I was wanting to go through some game film these past few weeks as a refresher of sorts to pass the laboring period that is May/June/July. This is an incredibly boring time of year for me being out of pharmacy school (P2) for the summer and having limited hours interning for the next few weeks. Therefore, I have decided to completely waste a few days searching and watching hours and hours of film from FSU's 2011 season.
In doing so, and after talking with fellow fans, boosters, family members, and an all-of-the-above big booster family member who enjoys golf with a few well-to-do FSU admins, I believe I can sum up the sole reason why fans felt 2011 was a bit of a disappointment (besides EJ missing 90% of all wide-open RB swing passes). Find out after the jump.
Yep. These guys.
Being the only game without a single good excuse to have lost, the Virginia game ripped out the heart of many a fan, including myself. Every game we lost prior to Virginia had, at best, at least one genuine believable excuse that kept fans hoping for better. Dare I say, we were not even incredibly upset with the loss weeks later due to the presence of such extraneous circumstances.
OU? What a great game. I couldn't be upset with how well our defense played. OU is tough, when we lost EJ I was just hoping to keep it close. Trickett showed he's got moxy but ultimately I can't be too upset. We'll get 'em next time.
Clemson? What can I say, our Freshman QB gets the call and comes out firing on all cylinders despite the odds. Impressed everyone. The defense got burned a bit, sure, but how many of those throws were literally perfect? How many times can guy put it in the only spot that doesn't get picked from 30 yards away? I can only tip my cap. We'll get 'em next time.
Wake? What an awful game. Coming off 2 incredibly emotional losses, our team was down in the dumps. Our starting QB is out, our best WR is gimpy, lineman were dropping like flies, and then our starting RB gets his back broken in the first quarter. How do you come out of a slump like that? Trickett played like a Freshman, and the defense just cannot overcome the fact that the offense gave up five turnovers. That game probably doesn't play out the way it did again if you played it 50 times. Don't worry boys, we'll get 'em next time.
Fast forward 5 wins later. FSU fans are feeling pretty good despite our offensive situation. Patchwork OL, dinged up QB, virtually no running game. Hell, we all feel like we blasted Miami, but a closer look reveals only 1 offensive TD. Our offense has a demon hidden inside. We all know it, we can only pray our D can hold it off until Jimbo can excise it before it costs us.
60 minutes later, I'd run out of excuses. 11 possessions and 3 meaningful drives (40+ yds). Only one offensive TD for the second week in a row. Worse, save a single pass, EJ Manuel practically hands the game away in the second half. Check out this line:
44% comp, 75 yards, no TD's, completes just 1/6 passes on 3rd down and gives up TWO third down sacks. That's our second half folks.
The defense plays stellar again, giving up only 2 meaningful drives and 14 points, and still getting the loss. There were no good excuses. These are the types of games that suck out the soul of a fan. These are not so easily shaken off, a lingering ghost that stays with you. These games test your strength, and no matter how many you endured during the lost decade, those old scars feel fresh again.
The Florida game both helped and hurt. We won, but the offense continued to instill copious amounts of distrust. We cannot must a single drive more than 20 yards. Florida has more yards in the 2nd quarter than we have all game. EJ goes 6/13, 65 yards, 0 TD's. That's for 4 quarters. The defense plays it's usual stellar game, and had FSU simply punted on first down every possession then Jermaine Thomas doesn't fumble in our own redzone, allowing our defense to outscore UF 7-0 and still get the win. It was that bad.
The first half against Notre Dame did nothing to help, but the 2nd half comeback gave us all a sliver of hope, of what we are capable of. Rashad Greene has his breakout moment, and the offensive line somehow comes together and figures out that we play better when the QB isn't on the ground. Could this team be an above average offense and an elite defense? National Championships have been won with less. Much less.
So now here we are. The summer of 2012, with a new year upon us bringing even higher expectations. But is the same fervor present? Maybe not. FSU disappointed many last year, and that hurt may still be too fresh. But with a top 3 recruiting class, a plethora of healthy starters returning, and a less than daunting schedule, perhaps this year brings a new expectation. A more tempered, mature expectation that will see this team for what it really is: a very good team with elite potential. We should be better than good, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
And then Phil Steele picks his National Champion.
Hope springs eternal.