TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jimbo Fisher met with the media Monday to discuss Florida State’s loss to Miami last week and look ahead to the Seminoles’ visit to Duke on Saturday (noon, ESPN2).
Here are highlights from that conversation.
In the wake of a 1-3 start, Fisher fielded questions about what the Seminoles need to do differently to have success over their rest of the season.
As far as Fisher is concerned, the only the thing that needs to change is the level at which the team performs. That goes for coaches and players alike.
“We can do better,” he said. “We don’t have to do ‘differently.’ We’re on the verge of doing things, just got to keep coaching better, put them in position.”
While no one is satisfied with the result, Fisher saw progress during the Miami game. The offensive line, he said, performed better, as did the red-zone offense and special teams.
As for the defense, Fisher came away from film review mostly please with its performance, but said it needs to “find a way” get stops on important third downs.
“We’ve got to continue to coach and find a way,” Fisher said. “We play good football teams, but we’re a good football team. We should be making that one other play in those games. We’ve got to find a way to that. Coach it better, try to get the kids in better position and understanding exactly what they’ve got to do and how they’ve got to do it.”
James Blackman had the best 15 minutes of his career in the fourth quarter against Miami. The freshman wen 9 of 10 for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the last period, which included a pair of conversions on third-and-10.
While Fisher is pleased to see his young quarterback stay cool under pressure, he said the next step in Blackman’s development is to find his stride earlier in games. Blackman went into halftime last week 7 of 13 for 52 yards and an interception. The week before at Wake Forest, Blackman was 5 of 7 for 7 yards at the break. In both games, however, he engineered go-ahead touchdown drives with less than two minutes to play.
“Right now, we’ve got to working on getting him out of the gates a little bit – which he can do,” Fisher said. “… As the game went on, you could see the trust factor come on, and he started pulling the trigger and he started growing. The first (game) he did it, at times. He’s played three games, but his progress has been really good.”
Fisher didn’t have firm updates on Florida State’s injuries from Saturday, but he did provide some insight into the following players:
Receiver Keith Gavin “has a pretty good little sprain,” while safety Trey Marshall is day to day with a “concussion-type scenario,” and guard Landon Dickerson is tending to an ankle ailment. Linebacker Ro’Derrick Hoskins is also “good to go” after missing last week’s game.
If Gavin misses time, Fisher said senior Jared Jackson and freshmen Tamorrion Terry and D.J. Matthews could be in line for more playing time.
Fisher said he feels “very comfortable” with Jackson, and that Terry and Matthews have “really been outstanding” during the last few weeks of practice.
In his opening statement, Fisher said that the game film revealed 45 or 50 yards of field position that the Seminoles lost by not catching punts.
Miami punted nine times against Florida State, and only one of those was returned.
“That could have helped a little bit,” Fisher said.
Despite that, Fisher said he remains pleased with Tarvarus McFadden’s performance as the team’s punt returner and he doesn’t plan to make a change.
“He can do it, be a little more gutsy and chancy as he grows in it,” Fisher said. “He’s been doing a great job. He’s been fielding the ball extremely well. There were two punts, and both were slicing and were cut across. He was on the right hash on the punt and it was kicked on the opposite side of the field. They were trying to kick it that way and sliced and missed a kick. He just has to go get it, you know what I’m saying? And he can go get it. …
“‘T-Mac’ has done a great job of fielding punts, and his ball security has been excellent. And he had a couple of nice little returns.”
Florida State and Duke have been in the same conference since 1992, but the Seminoles and Blue Devils haven’t often met on the football field since the ACC moved to two divisions in 2005.
Saturday’s game in Durham, N.C., will mark the fourth between FSU and Duke since Fisher took over in 2010. They played at Duke in 2011, in Tallahassee in 2012 and in Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game in 2013.
That unfamiliarity can make for a unique challenge. The Blue Devils are 4-2, with losses in their last two contests.
“They’re right on the verge of winning all their games,” Fisher said. “Defensively, very dynamic, 4-2-5 look … love to blitz you, come and pressure. On offense, (Coach David Cutcliffe) does a great job. … Very disciplined. Good returners. I mean, they’re a really good football team. They’re 4-2 for a reason. They’re playing really good.”