'Noles beginning to play as expected

Florida State closed the month of October hot as a firecracker, but a challenging November schedule begins with a short week. The Seminoles travel to Boston College for a Thursday affair in prime time.

Florida State is starting to play like many expected at the beginning of the season.

The Seminoles (5-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won three straight games in which they've outscored opponents by a combined 116-32. They've scored 30 points or more in seven of eight games this season and 10 of their last 12 dating back to last year.

And their defense ranks among the nation's best as they head north for Thursday night's nationally televised game at Boston College (2-6, 1-4), a team Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher believes is better than its record.

''They've had a couple of tough games,'' Fisher said Monday. ''They've just had a couple of bad breaks. The film doesn't relate to the record.''

For the record, BC lost close games to Duke and Northwestern but was ripped by Central Florida, Clemson and Virginia Tech. The Eagles' only wins are over Massachusetts and Maryland last Saturday.

The Seminoles' resurgence has coincided with improvement on a reshuffled offensive line, a strong cadre of young receivers and a healthy E.J. Manuel, who didn't play in the 35-30 loss at Clemson and didn't enter the Wake Forest defeat until FSU fell behind 16-7 in the second quarter.

Manuel has been hot after returning full-time, completing 52 of 74 passes (70 percent) for 824 yards in wins over Duke, Maryland and North Carolina State despite not having his most dangerous target, freshman Rashad Greene, who has missed those games with a sprained ankle.

Manuel has also added some option runs to the Florida State attack, which has rolled up 1,407 yards in the last three games while limiting opponents to 786.

''He's been the difference in their team,'' North Carolina State coach Tom O'Brien said after his team's 34-0 loss in Tallahassee on Saturday. ''When he went down, they had problems.''

The problems seemed to disappear when the 6-5, 245-pound Manuel came back full-time three weeks after he suffered a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder in a 23-13 loss to Oklahoma.

Florida State lost twice in September, once in October and is hoping for a perfect finish in hopes of an attractive bowl bid. A win Thursday would make the Seminoles' eligible for a nation-leading 30th consecutive bowl appearance.

''We can still have a successful season,'' Manuel said Monday. ''We'll try to control what we can control right now, take care of BC and then get ready for Miami.''

The Seminoles begin a challenging November schedule with Thursday's game at Boston College before returning home to host long-time nemesis Miami on Nov. 12. Florida State finishes the season with a home date against Virginia on Nov. 19 and a visit to arch rival Florida on Nov. 26.

A November sweep would leave Florida State with a 9-3 record.

''It didn't work out the way we wanted it to,'' Manuel said. ''You can't go into a hole. ''You've got to focus and play football.''

And Manuel, for one, has been laser-focused.


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