TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The celebration surrounding Florida State’ 38-22 win at Florida will be cut a little shorter than in recent years.
In 2015 and 2016, the Seminoles had more than a month between triumphs over the Gators and their subsequent bowl trips.
This time, FSU has another game on the horizon.
The Seminoles will host Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday (noon, ACC Network Extra) in a game that was originally scheduled for Sept. 9, before Hurricane Irma had other plans.
Back then, the game was seen as something of tune-up between the Seminoles’ opener against Alabama and the start of conference play the following week.
Three months later, the stakes are so much higher: Beat ULM, and the Seminoles will improve to 6-6, reach bowl eligibility for the 36th straight year and have a chance at a 41st consecutive winning season. Lose, and the 2017 campaign is over.
While 5-7 teams sometimes make bowl games, current projections don’t have any spots available for a sub-.500 team this year.
So stakes are about as high as they get for a matchup with an opponent from the Sun Belt.
“We’ve still got one more,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “This season isn’t over. We’ve put ourselves position to keep 40 and 35 alive, which is extremely important to all those kids and everybody that’s ever played here and ever will play here. It’s very easy to look past something like (ULM) after a big, emotional win. We have to get back and get going.”
College football is littered with examples of teams having letdowns after emotional victories.
See the way Ohio State got blown out by unranked Iowa a week after edging then-No. 2 Penn State earlier this year. Or how Miami, undefeated and closing in on the College Football Playoff, gutted out a come-from-behind victory over Virginia last week, only to no-show against 5-7 Pittsburgh.
Those outcomes aren’t likely, but they happen every year. The last thing the Seminoles want is for it to happen to them.
Not after rallying for wins in three of their last four games to put themselves in this position.
“Honestly, it’s the game we need to win to get bowl eligible,” senior defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi said. “We cannot take the opponent lightly, because anything can happen, as you can see with Pitt.”
Added center Alec Eberle: “Full-speed ahead. We’ve got to get to a bowl. We’ve got to continue this streak. We’re not sleeping on this team.”
ULM enters with a 4-7 record, and is coming off a 67-50 loss to Arkansas State last week.
But, more pertinent to FSU, the Warhawks have played well in spurts against FBS competition this season.
In a visit to Auburn two weeks ago, ULM spent most of the first half tied at seven before the Tigers broke through late in the second quarter on the way to 42-14 win.
And the Warhawks had decent showings in losses to Memphis (37-29) and Southern Mississippi (28-17) at the start of the season.
Still, the Seminoles left Clemson two weeks ago knowing that they needed to reel off three straight wins to reach their goal.
Having clinched the first two, they’ve got no intention of letting the opportunity slip away now.
“One more to get one more,” running back Jacques Patrick said. “That’s our motto.”