Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It was supposed to be a statement game, a convincing win that proved Florida State deserved its top 25 ranking, and that the first two drubbings of I-AA schools were a sign of change, not just easy wins. All week leading up to this game the Seminoles oozed confidence, and talked about their desire to prove Florida State was indeed "back."
After an unimpressive, undisciplined 12-3 loss to Wake Forest, though, the Seminoles still have much to prove. Florida State's youth and inexperience was exposed, and a turnaround in Tallahassee is going to take a little longer than expected.
"We're not where I hoped we were because it's very evident," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "We self-destructed. We wouldn't give ourselves a chance to win it, we wouldn't ever give ourselves a chance."
Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews was about the only person who could quantify just how far away the Seminoles are from reverting back to their proud, tradition-laden program of the past.
"Let's see," he said. "What was it, 12-3? About 10 points."
"It's up to us to get there," Andrews said. "Nobody's going to give it to us."
Certainly not the Wake Forest defense.
Florida State had five interceptions and two fumbles. The Seminoles have now committed 15 turnovers in the past three games against Wake Forest and scored a total of three points in the last two games. It didn't matter which quarterback was in -- Christian Ponder or D'Vontrey Richardson -- both of them were forced into mistakes and both were playing behind an inexperienced line that couldn't hold its own for four quarters against Wake's veteran front.
Combined, the FSU quarterbacks had just 118 passing yards.
"The Florida State teams of old, they didn't lose games like this," safety Myron Rolle said. "They found a way to win. I think we still haven't found that way to come out with victories in close situations, whether it be the offense, or defense, or special teams. But I'm still positive. I still feel that we have talent, we have the best coaches in America and we have some great fan support that can get us there. The journey is still going. I guess it begins again next week with Colorado."
The first two offensive plays of the game were turnovers for Florida State. Ponder completed 6 of 18 passes for 52 yards and three interceptions. It was quite a turnaround from the first two games, when he threw six touchdowns in his first two starts. Heading into the game, neither quarterback had thrown an interception.
"It was a reality check," Ponder said. "Those first two games it came a lot easier to us, and finally we played a great opponent. We were never able to overcome how bad we played."
He said the Noles are "pretty far away" from where they need to be, but that everything is correctable.
"A lot of guys wanted it so bad I think that ended up hurting us a little bit," Ponder said. "The biggest thing was just dumb mistakes. We didn't play how Florida State should play and that really showed."
It was an emotionally charged game for Florida State, which was trying to redeem itself from a 30-0 loss to Wake Forest in 2006. Defensive end Everette Brown said that might have contributed to a few of their 12 penalties for 139 yards.
"This was the first game we actually had competition," he said. "When you've got payback on your mind and things aren't going your way, you have a tendency to get over-aggressive and do things out of your character, which caused us to get offside penalties, pass interference -- guys too aggressive on the play."
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said Florida State's defense is not the problem.
"They're great defensively," Grobe said. "They're still Florida State defensively. They're probably, with their young quarterbacks, still trying to find out who they are on offense. And they've got some young guys up front right now that are going to have to mature and develop."
Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said he's not planning on changing a thing.
"We're still one play from winning the game the whole time, as poorly as we played," he said. "We played very poorly with turnovers, missed assignments, penalties. We just got behind the eight ball and you can't do it against a good football team."
Nor can you do it if you want to be a good football team.