Tallahassee, FL - Florida State wrapped up its physical preparation for Saturday’s showdown with Miami at Sun Life Stadium on Thursday, but Jimbo Fisher insists that the mental preparation in the hours leading up to the contest will have a bearing on the outcome.
That’s an area Fisher believes the Seminoles have grown the most since their week two loss on the road at nationally-ranked Oklahoma.
“I think we practiced better,” Fisher said, when asked for a comparison. “I think we’ve had more intensity in practice and more focus and understanding. I see our team getting better. We’ll see if we can get better on Saturday night, but in practice I see guys getting better; I see confidence because of the knowledge of what they’re doing. From that aspect, hopefully we’ll be more prepared in that kind of environment.”
The 23rd-ranked Seminoles (4-1, 2-0 ACC) will have plenty of time to get ready. The team will conduct a walk-through on campus Friday before flying into Fort Lauderdale, then spend all Saturday in the hotel before heading to the stadium for the 8 p.m. kickoff (ABC).
Though it’s the first night game of the season for the ‘Noles, Fisher said the schedule will be adjusted accordingly.
“You’ve got more down time, but we’ll move everything back in relationship to game time,” he said. “The guys will like it because they’ll get to sleep in for the first time in a little while.”
Beyond team meetings, the team will spend the day together, watching others play on television.
“Sometimes watching other people gets you in the mode to play,” Fisher said.
One of the things the FSU staff monitored carefully this week was how the team conducted itself on the practice field. At the end of a practice week that has been crisp – Fisher described Thursday’s workout as “very business-like” - the players are raring to go.
FSU junior linebacker Nigel Bradham has spent some time on the phone with his former high school teammate and Miami linebacker C.J. Holton this week. They’ve traded a few good-natured barbs, but Bradham said both teams are ready to play in a rivalry game that is, “more about respect than anything.”
Bradham as a great appreciation for the historical ramification of any showdown with the Hurricanes, let alone when the stakes are raised as they are this week. The 13th-ranked Hurricanes (3-1, 1-0), like the Seminoles, are trying to regain their place among the nation’s elite. That the last seven meetings between the teams have been decided by a scant 28 points is not forgotten.
“It’s always been a historical game,” Bradham said. “The last two or three games have been decided by like a total of ten points. That tells you it’s a historical game, and we are probably going to make history, but it will go down in the books hopefully as a win.”
Fisher likes where his team is heading in.
“It’s a big game and our guys will be up to play,” Fisher said. “I just didn’t want them to waste all that energy during the week. Understand that when you’re playing these kind of games you have to prepare to play. You’ve got to have something to fall back on, know what you’re doing and feel comfortable with your techniques, your assignments and your alignments, because eventually emotion kind of wears out. You don’t always win because you want to. You win because you’ve prepared to. But it will take a lot. You’ll have to match their emotion and their toughness, because Miami will bring it, that’s for sure. We’ll do our share.”
As for Fisher’s first foray into the series as a head coach, he won’t treat it any differently emotionally, even though he has a great deal of respect for the history of the rivalry.
“Once you get into the game you forget all of that,” Fisher said. “You get into competing and trying to be successful. You know you’re in those games when you first get there in the warm-ups, but once the game starts you’re just coaching ball and you’re competing and trying to beat your opponent no matter who it is.”
That’s the same message he will pass along to his players. When asked whether the Miami game will be more of a physical challenge or a mental challenge, Fisher didn’t hesitate.
“I think it will be both,” he said. “They’re going to be very physical and it’s going to be very demanding. I think it’s going to be a mental test, because mentally if you’re not ready they physical part will not follow.”
When reminded that Saturday’s game falls on his 45th birthday, Fisher said he wouldn’t be thinking of that at all – at least not until the game is over.
“We’ll think about that after the game,” he said. “I’ve got one wish and it will be a tough one.”
Junior left tackle Andrew Datko has tested his injured shoulder all week and will be ready to play against the ‘Canes. After Datko’s three-game absence, FSU will likely field its returning starting line for the first time since the Oklahoma game.
Starting linebacker Mister Alexander has knocked the cobwebs off after taking a blow to the head last week and will be back in the lineup after sitting out the second half against Virginia.
Tailback Ty Jones was limited throughout the week by an ankle sprain but is expected to be available for action.