Florida State a 'totally different team'

NORMAN, Okla. -- Bob Stoops' Sooners embarrassed Florida State and Bob's younger brother Mark Stoops so badly last season, their mother resolved not to attend the rematch this season in Tallahassee.

But as thoroughly as Oklahoma throttled FSU in a 47-17 rout, the Sooners understand they won't be facing the same Seminoles on Sept. 17.

"Our guys are no dummies," Bob Stoops said. "They know how much they changed and got better as that year went on."

Against the Sooners, it looked as if it might be a long 2010 season for the Seminoles. OU scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and led 44-7 after three quarters.

Mark Stoops' defense appeared discombobulated attempting to cover OU's short swing passes and screens near the line of scrimmage. At one point, Sooners quarterback Landry Jones completed 14 consecutive passes on his way to throwing for 380 yards and four touchdowns.

"One of the more fun games I've played in," Jones said.

Despite such an embarrassing loss, the Seminoles regrouped. And the OU debacle actually became a turning point for a program still trying to find its footing with first-year coach Jimbo Fisher and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

"We were not quite prepared for that test a year ago," Mark Stoops recently told a Florida TV station. "We were not quite prepared for that environment and the speed of that game. I think we learned from it, and we got better as the year went on."

Did they ever. After surrendering 47 points to the Sooners, FSU's defense yielded 60 points in its next five games combined -- all Seminoles victories. And anchored by sound defense and a reliable running game, Florida State went on to capture the ACC's Atlantic Division.

"You can tell on film they got comfortable in their schemes," OU cornerback Jamell Fleming said. "[They] seemed to get more familiar with their coaches and in what they were doing."

In the Chick-fil-A Bowl, despite losing quarterback Christian Ponder to a concussion, FSU knocked off SEC East Division champ South Carolina, 26-17. During a fourth-quarter scoring drive that sealed the win, backup quarterback E.J. Manuel completed all seven of his passes, including a 7-yard touchdown toss.

Manuel's return, in addition to 16 returning starters, is why FSU is ranked as high as fourth in the polls this week.

"Everyone on our team is smart enough to know they were a different team after they played us," Sooners nickelback Tony Jefferson said. "They had a lot of new things going for them at the time. We know this isn't going to be the same team we saw."

Especially on defense.

After losing to OU, the Seminoles bounced back to hold nine of their final 12 opponents to fewer than 20 points. Mark Stoops' unit ended up third in the nation in sacks and 20th in total defense.

This season, with defensive end Brandon Jenkins, linebacker Nigel Bradham and cornerback Greg Reid all back, the Seminoles might have one of the best defenses in the country. Last week, in a 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe, the Warhawks drove the ball inside the Seminoles' 30-yard line just once.

"The way they come off the ball, the way they fly around," Jones said, "you can see on film they're a totally different team. We're fully aware of that."

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation.

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