It started with audible booing of Bobby Bowden at the homecoming pep rally. It continued as FSU fans nervously chuckled when Bowden obviously didn't know the names of FSU's captains. And it didn't end until the final play of the contest as FSU pulled out a 45-42 in what was otherwise an awful homecoming for Florida State. The announced crowd was much more (67,172), but to anyone watching on television, it was obvious that there were more than 25,000 empty seats. That's right, Bobby Bowden drew 50,000 people to his last homecoming game.
A few fans held out hope that the defense would show up, but that hope had to be half hearted at best. As it has in every game this season, FSU's defense again allowed an opponent to post season highs in points, yards, or yards per play. Florida State allowed the Wolf Pack to reach their season high in all three categories! Yes, State's 42 points, 538 yards, and 7.9 yards per play (absurd) were all season highs for N.C. State. But that is par for the course for Florida State's 104th ranked defense (which is sure to drop even further). Florida State allowed touchdown drives of 80, 76, 80, 74, 80, and 38 yards. 'Pack Quarterback Russell Wilson was 20-31 for 349 yards, 5 Touchdowns and 2 Interceptions (both on end of half Hail Marys). That's an amazing 11.4 yards per throw. Florida State's defense did not force a meaningful turnover. Luckily for Florida State fans, they have at most 5 more games of this embarrassing "defense." And that is only if FSU makes a bowl game. FSU's defense isn't the worst in the country (Western Kentucky, a new D-1 team, is decidedly worse), but the 'Noles are close. Fortunately, the offense is not coached by a senior citizen more concerned with taking care of his grandkids than coaching the defense after the tragic death of his son two years ago. The offense is not coached by those who head Bowden has stubbornly insisted on keeping around like the incompetent saboteur linebacker coach Chuck Amato or inept defensive ends coach Jodey Allen. No, Florida State fans know that those coaches will be gone next year and the talented defense will have not continue to have the worst defensive coaching staff in the country.
In fact, if they look to the offensive side of the ball, they would see offensive coaches who work hard. Offensive coaches who are on top of the game, keeping up with an ever-changing industry. They demand more from their players, and those players trust them enough to give more. And that combination of talented players trusting hard working innovative coaches is working miracles. Jimbo Fisher and his offensive staff are single-handedly saving Florida State's program. Despite Bowden's every effort (or lack thereof) to cripple the program he supposedly loves, Fisher and Co. just will not let it die.
And so it was that Florida State's 4th rated offense would again have to bail out their 104th rated defense who was busy allowing the 'Pack's 26th rated offense to have its best day of the year. N.C. State's 52nd rated defense. And the 'Noles offense once again proved that they are one of the finest units in the country. 45 points, 555 yards, 7.6yards per play. The 'Noles were incredibly balanced, running for 267 yards and throwing for 268. FSU turned the ball over only once (they did throw 2 interceptions on tipped passes, but alert wide receiver Jarmon Fortson made up for a drop by stripping and recovering one of the interceptions).
And because Florida State's defense forced no turnovers except on desperation throws at the end of each half, FSU had to earn each touchdown. They did not start a possession in Wolfpack Territory. Florida State marched for scoring drives of 98, 68, 70, 60, 64, 55, and 66 yards. That's right, 7 scoring drives of 55+ yards. And Florida State controlled the clock with their balanced attack, rushing 33 times for 8.4 yards per carry. Sophomore Tailback Jermaine Thomas rushed 20 times for 186 yards and 2 scores. Florida State's offensive line was sensational in run blocking. They allowed only one tackle for loss. One! Their work blocking linebackers and defensive backs in space was sensational.
Quarterback Christian Ponder was injured early in the game but fought through his rib and ankle ailments to lead Florida State to victory. He was 26-40 for 277 yards, with 1 TD and 2 interceptions (both of which occurred on tipped passes on which an offensive lineman missed a block). He didn't throw any dangerous passes into traffic and also suffered 4 drops. Ponder ran or threw for 18 1st downs and added a passing touchdown, all while hobbling around.
FSU's offense simply had the answer all day. For every 80-yard touchdown pass the defense gave up, for every lost look and shouting match on the sideline between the defensive coaches and the players who have simply tuned them out, there were just as many quality plays from an offense that is working together as a machine because everyone does their job and trusts one another to do their job as well. That's a credit to the coaches who care about Florida State because they know they will be around next season. Florida State fans have to like what they see from Fisher, who is well on his way to winning his 2nd consecutive ACC Offensive Coordinator of the year award. It's just sad that the lame duck bunch doesn't have enough integrity to work at the same level. Sad, but not surprising, and nobody should go into any remaining Florida State game thinking that the Seminole's defense will do anything but allow the opposing offense to post their best game of the season.
But the 'Noles do have possibly the nation's best offense, and considering that offense features only 1 senior starter, and knowing that a new group of defensive coaches will soon be there to take advantage of FSU's still considerable defensive talent, here's betting that Doak Campbell Stadium will be full next year for Fisher's first homecoming as head coach.