When the preseason polls rolled out and Florida State was ranked the No. 3 team in college football, there was no way the Seminoles could imagine the frustrating, injury-filled season they would be in for.
The losses didn’t just come in the standings. No blow was bigger than quarterback Deondre Francois suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 in a high-wattage matchup with Alabama. The Seminoles’ injured list essentially covers half of their depth chart.
Losing four of their first six games only made matters worse. They hadn’t started a season 2-4 since 2009 — Bobby Bowden’s final year at the helm — and it was Jimbo Fisher’s job when he took over to reestablish the program as one of the country’s elite.
But despite the success the Seminoles have had under Fisher — including a 47-7 record over the past four seasons — the frustration of a brutal season has started to boil over. It was evident after a crushing home loss to Louisville last week, when a fan held a sign calling for changes on the coaching staff and Fisher responded by telling the fan to come on the field and say it to his face.
Fisher acknowledged he could’ve done things differently, but it was a clear sign of a program feeling the weight of a trying season.
“Unfortunately, you learn through adversity,” Fisher said. “And you’re learning — the way that happens, you have to go through the experience, you’ve got to feel them. And I’ll be honest with you, we feel awful. There’s no easy way to say that loss is going to go away. That loss ain’t going away. You have to use it. It eats us up. It makes coaches feel awful, we as players feel awful, we as an organization feel awful, just like the fans do. There’s no problem with that. I understand that.”
Still, to a Boston College team riding a wave of confidence after consecutive wins that pulled the Eagles back to .500 and kept their bowl hopes alive, a wounded Florida State team is still dangerous as it visits Alumni Stadium for a Friday night showdown.
“Florida State at the end of the day is Florida State,” said redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Brown. “It’s great. It’s actually an amazing program.
“Coach Fisher does an amazing job with his players and their record doesn’t show what talent they have on their team. Their defense is always going to be good and we still have to keep our head on straight because this team is still one of the most talented teams in the country.”
The Seminoles have the worst scoring offense in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the second-worst ACC offense in terms of total yards.
Along with Francois, they also lost primary weapons in running back Jacques Patrick and wide receiver George Campbell to season-ending injuries.
But when he looks at film, BC coach Steve Addazio said it’s not hard to see the talent the Seminoles still have.
“It’s really easy, honestly, when you put the tape on,” Addazio said. “I flick on that tape, and honestly, I went like, ‘Ugh.’ So, no, our players, they put the tape on, and they know what they see. I actually was starting to look at them on offense and I watched their offensive line — wow. So they’re still Florida State. But like a lot of teams, doesn’t matter who you are, top to bottom, you lose your starting quarterback and you put a freshman quarterback in the game, there’s a transition period with that.
“They had a guy [Francois] that they played as a freshman a year ago who was a freaky talent and all of a sudden, bam [he’s injured], and now they’re in it trying to develop another young guy and along the way you know those, just like we have a young guy, they got a young guy and all of a sudden they start emerging. But the surrounding talent? It’s really good.”
The Eagles have lost seven straight to the Seminoles going back to 2009. They’ve been within one score of pulling off an upset and they’ve also seen things go off the rails in lopsided losses.
“They’re very physical, they’re very athletic, and you know you have to be on point every play,” said BC defensive end Zach Allen. “You know you can’t take a play off or else they’ll break it. You’ve got to always be fundamentally sound.”
A win would pull the Eagles within one victory of being bowl eligible for the fourth time in five seasons. But for Florida State, a loss would make it that much more difficult to keep alive its streak of 35 bowl appearances.
Neither team can afford to get ahead of itself.
“We understand that’s out there and all that’s good,” Fisher said. “But what we have to do to get there is stay in the moment now.
“When you’re lining up the play that wins the game, you’re not thinking about winning the game; you’re thinking about executing the play. That’s all you think about.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.