Tallahassee, FL - Florida State senior offensive linemen Ryan McMahon and Rodney Hudson were carried off the field Tuesday – on the shoulders of their teammates – after completing their final practice on campus.
The Seminoles’ final on-campus preparations for the Chick-fil-A Bowl left Jimbo Fisher in the holiday spirit.
“That’s the best Thursday we’ve had in a long time; maybe all year,” said Fisher. “They got their work done and weren’t concentrating on going home. … I was very pleased with their effort and focus.”
Such has been the case throughout Fisher’s first season, which will culminate with the 23rd-ranked Seminoles meeting No. 19 South Carolina in the 43rd Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 in the Georgia Dome. It will be the last hurrah in Garnet & Gold for eight scholarship seniors, as well as the potential launching point for greater expectations in 2011.
Fisher released the players following Tuesday’s workout to go home and visit with family and friends. Most of the Seminoles will reconvene in Tallahassee on Dec. 25 and join the official travel party to Atlanta. FSU’s next practice is set for Dec. 26 at Georgia Tech and Fisher anticipates he will have a full complement of Seminoles medically cleared and ready to go against the Gamecocks.
“I think we should be good to go with all of them,” Fisher said. “We’re ready to roll. I’m glad to get them all back.”
That includes quarterback Christian Ponder, who has progressed nicely following surgery to repair soft-tissue damage in his right arm on Dec. 10. Ponder has spent the past few days lifting weights and running, but will accelerate his rehab process beginning tomorrow, when he begins throwing the football again under the direction of Florida State’s Sports Medicine staff.
“He’s staying here; his family is coming here for Christmas,” Fisher said of Ponder. “He’ll stay here, workout, train and rehab for three days and start throwing the ball.”
In the midst of a dead period for recruiting, Fisher will spend some time with his family over the next few days, and perhaps squeeze in a hunting trip with his son Trey. Soon enough it will be back to business as the Seminoles take aim at the programs’ first 10-win season since 2003.
The ‘Noles, who posted their best regular season mark since 2004 and won the ACC’s Atlantic Division title, hope to use a bowl victory over the Gamecocks as a springboard to even greater success in 2011.
Fisher has first-hand experience with the benefits that come with a bowl victory. As the offensive coordinator at LSU, the Tigers parlayed a Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Miami – and a year later a Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame – into a national championship.
“It did a lot confidence-wise, coming out of that game,” Fisher said of LSU’s win over Miami. “Any time you beat a team of significance that’s a really good team – we were both top 10 that year – I think it sent a message to our guys … and how good we can be.
“The next year – I had left (for FSU) – when we beat Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, the next year they won the national championship. It sent a really good message. They were confident. Beating Miami and Notre Dame in bowl games in back-to-back years it was pretty significant.”
Fisher said last season’s Gator Bowl win by the Seminoles over 18th-ranked West Virginia – in Bobby Bowden’s final game – had a similar effect on the 2010 season.
“They were in the top 20 when we played them and we were an underdog,” Fisher said. “To come in and do that, I think it helped springboard us into this year.”
In the meantime, Fisher, his wife Candi and sons Trey and Ethan plan to enjoy the holiday season.
“I’m more excited now than I when was as a kid,” Fisher said. “I love to watch the kids get things, but we also make them understand that you can’t get everything in the world.
“Christmas is not about getting, it’s about giving…. The big thing is making them understand that not everybody is as fortunate as we are right now.”