It’s been four days since FSU went punch for punch in a 15-round prize fight against the Clemson Tigers. Four days of wondering what could have been had just one or two plays (or calls) gone differently. What would the Seminoles’ College Football Playoff ranking be with a win over Clemson? Would FSU be in strong position for a NY6 bowl? Where would Dalvin Cook be in the Heisman discussion? Alas, as a former coach of mine was fond of saying, “if ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”
Aside from the “what ifs,” the last four days have also provided an interesting peek into the psychology of this fan base. In the two weeks leading up to the latest ACC Atlantic showdown, the mood among FSU fans was largely one of resigned acceptance. But don’t take our word for it; just take a look at these anonymous statements pulled from the comments sections on this site prior to the game:
“If we win, I’ll be over the moon. If we lose by only single digits, I’ll call that winner winner.”
“Setting my expectations low so I can enjoy whatever success is had.”
“I’ll be surprised if I’m still in the stadium when the 4th quarter starts.”
Even most of the staff here at TN predicted a Clemson win, with several calling for a 20+ point blowout. And the few staff who did pick the ‘Noles to pull the upset were roundly considered to be homers.
None of the above is intended to call out folks for being right or wrong, but merely just to illustrate the low level of optimism heading into the game.
Then the game happens, and FSU performs certainly at its best in any ACC game this season and perhaps in any ACC game the last two seasons. The Seminoles actually led 28-20 in the fourth and were a highly questionable call away from potentially ending the game. But instead of doing as promised and being pleased with the apparent progress made and the effort put forth, much of the Seminole faithful seemed even more despondent than before the Tigers’ last-minute escape.
A day or so later—when I could stomach it—I took a gander at the game thread over on Shakin The Southland. It was a fascinating dichotomy. Most Clemson fans seemed to be much more concerned with a loss heading into the game than you would believe just by polling FSU fans. They fretted over the OL’s weaknesses, their propensity to turn the ball over, and FSU’s powerful d-line. But most of all, they were scared of the best running back in FSU history, Dalvin Cook.
After Cook put FSU up 21-20, their nerves were setting in. After he exploded again to make it 28-20, most of them believed the game was slipping away. And after Cook’s third long gallup, they knew the momentum was in Florida State’s favor and the game was most likely over. And then they saw the flag.
Back here in the land of garnet and gold, most folks who said just keeping it close would be a miracle appear to still be upset about the result. And I get it. It was one of the most emotionally draining games I've ever attended in Doak (and I’ve attended nearly all the games that people bring up from yesteryear). It was hard leaving the stadium and hearing chants from fans clad in Orange echo through the old erector set.
Nonetheless, it's still fascinating to see the responses from people who, at this time last week, thought a three-point loss was crazy talk.