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FSU aims to rebound from ugly start

Coach Jimbo Fisher and Florida State are looking to avoid their first 0-3 ACC start ever Saturday. Joshua S. Kelly/US PRESSWIRE

Around 7 p.m. last Sunday, Florida State had a players-only meeting to discuss the Seminoles’ 2-3 start following an upset loss to Wake Forest.

“What we said there is pretty much private, but there were a lot of things we did get off our chests,” receiver Bert Reed said. “We definitely came out of there feeling good and feeling like brothers. As far as the hype we came in with and the expectations we came into the season with, we’re probably not as far as we wanted, but we know we still have a lot to accomplish.”

It starts this weekend at Duke.

Florida State is trying to avoid its first 0-3 ACC start in 20 years of conference membership. Duke, meanwhile, is on a three-game winning streak and looking to win four straight for the first time since 1994. Florida State has never lost to Duke, but little has gone as planned this season for the Seminoles. What began as a season filled with promise and title talk has turned into survival mode for Florida State. The Seminoles entered the season with hopes of winning a national championship and as the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC title in coach Jimbo Fisher’s second season.

Now, they’re just hoping to beat Duke.

Those within the program say the team hasn’t been deterred by its disappointing start.

“We’re all competitors, so trying to keep our heads up is really not a tough deal,” said Reed, one of numerous players on the roster who have been sidelined with an injury this season. “We’re going to go out there every week and give every team our best shot. It’s disappointing more than anything because we’re a couple plays away from being 5-0 or 4-1 and that’s tough on us, but knowing we’ve got a game to play with the players on this team, we’re going to come out and compete. There hasn’t been any pity for ourselves.”

A rash of injuries to key players, including starting quarterback EJ Manuel, hasn’t helped matters, nor has a lack of continuity from last season on the offensive line. Florida State’s running game is No. 112 in the country. While that has been one of the most glaring problems, it’s hardly the only one. FSU is No. 114 in turnover margin and No. 100 in sacks allowed. One of the most troublesome has been the untimely penalties: No team in the country has incurred more per game (9.4) than Florida State.

In last week’s 35-30 loss to Wake Forest, Florida State had 13 penalties for 109 yards and five turnovers.

Still, Fisher said he liked the attitude in the locker room after the defeat.

“I think that guys are emerging as leaders that were quiet before,” Fisher said. “And that brings out some guys have great leadership and helping us progress to where we want to go as a program. You have to go through trials to get there sometimes. From what I’ve seen – I see guys going in the right direction rather than the wrong direction – they’re stepping up and leading. I have not seeing any hanging of their heads. It’s time to move on.”

The Seminoles’ three losses have come by a total of 20 points against teams that are a combined 15-1 on the year (Oklahoma, Clemson and Wake Forest). The conference losses, though, came against Atlantic Division opponents, dramatically decreasing Florida State’s chances of repeating as division winner.

“As head coach you take responsibility for it all,” Fisher said. “I’ve been disappointed before and as a team I’ve never looked at things as me, it’s always us. You’re disappointed. There’s no doubt. That’s part of athletics that goes with it. There’s doubt, there’s questions – that goes with athletics. That’s part of business that what you have to fix and if you’re tough enough and smart enough you fix them and you’ll survive.”