TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jimbo Fisher would prefer his team not focus on Florida State’s 35-year bowl streak. Or its 40-year streak of winning seasons.
But that doesn’t mean he thinks they’re not important.
Both of those streaks are the longest active runs in the nation, and both, Fisher said, are woven into the fabric of the program.
“It’s part of the obligation you’ve got here,” he said. “Nobody’s ever (had) 40 straight winning seasons, 35 straight bowl games. Yes, I mean, that’s very important.”
And, good news for the Seminoles, both are still attainable after Florida State’s 27-24 victory over Syracuse on Saturday.
At 3-5, FSU needs three more wins to get to the six required for bowl eligibility. The Seminoles will start that quest next week at Clemson (3:30 p.m., ESPN), then continue it at home against Delaware State and on the road in what might be the regular-season finale at Florida.
Fisher said Saturday that FSU’s previously-canceled game with ULM would “most likely” be rescheduled, and director of athletics Stan Wilcox previously said that the department expected to make an announcement regarding the game sometime this week.
FSU was originally scheduled to host ULM on Sept. 9, but the game was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma.
If it is played, then FSU’s last three contests would come against opponents with a combined record of 8-18, one of which is from the Football Championship Subdivision.
While the path to six wins is a little clearer than before, Fisher said the key to reaching that goal is the same as it ever was:
“Keep playing hard, sawing wood,” he said. “Don’t even think about the bowl game. The biggest thing is playing well that week, practicing well.
“Understand that’s in the back of your mind – you’ve got that responsibility, 40 years of winning, 35 of bowl games, you’ve got that. That’s the burden you took when you came here. Now carry it, and go play your tail off in practice and the game.”
Although the current Seminoles were years from being born when those streaks began, they said Saturday that they still feel responsible for continuing that legacy.
“We don’t want to be the team that ends the streak,” cornerback Levonta Taylor said.
“It’s so important, man,” safety Derwin James added. “A lot of guys laid out blood, sweat, and tears for this program. This program was built before we got here, so we just owe it to the people that came before us.”
The Seminoles may cut it close this season, but it’s not as if there haven’t been any close calls over the last 40 years.
FSU went 6-5 in 1981 and didn’t make a bowl game, and the Seminoles in 2006, 2007 and 2009 didn’t pick up their sixth wins until November.
Fisher on Saturday reminded of what was perhaps the narrowest escape, FSU’s 2009 team that came from behind to beat Maryland for its sixth win with 32 seconds to play.
Those Seminoles trailed 26-22 late in the fourth quarter, and things seemed dire when redshirt freshman EJ Manuel threw an interception while trying to lead a game-winning drive.
But FSU’s defense forced a three-and-out, freshman Greg Reid returned the ensuing punt 48 yards to the Terrapins’ 44, and moments later, freshman Lonnie Pryor punched in a 12-yard touchdown that made the Seminoles bowl eligible for the 28th consecutive year.
Fisher was on the FSU sideline that day, in his last year as the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator.
“The pride that team had to keep that (streak) alive (is) same thing this one has,” Fisher said. “Hopefully they’ll do it and play through it.
“Now, there’s a lot of ball. We got a lot of football we’ve got to play, and some big wins we’ve got to have. But they’re playing for it, there ain’t no doubt. It’s very important to them, because that’s the legacy of this school, and that’s what it’s about.”