By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida State football program has won three national championships, 13 conference titles and has an all-time winning percentage of .684.
Yet no FSU team in school history can say that it’s accomplished what this current group did on Saturday.
With their 24-19 victory over Florida, the Seminoles closed the book on a second straight 12-0 season. No one else – not Bobby Bowden, Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke or any of the other legends to pass through Tallahassee – can say that.
“That means a lot,” senior receiver Rashad Greene said. “That hasn’t been done a lot – at all. So that says a lot.’
Senior center Cam Erving was smiling after a season that, despite piling up win after win, hasn’t always been fun.
Intense scrutiny from national media about the Seminoles’ resume and whether or not they’re winning by a wide-enough margin or in convincing-enough fashion sucked some of the joy from this current streak.
But a win over FSU’s rival from Gainesville is a good cure for that.
“I wasn’t enjoying winning as much,” Erving said. ”Now I just had to remember you play football, of course, to have fun. But you play to win. That’s the name of the game.
“You can’t devalue a win less than another win. A win is a win regardless … So I got back in to having fun.”
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, the engineer of each undefeated season as well as the school-record 28-game winning streak the Seminoles are currently enjoying, said that going undefeated a second time is much more difficult than the first.
“I think it’s extremely tough. Much tougher,” Fisher said. “I really do, because of how much people work on (preparing for you) in the offseason and how much people shoot for you and lay their ears back.”
Fisher, Noles ‘Proud’ of the ACC
FSU’s win over the Gators capped a banner day for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The league had four showcase games against opponents from the Southeastern Conference, widely considered the best in college football, and won them all.
FSU beat Florida, Georgia Tech won a 30-24 overtime thriller at Georgia, Clemson beat South Carolina, 35-17, for the first time in six years and Louisville rallied to top Kentucky, 44-40.
“Very proud of the ACC today,” Fisher said. “I keep telling folks this is a heck of a league.”
And the conference will be in the national spotlight again next week when the Seminoles, ranked first or second in the major polls and third in the College Football Playoff rankings, face Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.
The Yellow Jackets (10-2, 6-2 ACC) climbed to No. 15 in the Coaches Poll after beating the No. 9 Bulldogs.
“People can criticize the ACC as much as they want, but there’s a high level of talent in the ACC,” Erving said. “We play against great teams every week. I don’t care what anybody says. They’re not on the field playing.”
O’Leary caps home career with two TDs
Nick O’Leary made the most of his last game at Doak Campbell Stadium.
A senior tight end from Palm Beach Gardens, O’Leary caught both of quarterback Jameis Winston’s touchdown passes to help lift FSU over Florida.
“We were working on them all week,” O’Leary said. “They just happened to be open. (Winston) could’ve hit other people but I just happened to be wide open on those plays. It worked out.”
Trailing 9-7 early in the second quarter, O’Leary gave the Seminoles their first lead of the day with a leaping touchdown catch across the middle of the end zone.
Moments later, O’Leary found himself open again for a score that made it 21-9 and secured the third multiple-touchdown game of his career.
“I’m just blessed to have him as a tight end,” Winston said. “I wish we could line him up in the slot and throw all types of routes as a wide receiver because he’s so talented. That guy is amazing.”
O’Leary, earlier this week named a finalist for the John Mackey Award, finished with a team-high four catches for 52 yards on day when FSU’s receivers were blanketed by Florida’s stout secondary.
“We wanted to get it to him today,” Fisher said. “I thought he blocked well, caught well.”
Winston won the 25th-straight game to begin his career, becoming the first QB to start 25-0 since Oklahoma’s Jimmy Harris went 25-0 from 1954-1956. … Florida State improved to 9-1 against rivals Miami and Florida under Fisher. The Seminoles have won four of their last five against the Gators. … The team leading at halftime of the FSU-UF game has won the matchup for 16 straight seasons. … Rashad Greene finished with three catches for 35 yards, tying Ron Sellers for the FSU single-season receptions mark with 86.