Staying Positive

Florida State's fourth consecutive defeat to Miami has reopened questions as to whether the Seminoles have really distanced themselves from recent struggles. Since finishing 12-0 and winning the program's second national title in 1999, FSU has gone 33-12, including 5-1 this season. The Noles also have dropped eight of 14 against ranked opponents since that Sugar Bowl title win over Virginia Tech. Once again, FSU's season will be defined how it fares <b> following </b> a loss to the Hurricanes.

This year's team promises it will rebound from the UM loss and quickly focus on Saturday's crucial road game at Virginia.

"This is still a great team," cornerback Stanford Samuels said following the game.

"They beat us on the field, so congratulations to them. It's (a feeling) anger and disappointment ... knowing we have a very good team. But we still have the whole season to go, and you'll see more out of us."

While most of the Seminoles' frustration was vented privately, FSU players echoed Samuels' sentiment.

Apparently, the voters agree.

FSU dropped only two spots, to No. 7 in both the USA Today-ESPN coaches poll and The Associated Press poll. FSU could very well climb back into the national title hunt if it wins out and Lady Luck smiles its way. The Seminoles schedule includes no ranked opponents and four road games -- Virginia, Notre Dame, Clemson and Florida.

FSU coach Bobby Bowden believes his team can rebound emotionally from Saturday's 22-14 defeat. He also says the Seminoles are capable of a strong finish if the team remains healthy.

"Well, a lot of that has to come from the type of athletes you have, the type of players you have," Bowden said.

"Are they self-motivators, or are they guys you have to motivate? I imagine we've got a lot of self-motivators. We've just got to be sure our practice tempo is right. That's the big thing."

Bouncing back from UM has been a big thing the past three years.

In 2000, the Seminoles rebounded nicely from a 27-24 loss to UM, winning its final six regular-season games before falling to Oklahoma in the national-championship Orange Bowl.

Top-ranked when it faced the Hurricanes, FSU fell to No. 7 in the polls but beat a trio of ranked opponents -- North Carolina State, Clemson and Florida -- to squeeze back into title contention for the holidays.

Of course, FSU hasn't been quite as fortunate the past two years, finishing 9-5 post-UM.

In 2001, the Seminoles were blasted by UM 49-27, falling seven spots to No. 21 in the polls. They finished out the regular-season 4-2, losing at No. 3 Florida 37-13 before beating Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale. FSU then thumped No. 15 Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl.

Fans don't need to be reminded FSU was an emotional mess last season following its 28-27 defeat in the Orange Bowl.

The Seminoles finished the season 4-3 after that game, losing the next week at home against Notre Dame and at North Carolina State nearly a month later. After whipping the Florida Gators at home to seemingly end the soap opera surrounding its quarterback controversy, the undermanned Seminoles lost to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Following a productive off-season, the Seminoles entered this year with high hopes and a new outlook. Despite Saturday's disappointment, the Seminoles are determined not to be undone by negative vibes.

FSU can still earn a BCS berth by winning the ACC title.

"I think before (2001), when we were playing well. I think we're getting closer to that," Bowden said. "Many a time, I have sat in here after a loss to Miami and not lost any more games. Many times. What will happen next, I don't know. It's not like we've got to roll over and die."

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