Florida State will face Notre Dame at 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday in the Champs Sports Bowl, and the Seminoles’ offensive struggles have been a popular storyline since the last few weeks of the regular season. I caught up with coach Jimbo Fisher on Tuesday for his take on what’s been going on with the offense:
I know you guys have been banged up, but is there anything other than the injuries that helps explain the decrease in the offensive production over the last few weeks of the regular season?
Jimbo Fisher: No. The last two weeks was it. We had a lot of yards against Virginia -- we had 380 yards. We didn’t execute in the red zone. We had four or five missed assignments. We had a hard time blocking up front, had some missed assignments, and the way the game was going, we played to our defense and special teams. But no, that’s it.
How much have injuries limited what you can do in the playbook?
JF: Oh, it does a lot. We’re going to probably start six true freshmen in this game here, and there will probably be eight on the field at one time. I’ve never been around a season that’s had that many. We still play well. The wear and tear on them – freshmen aren’t used to playing that much. It wears on them late in the season. In the Virginia game we didn’t score, but we moved the ball. We had 380 yards. We had two plays of 50 yards that were called back. The Florida game is the one we played poorly in.
I know you’ve been asked a lot about calling the plays. Why do you like that responsibility?
JF: That’s what got me the job. Why do you stop doing what got you there and you’re successful in? I’ll always call the plays. Let me ask you this: How were we the first nine or 10 games of the year when we were 36 points a game and 420 yards a game. What’s the difference?
Injuries, I guess.
JF: That’s just part of ball, it happens. How did Green Bay get beat 19-14? They score 40 points in every other game they played. That’s just how it is sometimes. You have injuries and you have bad days. But I won’t give that up.
I was just wondering from an organizational perspective, with all of the other stuff you have to do, why would you personally want to add another job to your list?
JF: It brings a lot of recruits in, me still coaching the quarterbacks, and that’s always something we’ve done well. In time, maybe in years to come down the road maybe you do change, but for right now I have no ambition to (change). Coach Bowden did it his whole time up until 1993. He did it for 16 years while he was the head coach at Florida State.
Yeah, and Friedgen did it for a while, too.
JF: Steve Spurrier does, Paul Johnson does. There’s a ton of guys who still do it, a bunch of them.
I know that playing freshmen can pay off in the long run, but how much of a concern is it now in the bowl game?
JF: I think we’ve played well, had a good week of practice, had a good month of practice. They’ve played well and had good practices, so we’ll see. People don’t realize, we’ve started anywhere from three to six freshmen all year on offense because of injuries. We’ve lost nine guys for the year, six on the offensive line. It’s been that way all year.
If there was one thing you guys needed to do better offensively against Notre Dame, what would it be?
JF: Just being assignment sound. That’s what got us against Florida a little bit. We had some missed calls up front, missed assignments. We put a hat on a hat we’ll be fine.
One other thing I wanted to ask you was how important a win would be for the program heading into the offseason?
JF: It is, but like I said, winning a bowl game is great and it can give you momentum during the offseason, but it doesn’t dictate how things happen the next year. We beat South Carolina last year in the bowl game and South Carolina had a great year. They stayed relatively healthy except for one guy, Marcus Lattimore. We had the momentum and got everyone hurt. Winning a bowl game is important, but it doesn’t mean what you do the next year.