FSU looks ahead of schedule under Fisher

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher looked at his watch and guessed he gave himself about 10 minutes in the visiting locker room at Sun Life Stadium to celebrate his team’s convincing 45-17 upset of No. 13 Miami.

Fisher isn’t big on wasting time.

After all, he’s only needed half a season to make a difference at Florida State. And in a matter of weeks, he and first-year defensive coordinator Mark Stoops have transformed the Seminoles into a different team than the one that got bowled over at Oklahoma.

In a fierce rivalry that has been decided by an average of four points over the past seven games, Florida State controlled the entire game. The Seminoles had a 31-7 lead by the third quarter, and even those within the program said they were surprised by the margin of victory, which was the most lopsided since 1997. It was the most complete performance Fisher has seen from his team, and it came against ranked competition on the road. The Seminoles have now won four straight and are the team to beat in the ACC -- all just six games into Fisher’s head coaching career.

“It builds your confidence,” Fisher said. “Confidence in an athlete or program is something that you don’t know when it comes. And when confidence comes in anything we do, we really can take off. But confidence can be a scary thing. You’ve gotta know how to control confidence.”

With a struggling Boston College team in the midst of a three-game losing streak scheduled to visit Tallahassee on Saturday, though, that confidence should only grow. If Florida State follows the script next weekend, the Seminoles Oct. 28 game against NC State could determine the Atlantic Division winner. The Seminoles’ win over Miami was the kind of performance that could springboard them through the second half of the season.

“It was huge for us,” FSU quarterback Christian Ponder said. “Two back-to-back wins, on the road, in ACC play, I don’t remember when the last time that happened for me. It’s huge. Everyone keeps having different expectations for us, questioning if we’re going to be able to keep playing and keep dealing with success, and we just keep playing to our expectations and we’re doing really well.”

Miami ran 23 more plays than Florida State and managed to do less. Quarterback Jacory Harris completed just 40.4 percent of his passes (19-of-47) and didn’t throw one touchdown pass after throwing four a week ago at Clemson. The Seminoles took away the deep pass and Miami averaged 4.8 yards per completion. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, Harris only completed 20 percent of his throws over 15 yards and was 0-for-9 against the blitz.

It was a far cry from Sept. 11, when Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones threw for 380 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

“The sky’s the limit for us, I think,” defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said. “With a new scheme and everything we just put in, we’re ahead of schedule because we’re doing real good at it. The defense is on top. We’re ranked top in everything in the nation. I think we’re ahead of schedule.”

Miami, which entered the game second in the nation behind Florida State in sacks, didn’t get one on Ponder.

“We believe we’re right on schedule,” Ponder said. “We had high expectations for ourselves and we’re reaching them.”

It appears the rest of the ACC should expect more of the same under Fisher’s watch.