TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jimbo Fisher met with the media Monday to discuss Florida State’s 27-24 win against Syracuse and look ahead to Saturday’s tilt at No. 4 Clemson (3:30 p.m., ESPN). Here are highlights from that conversation:
The Seminoles are moving into the home stretch of the regular season with the belief that last week’s victory over Syracuse can jumpstart a strong finish over the next few weeks.
Fisher on Monday said the Seminoles felt like they “got over a hump” after two straight losses, and the confidence that comes from getting back into the win column can serve the team well as it moves forward.
“Our guys played extremely hard, competed well,” he said. “It’s a great win. It’s getting over a hump. Hopefully you can build on it.”
That the Seminoles have a momentum-building win is good news, because …
The Seminoles won’t have to wait long to see how far they’ve come. A trip to No. 4 Clemson will likely be FSU’s biggest test since the season-opener against No. 1 Alabama.
And it will certainly bolster a schedule that already ranks as one of the toughest in the country. The Tigers will be the third top-10 team the Seminoles have faced this season. (Alabama is still No. 1, while Miami has climbed to No. 7 after being ranked 13th at the time of their meeting.)
“We’d better build on (last week’s win) quick, because we play a great team this week, play one of the top four teams in the country,” Fisher said. “Clemson is playing very well, coming off a big win with against North Carolina State, who, as we know, is a very good team, played very well. …
“They’ve been in some battles all year, Clemson has. They seem to be always be pulling them out. Doing a great job. (CU coach) Dabo (Swinney) does a great job. Quarterback can run, did a great job running the football — big and physical.”
After watching the Syracuse film, one thing in particular jumped out at Fisher. Two things, technically.
“The biggest disappointment for us, on both sides, was probably our third-down efficiency on offense, and their efficiency on defense,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting off the field (on defense) and staying on the field (on offense) in that regard.”
Indeed, the disparity between third-down conversion rates was startling, and likely a big contributing factor to the close final score.
Syracuse converted 11 of its 25 third-down attempts, while FSU was 1 of 13.
Asked about the defense, Fisher said that the Seminoles usually had the right play calls with players in position to get stops.
“Just breakdowns,” he said. “We clearly did miss some things. Then (Syracuse) made a couple of good throws and a couple good catches.”
But, he added, when “you’re in position to make plays, you’ve got to make plays.”
As for the offense, Fisher said the issues could mostly be attributed to either protection issues or receivers running the wrong routes.
“Just all those fundamental things,” he said. “For three games before that, we were doing pretty well (on third down). We have to go back, make sure we’re executing what we call, and, hopefully, as we get some of these older wideouts back, (improve) techniques and things we can do, it will help us out.”
Fisher knew the number right off the top of his head.
A reporter began to ask Fisher about Clemson’s pass rush by saying that the Tigers had “big sack numbers,” and, almost immediately, Fisher interjected:
“Thirty-three sacks,” he said.
Clemson’s 33 sacks are the second-most in the country, one behind USC’s 34, as are their 3.67 sacks per game.
And the Tigers have three players – Clelin Ferrell (6.5), Austin Bryant (6.5) and Dorian O’Daniel (5.0) – with at least five sacks.
Fisher said that what makes the Tigers so effective is that they can generate pressure with their front four while also blitzing effectively when necessary.
“It’s a mixture,” he said. “They bring pressure, but … a lot of it is their front four. (They have) great inside push guys. (Christian) Wilkins and (Dexter) Lawrence are both excellent, Ferrell and Bryant and all those guys are natural pass rushers. Really good guys. Will be high draft pick guys.”
While the Seminoles dominated Clemson throughout the 1990s, the series has been much closer over the past several years.
FSU leads the all-time series 20-10, but the teams are 5-5 in their last 10 meetings. And wins for the visiting team are rare – each has done it only once during that stretch.
Fisher on Monday recalled some of the more memorable affairs between the two since he arrived as offensive coordinator in 2007, and noted that the Seminoles and Tigers have played a variety of types of games – some high-scoring, some low-scoring and some in-between. And they’re almost always close. Five of the last 10 meetings have been decided by one possession.
“I’ve been watching them all,” Fisher said. “They’ve been phenomenal. High-score ones, low-score ones. Went from shootout, 49-37, to one of them 51-something, then 23-17, 23-13.
“I mean there’s been some phenomenal games.”