Fisher challenges players

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Bjoern Werner's night was quiet.

The junior defensive end was busy, but NC State diverted protection to his side, marginalizing his impact and, for the third straight game, Werner was held without a sack.

After the game, however, Werner spoke loudly. In a somber locker room -- a wake for another season's worth of immense expectations frittered away in a maddening second half against NC State -- Werner delivered the final sermon.

"He was telling everybody it's not over," senior Everett Dawkins said. "Don't put your head down because it's not over for us."

What happened Saturday is done. There is blame to go around, and some falls on Werner. Assigning blame might offer lessons, but it will not change the outcome.

What lies ahead: six more regular-season games, starting this week with a moribund Boston College. What happens next Saturday -- and however many Saturdays beyond that for this group -- remains within the Seminoles' control.

It was a message that resonated with a group desperate to restructure its goals, but the Seminoles also understand that, after another season of abridged expectations, Werner's sentiments are likely to ring hollow outside their locker room.

"A lot of people are probably going to throw in the towel on us, but it's not over," Dawkins said. "We're going to fix our problems -- that's a promise. Everybody's going to go back in this week and figure out what's the problem."

The problem, for so many fans at least, is that they were promised solutions to these problems during an offseason in which Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles offered endless reasons for optimism.

The offensive line would be improved, they said, and the first five games of the season provided evidence. Then EJ Manuel was sacked four times Saturday, the running game fell apart in the second half, and the promises were broken.

The defensive line would be dominant, they said, and the first five games only managed to build the excitement surrounding FSU's front four to a frenzy. Saturday was to be a feast against a makeshift NC State offensive line. Instead, Werner and Co. tallied just one sack and caved under the weight of Mike Glennon's dink-and-dunk torture.

The mentality of this team would be different, Fisher promised. The first five games featured a team happy to wallop overmatched competition, employ its immense depth to wear down the opposition, keep its foot on the gas throughout. And then Saturday ended in the most painful fashion, as Florida State largely stood by and watched, courtesy of some maddeningly conservative offensive play calling and three fourth-down failures by the defense on NC State's final drive.

Outside of Florida State's locker room, the mantra will be simple: Despite all of the promises, these are the same old Seminoles.

But that misses the point of Werner's soliloquy. Saturday's loss happened, and there will be consequences. But those old Seminoles, the ones whose shadow this team failed to escape, would've caved.

After a loss to Oklahoma in 2011, Florida State fell flat again against Clemson, and it never showed up against Wake Forest. One loss turned into two, then three.

"All we've got to do is learn from what we did," linebacker Christian Jones said. "We're not going to let what happened last season happen this year. We're going to learn from what we did and play better."

Manuel was methodical in his answers after Saturday's debacle, offering minimal insight into the collapse, and, like a politician, always returning to his predetermined message: A new week lies ahead.

Manuel had the audacity to say he looked forward to playing "a good Boston College team" -- which of course is the same team that just coughed up 516 rushing yards to a previously winless Army.

This should be easy, but after the chaos at NC State, it's tough to tell what comes next.

"We've got to work on a lot of things," receiver Rashad Greene said.

The project will start with keeping at least one promise.

There is still more to play for -- an ACC title, in-state rivalries against Miami and Florida, an Orange Bowl berth and, most of all, a measure of redemption.

"I challenged them right now," Fisher said. "Everything is still in front of us. We have to go play, do what we've got to do, and we've got a huge challenge to get ourselves back."