Tallahassee, FL - The Florida State football team appears to be right on schedule coming out of Wednesday’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s opening Atlantic Coast Conference road game at Virginia.
“They’re about where they should be,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said, coming off the practice field. “I liked it, because they were tired but they still pushed through. … We’ve got to polish it up tomorrow and get better. We’re in a good place. We’re working.”
There has been an inordinate amount of game preparation by the staff, leading up to the game with the Cavaliers. Even though it’s a conference game, it marks the first meeting between the schools – and their first-year head coaches – since 2006. Only one player from either squad, FSU reserve fullback Matt Dunham, has played a single snap in the series.
Fisher, however, dismissed the notion that it’s the equivalent of facing a non-conference opponent.
“They’re a conference team and they’re a very good conference team,” Fisher said. “With new coaches, you wouldn’t know the schemes anyway. You have to watch them on film. The thing that makes it weird for both of us is we don’t know each other’s personnel. You’ve never really played against them so you really don’t know.”
The Seminoles (3-1, 1-0 ACC) hope to have a more successful outing on their second road trip of the season. Fisher said it appears the team learned quite a bit from its previous road trip, which resulted in a 47-17 loss at Oklahoma.
“The thing that we’re learning and I’m happy about – and I hope that they take to the field – is preparation,” Fisher said. “You can’t be overconfident. You’ve never arrived. You want to be confident, but you can never have so much confidence.”
Count sophomore cornerback Greg Reid among those who believes the ‘Noles are more focused heading out on the road for the second time.
“It’s going to really be a test for us, I think we are ready for it and I think we got a lot of stuff to prove once again,” Reid said. “We have been playing good, but we are trying to get another goal, and it’s going to be another step Saturday.”
Defense limiting big plays
One of the keys to Florida State’s defensive improvement has been its ability to deny the big play by opposing offenses. What was a vulnerability a year ago is quickly becoming a strength for the Seminoles, who have not allowed a play longer than 21 yards since the Sept. 11 loss at Oklahoma.
“I feel like it’s a mixture of everything, the scheme, the defense just wanting to make a play and just wanting to hold the offense under a certain amount of yards,” said junior safety Terrance Parks. “I feel like it’s a mixture of things. The coaches have been doing their part and we have been doing our part, so with that being said, we are going to have success.”
Since yielding a 30-yard pass play against Samford in the opener and a 46-yarder at Oklahoma, the Seminoles have put the clamps on their last two opponents. Brigham Young and Wake Forest did not manage a pass play longer than 17 yards or a running play longer than 21.
Parks said defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ insistence on playing instinctively with your eyes has a lot to do with that.
“Coach Stoops talks a lot about controlling your eyes; controlling what you see and believing your eyes,” Parks said. “Keep your eyes on your man and just be disciplined. If you see run, play your responsibility. That’s all it is. That is assignment football and I feel like the coaches have done a good job implementing that.”
Trip to Virginia is a homecoming for Manuel
Redshirt sophomore quarterback EJ Manuel was recruited by Virginia and even camped at the school as a pre-teen, but Saturday’s game in Charlottesville will mark his first – and only – opportunity to play at Scott Stadium.
“I am looking forward to it,” said Manuel, who grew up in Virginia Beach but won’t have another chance to play in his home state because of the ACC’s unbalanced schedule. “This will be my first time going up there to play. There our next opponent in the ACC, so I am just looking forward to the challenge.”
Manuel has appeared in all four games in a reserve role behind Christian Ponder. He’s completed 16 of 23 attempts for 279 yards and two touchdowns and boasts an impressive 191.46 pass efficiency rating.
The 2010 Gator Bowl MVP said he expects to have about 15 family members – parents, grandparents and cousins – on hand for the game.