CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — A narrower focus might be the solution for Florida State’s big-picture issues.
So said coach Jimbo Fisher following a 35-3 loss at Boston College on Friday, a game in which the Seminoles made a series of mistakes that effectively put things out of reach by halftime.
“You can’t make those mistakes,” Fisher said. “The line is too thin.”
But despite a 2-5 record, Fisher insisted Friday night that he hasn’t seen any sign that his team has given up, and he mentioned a late goal-line stand as an example.
Trailing 28-3 late in the third quarter, the FSU defense stuffed BC on three straight runs inside the 1-yard line before the Eagles finally inched the ball into the end zone on fourth down.
“It’s not that they’re not fighting,” Fisher said. “They’re not executing. … It has nothing to do with effort. There’s no packing in. They feel bad. They’re sad. They’re worried.”
And, that Fisher said, is the root of the problem.
FSU began the season ranked No. 3 and with aspirations of a run at the College Football Playoff.
But as the injuries and losses have mounted, so, too, has the pressure — first to get back in the ACC race, then to maintain superiority over rivals Miami and Florida, and then, finally, to extend a streak of 35 straight seasons with a bowl game.
With four regular season games to play, the bowl streak is still on the table. But Fisher would just as soon the Seminoles forget about that and instead focus on the kinds of details that led to that streak in the first place.
It’s the same mantra that Fisher has preached since Day 1: Follow the correct process, and the results will fall into place.
“We’ve got to quit worrying about what can’t happen – ‘You won’t go to a bowl or you won’t do this,’” Fisher said. “We’re so worried about that, and we’re forgetting about the process of how to change (outcomes) and go win the game and go play well.”
Florida State’s team leaders that spoke after the game agreed with that sentiment.
Safety Derwin James said he felt like the Seminoles were “walking on eggshells” for fear of making a mistake, while kicker Ricky Aguayo said that the team is “scared to lose.”
“It shouldn’t be that way,” Aguayo said. “We should be more fired up when we come out, focus on the game and not focus on the season. Not focus on whether we can make a bowl game or not.
“We just need to focus on this game, the next play. I feel like if we do that, we’ll be good.”
While Friday’s final score may not suggest a game that was decided by inches, both Fisher and the players said that it was easier than ever to see how small missteps can lead to a big defeat.
Take, for example, the average starting field position, which favored BC by 22 yards. Aided by a pair of FSU punt-returning miscues, the Eagles pinned the Seminoles at their own 3-yard line on one early drive, and they later recovered the ball at the FSU 11 after a fumbled punt return.
All told, the Eagles had four drive starts inside FSU territory, three of which ended in touchdowns. The Seminoles’ best starting position, meanwhile, was their own 30-yard line.
“It’s not hard to understand how it adds up,” sophomore defensive end Brian Burns said.
There were other examples, including two more offensive turnovers — one of which came inside the BC 10-yard line — as well as a healthy disparity in penalties (7-71 for FSU, 1-10 for BC) and a 1-for-5 mark on third- and fourth-and-short downs (three yards or less).
On their own, any of those mistakes might not be enough to cost the Seminoles a game. But, as Fisher noted, their cumulative effect can be devastating.
“You show them exactly why they went wrong,” he said. “But if you make those plays, those things won’t go wrong. That’s the way you have to look at it.”
The Seminoles’ next play will come on Saturday, when they host a Syracuse team that knocked off Clemson a few weeks ago.
While that win ensured that the Orange will have FSU’s full attention, perhaps the Seminoles’ best course of action would be to focus inward – on the details that make up plays, and the plays that lead to better outcomes.
“We’ve just got to remain positive,” Burns said. “We know we’re going down a bumpy path right now. We’ll get back to it on Monday and we’ll play Syracuse next week.”