safety Korey Mangum, cornerback Patrick Robinson and linebacker Dekoda

Watson — are questionable. FSU lost defensive tackle Budd Thacker this week to

a knee injury.

The matchup with North Carolina presents an odd dynamic. Both Florida

State’s offense and North Carolina’s defense are leading the conference. And

both FSU’s defense and Carolina’s offense are statistically the ACC’s worst.

The team that is victorious tonight will earn its first ACC victory of the season.

If it’s Florida State, it will be the Seminoles’ first victory, period,

in more than a month. Since it last won a game at BYU on Sept. 19, FSU has lost

three in a row. The Seminoles haven’t lost four consecutive games since 1975.

“We got plenty of practice time in and also plenty of rest,” Bowden said.

“That’s what they needed.”

Tonight, his team will try to avoid the longest losing streak of his 34

FSU seasons