TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher met with the media on Monday to discuss last week’s 77-6 victory over Delaware State and look ahead to Saturday’s visit to Florida (noon, ESPN). Here are highlights from that conversation:
Plenty on the line when Seminoles and Gators meet: It’s a cliché for a reason: Throw out the records when Florida State and Florida play on the football field. While FSU and UF each enter Saturday’s game with 4-6 records, Fisher believes that the contest still carries plenty of significance for both sides.
“One of the great rivalries in college football,” he said. “Very blessed to be a part of that rivalry here at Florida State. Got a heck of a challenge going down there to play. It’s always an extremely tough place to play, one of the toughest in the country.”
While the Seminoles and their fans have ridden the ups and downs of a trying 2017 season, things have perhaps been even more topsy-turvy in Gainesville.
After starting the season 3-1, the Gators dropped six straight games and fired coach Jim McElwain after a 42-7 loss to Georgia.
UF has since gone 1-2 under interim coach Randy Shannon (FSU fans will remember him as Miami’s head coach from 2007-10). The Gators’ victory over UAB last weekend was their first win since Sept. 30.
But, as far as Fisher is concerned, UF still has plenty of talent. And the Gators have some momentum coming off a win and plenty of motivation as their chief in-state rival comes to town.
“They’ve got on the line,” Fisher said. “It’s Florida State. They’re going to play the same type of game that they would play otherwise because it’s a rivalry, and that’s what this game means.”
Clemson experience could serve Blackman well: Two weeks ago, James Blackman got a bitter first taste of a major, hostile atmosphere during the Seminoles’ 31-14 loss at Clemson.
While the game itself was one to forget, it could still serve as a foundation on which Blackman can build starting Saturday, when the freshman will take the field in front of 80,000 fans clad mostly in orange and blue and loudly pulling against him.
“It’s like any of us do – if you’ve done it once, at least it gives you a life experience to relate back to,” Fisher said. “’Hey, this is what I expect, that’s what’s going to happen. … Last time, maybe I didn’t do that well, I’ve got to work on noise a little bit more this week, my communications skill some making sure I’m talk to people where they see my lips moving.’ …
“Those kinds of things can make a huge difference.”
Yet another D-line test: From Alabama to NC State and Miami to Clemson, the Seminoles have lined up across from NFL-caliber defensive linemen seemingly every week.
Saturday will be no different. The Gators have three D-linemen – Taven Bryan, Cece Jefferson and Jabari Zuniga – with four sacks each, which is tied for 10th-most in the SEC.
And Jordan Sherit isn’t far behind with three.
The front four fuels a UF defense that, despite the team’s struggles throughout the season, ranks 38th nationally in total defense and 63rd in scoring defense.
“You’ve got to block them up front,” Fisher said. “I mean, all those guys are big, physical guys, their ‘backers play downhill very quickly, and they bunch the box. We’ll have our hands full. Our back is going to have to break tackles and run through arm tackles and play physical on their safeties, which they bring them down quickly in the box.”
Banner day for Motlow, walk-ons: The life of a walk-on is not glamorous. Long practices, countless aches and bruises and almost total anonymity.
Justin Motlow became an exception Saturday, when the senior walk-on receiver caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from J.J. Cosentino.
Motlow, the first member of the Seminoles Tribe of Florida to play football for FSU, is now the first to score a touchdown.
It was a proud moment for Fisher, who has watched Motlow develop into one of the Seminoles’ most respected scout-team players over the last four seasons.
“Talk about moments,” Fisher said. “You may get one moment. You may get a chance at a moment and you’ve got to capitalize on it. To see those happen – you want it to happen for them so bad – it’s like watching your little kids out there. When you watch your kids play ball and see them do things … you feel better than they do.”
FSU, UF will be back on top soon: The rivalry between the Seminoles and Gators was of course built on in-state bragging rights. But the series went to a new level in the 1990s, when each were competing for national championships on an annual basis. From 1990 to 2000, FSU and UF met 13 teams (including two bowl games) and the two were both ranked in the top 10 for each meeting.
Only once have the Seminoles and Gators met when each has had a sub-.500 record – in 1959. Saturday’s game will mark the second.
But while both teams have fallen victim to a wave of injuries and bad bounces, Fisher said it won’t be long until both programs are back where each feel they belong.
“It tells you the winning and the history and tradition,” Fisher said. “No doubt about that.
“Both teams are extremely used to success. Always have been, always will be, and will be in the future. That’s why it’s one of the great rivalries – because there’s true meaning in the outcome of the game.”