For the first 15 minutes of Saturday night’s season opener between the Florida State Seminoles and Oklahoma State Cowboys, it sure felt like 2013.
Seventeen points were hung on the Cowboys by an FSU offense that looked as exciting as last year’s unit, and the defense was swarming. But then, it all went wrong.
Well, it didn’t all go wrong for Florida State. They emerged from the dogfight with a 37-31 victory and a 17-game winning streak still intact. But as I and just about any other ‘Nole who attended the game will tell you, it felt like a loss, regardless of the outcome.
(Photos: 24 images from my trip to Dallas)
I’ve packaged my thoughts from Dallas into neat little sections, so let’s break down this victory a little deeper.
FSU may have survived its toughest test until the playoff
It’s easy to lob a hot sports take about the ‘Noles being overrated, but Oklahoma State was simply much better than advertised. We knew they were one of the most inexperienced squads in the nation, but the unranked Cowboys were ready to play.
Give credit to Florida State for being better when it mattered. Quarterback Jameis Winston was absolutely masterful at key points in the contest, and FSU’s veteran leaders stepped up when they were needed most.
I really do believe FSU bought into the hype of being the defending national champions, and they admitted to slacking in preseason practices. Once they took the early 17-0 lead, FSU looked like a team that thought the game was in the bag. The fanbase reacted the same way – after all, we’ve seen utter dominance from the ‘Noles in nearly every game for the past 12 months, so what reason did we have to believe the Pokes were going to make it a ballgame?
But OSU head coach Mike Gundy is one of the best in the sport for a reason. He gathered his players and kept them focused, and despite all their youth, they showed they’re more than deserving of a national ranking, and may even be one of the best teams in the Big 12.
An ugly win is still a win, and it was the first loss Oklahoma State has ever suffered in the month of August in the Mike Gundy era. They start quickly, folks. It’s just a fact.
Throw in the fact that FSU also debuted about a dozen or so new players, and there’s no shame in just scraping by against a quality opponent in the first game of the season.
And I’ll just add this: For all the tension in this game, Florida State never trailed for a single second.
The Seminoles could have tough games against Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami or Florida, or Oklahoma State might have been the toughest opponent on their schedule. Only time will tell, but because FSU plays in the ACC, the ‘Noles might have just escaped their best opponent of the regular season.
The Seminoles will only improve from here
College football is a funny sport because the teams don’t get preseason games. They hardly hit each other before the first game of the season, let alone somebody else. So when big-name opponents don’t schedule cupcakes for the season-opener, their rust often shows.
As for Florida State, I believe Saturday night’s performance was a mixture of rust and arrogance. Arrogance allowed the Cowboys back into the game, and FSU’s rust allowed them to stay there. But there’s plenty of good news on the way for the Seminoles.
Next week, they’ll play the Citadel at home in a game that’s all but a guaranteed win for Florida State. Then, they’ll have two weeks to prepare for a Clemson squad that appears better defensively, but quite young on offense. This should give FSU plenty of time to work out their issues, and it’s probably a safe bet that practices will take on a slightly different tone in the next few weeks.
And about that game against the Citadel – if the ‘Noles win, it will be their 18th win in a row, which would be the longest winning streak in program history. That’s an amazing feat when you consider that all those juggernauts of the 1990s never had a winning streak as long, despite 14 consecutive seasons finishing in the top-5 of the end-of-season poll.
There’s no place like Jerryworld
It’s hard to make one football stadium look different from all the rest, but AT&T Stadium is a world-class facility. When I first walked in on Saturday night, I let out an audible, “Wow …” and noticed shortly after that just about everyone else had the same response.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the Dallas Metroplex – it’s like a swollen version of Atlanta Sprawl – but Jerryworld was fantastic. There simply isn’t a better way to watch a football game. The big screens aren’t a distraction as much as they are a huge help to the game-watching experience, especially when the action is being played on the other side of the field.
It’s also so clutch to have an indoor stadium when you’ve been out in the Texas heat all day. I might have lost 10 pounds sweating during the tailgate, if I hadn’t been drinking all that delicious Sam Adams beer.
Gotta stay hydrated, folks.