By Bob Thomas
Associate Sports Information Director
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – So much has transpired over the 47 weeks that have passed since Jimbo Fisher’s Florida State football team embraced an open week in the regular season football schedule and parlayed the extra time into a season-defining victory.
After dispatching four of their first five opponents by a combined 194 points, and rallying from an early two-touchdown deficit for a 48-34 win at Boston College for the fifth win, the Seminoles had a week off before traveling to No. 3 Clemson. The match-up of top-five teams was being billed as one of the biggest in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
Fisher began the two-week lead-up, on the heels of a 63-0 thrashing of Maryland, by giving his team a Monday off. Then it was back to the practice field, where the focus was squarely on becoming a fundamentally better football team. In many respects, it was similar to an early bowl practice.
“You can game-plan too early and bore kids and wear them out,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to get knowledge of what you’re doing, but you have to spend that time to work on fundamentals and base things. Even another future opponent, something that they do three or four games down the road that you want to scheme that’s a little different.”
As the first open week of the 2014 season comes to a close for the top-ranked Seminoles – with No. 23 Clemson on tap for next week – Fisher remains quite comfortable with his approach to having a Saturday off between games.
And there is no reason he should consider a different course. Since Fisher arrived at Florida State and took over the offense in 2007, the Seminoles have posted a 6-2 record in games following an open week. Not to be overlooked, seven of those eight games were played away from Doak Campbell Stadium.
Three wins came when Fisher was the offensive coordinator, including a 21-14 upset of No. 22 Alabama in Jacksonville back in 2007. The Noles also won at NC State (26-17) in 2008 and put together a second half rally for the Thursday night win at North Carolina (30-27) in 2009.
The last three have come in succession with Fisher at the helm as head coach, highlighted by the 51-14 of the Tigers, which thrust the Seminoles into the national spotlight as a serious national championship contender last season.
Senior receiver Rashad Greene said last season’s bye before the Clemson win certainly helped.
“It gave some guys a chance to get healthy which is always great,” Greene said. “It gave us extra time to pick up on some key things and prepare more. I would say it helped.”
FSU also defeated Nevada (62-7) at home two weeks after opening the last season with a Labor Day win at Pitt. In 2012, quarterback EJ Manuel connected with Greene on a late-game slant route that went for a touchdown in a 28-22 triumph at Virginia Tech. That victory snapped a two-game losing streak following open dates under Fisher.
“We’ve got to get healthy and better fundamentally,” Fisher said, earlier this week. “Sometimes you get to over-thinking things, too. What I like about the week is just getting fundamentally sound again. And it came at a good time because of our health. Off weeks, you think they’re at the right time before games, but this one turned out pretty good because of our health. It lets some guys get healthy and some other guys get back, hopefully.”
Surely there is a value to resting the body from competition. That’s one reason many, if not most, coaches prefer to have an open week later in the season. Of course, you won’t find many linemen – offensive or defensive – who don’t prefer open weeks whenever they can get them.
When asked whether the extra fundamental work or rest was more beneficial during open weeks, FSU fifth-year senior tackle Cameron Erving provided an honest response.
“Both are very pivotal,” Erving said. “Getting better technique-wise and rest are always key. Both of them are very essential.”
Erving said there have been no changes to way Fisher has approached the open weeks, but not to mistake that for vacation time.
“It’s always been a very fundamental week on bye weeks and it’s always been getting after each other,” he added.
“You have extra time to prepare for your opponent,” Greene said. “The key thing is to not go backward – to continue to get better and move forward as a unit and as a team.”
NOLES AFTER BYE WEEK
Since Jimbo Fisher’s arrival, first as the offensive coordinator from 2007-2009, Florida State has strung together a 6-2 record in games following bye weeks. As the No. 1 Noles prepare to host No. 23 Clemson in two weeks, here’s a look at FSU’s recent history with more time for preparation:
Season Outcome Where Score
2013 #5 FSU def. #3 Clemson A 51-14
2013 #10 FSU def. Nevada H 62-7
2012 #8 FSU def. Va Tech A 28-22
2011 Wake Forest def. #23 FSU A 35-30
2010 NC State def. #16 FSU A 28-24
2009 FSU def. North Carolina A 30-27
2008 FSU def. NC State A 26-17
2007 FSU def. #22 Alabama N* 21-14
* – Jacksonville, Fla.