TSX Report: Florida State

The visitors' locker room at Sun Life Stadium was aglow. Florida State players were whooping it up, even singing, "Happy Birthday" to their coach, Jimbo Fisher, who celebrated his 45th birthday Saturday night in FSU's program-defining 45-17 victory against Miami.

But once the party settled and Fisher and his team returned to Tallahassee, he was immediately focused on where the Seminoles (5-1, 3-0 in ACC) go from this point. They are now one of the nation's hottest teams and everyone is pronouncing how Florida State is coming back to the elite.

Fisher knows, however, they have a lot of proving left to do.

"Everybody's going to say Florida State can't handle success ... we're up and down," Fisher said. "The only way you change people's perceptions is by doing it every week. We've played 30 minutes," he added referring to the midpoint of the season. "That's halfway. That's half of the season. We've got another half of the season left."

Up next is a home game Saturday against downtrodden Boston College. But if the Seminoles need any reminders on reality, consider they have lost to BC in the past two years. These were games that led the FSU administration to start thinking something had to be done with Bobby Bowden as it related to the future of the program. While BC has been a competitive program, it's not a team that FSU should be trying to beat to end losing streaks.

"We're sitting pretty right now," quarterback Christian Ponder said after the Miami win. "But it's not going to mean anything if we lose next week."

To be sure, the Seminoles are sitting pretty. They are the only ACC team nationally ranked (No. 16 in AP and 17 USA Today coaches poll) and the only ACC team with a 3-0 conference record.

They are the highest ranked team in the state of Florida at this point in a season for the first time in five years. Nothing pronounces FSU's quest to regain elite status any better.

The Seminoles' remaining schedule is favorable. They don't play Virginia Tech, and their road game against N.C. State (Oct. 28) follows an open weekend and could likely present the chance to seal the ACC Atlantic Division title.

Considering the last seven games against Miami were decided by a total of 28 points, the Seminoles' blowout win was shocking. They were a six-point underdog going into the game but jumped on Miami for a 21-0 lead and never looked back. The Seminoles' final score was Chris Thompson's 90-yard touchdown run that was the longest run against Miami in Hurricanes' history.

"They delivered. They gave me a great one," said Fisher, referring to his birthday gift. "We got a great group of kids and I love coaching them. It was phenomenal."

While Fisher is a disciple of Alabama's Nick Saban in many ways, he has a different personality. You would not have seen Saban enjoying players dumping an icy sports drink bucket on his head for winning a rivalry game in midseason.

Fisher allows the Seminoles to enjoy the moment to a point. He insisted after the game, however, he is now focused on Boston College.

His next challenge is making sure the players get on that same page.


--Both FSU and Miami have struggled filling their stadiums and generating a buzz this season, which is another reason why the rivalry game was so important. It generated a sellout at Miami's Sun Life Stadium, also home to the Dolphins and Marlins. It was the first sellout since the Hurricanes moved their games from the now-demolished Orange Bowl Stadium. The last time Miami had a sellout for a home game against the Seminoles was in 2004, back when the 'Canes played at their former home, which was a lot closer to downtown Miami and the UM campus.

--RB Chris Thompson had a big game. The sophomore ran for a career-high 158 yards -- 90 of which came on a late touchdown run. Thompson already has two of the four longest scoring runs in school history.

--The Seminoles had one sack in the first half against Miami, giving them 26 for the season and matching the total they had for the entire 2009 season.

--The Seminoles' position in the Top 25 polls is their best since Nov. 5, 2005. That was also the last time FSU was ranked above the Florida Gators in a Top 25 poll.

GAME BALL GOES TO: TB Jermaine Thomas -- For the second consecutive game, Thomas was the Seminoles' biggest offensive performer when the game was on the line. Although he gained only 78 yards, less than half the total of backfield mate Chris Thompson, he scored the Seminoles; first three touchdowns, including a 17-yarder off a dump-off screen pass from Christian Ponder. Thomas did not play in the second half due to a minor toe injury, but he was at his best in the first half when the game was up for grabs.

KEEP AN EYE ON: CB Michael Harris -- He's not even on the roster on FSU's official football website, but the junior college transfer from El Camino (Calif.) Community College has moved into the No. 2 field corner spot behind Greg Reid. He delivered one of the game's biggest hits and biggest plays against Miami. Harris, who played at South Miami High, had quite a night in his hometown return. He had a fumble-causing tackle against Miami running back Damien Berry in the first quarter. Safety Nick Moody scooped up the ball and returned it to the 1, leading to FSU taking a 14-0 lead. Harris also broke up a pass and had three tackles in the game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it's a big statement. I think we are showing the kind of team we really are and that second game of the year (47-7 loss at Oklahoma) wasn't really us. I can't remember the last time we put together two back-to-back road ACC wins together. We just played extremely well -- offense, defense and special teams. It was unbelievable." -- Florida State QB Christian Ponder on the significance of the Seminoles' win at Miami.


LOOKING GOOD: The Seminoles' offensive line was outstanding. It was one of the best offensive line performances by a Florida State team in more than a decade. The group provided running holes to generate 298 rushing, the fourth straight game FSU has rushed for 200 or more yards, and one of the highest rushing totals vs. Miami in series history. The group also provided great pass protection, not yielding a sack. This was the matchup that figured to be a huge Miami edge. No one imagined Florida State controlling Miami's defensive front this well. When FSU has outrushed Miami, the Seminoles have emerged victorious.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Downfield passing continues to be suspect. QB Christian Ponder continues to baffle at times when throwing some vertical throws into double coverage, as he did again vs. Miami into the end zone on one throw. Either the Seminoles are not getting separation with their receivers, or Ponder is struggling with those throws and play calls. He also misfired on a few short throws, so there is definitely room for improvement in his game.


--TB Jermaine Thomas (toe) did not play in the second half, but the Seminoles were able to unleash Chris Thompson, who had a big night.

---CB Xavier Rhodes (hip pointer) alternated plays between stints on an exercise bike. He made some significant contributions early in the game before the hitting took its toll. It forced the Seminoles to play freshman Lamarcus Joyner, who had the team's only interception, late in the game, but also had a pair of major penalties -- pass interference and a personal foul.

--TB Ty Jones (ankle) missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle.

--OT Andrew Datko (shoulder) started and played for the first time since the Sept. 11 loss at Oklahoma. His return was huge for the offensive line. It was the first time this group had everyone in their regular positions. Datko is also considered a leader on the line and his position at outside tackle justifies that role.

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