The Deacons made the game interesting for awhile. After the Seminoles scored on their first possession on Xavier Beitia's 48-yard field goal, the Deacons surprisingly went to the air and actually took a brief lead.
Receiver Jason Anderson got past cornerback Bryant McFadden and safety B.J. Ward for a 38-yard touchdown with 5:56 left in the first quarter. After falling behind 20-7, the Deacons scored with one minute left before halftime on quarterback Cory Randolph's 13-yard run past a diving Nicholson.
"Their offense was very complicated -- a lot of misdirection and you have to focus on your keys and everybody has to do their job," Nicholson said. "It gave us some problems, but we did alright maintaining it. We didn't do as well as we thought we would but, you know, things happen like that."
Nicholson was one of a handful of Seminole youngsters who made key contributions in the win.
True freshman linebacker Ernie Sims was credited with six tackles -- second behind Nicholson -- while fellow true freshman cornerback Antonio Cromartie, despite two defensive holding calls, also performed well. First-year offensive linemen John Frady and Mario Henderson turned in nice performances as well.
Nicholson, for one, welcomes the challenge of an increased role. While Pope told TheTerritory last week that he would be back for Saturday's pivotal showdown at Notre Dame, Nicholson will again prepare as the starter.
"If you get more reps you have to make more plays and do more things," Nicholson said.
"I've got a lot to work on obviously. But that's the fun thing about it. That's the thing I enjoy, working on things and playing football.
"We knew they (Demon Deacons) had the capability of passing and running. We were prepared for anything. We had to stay poised and do our job. Coach Andrews and Coach Steele instilled that in us. We just have to work hard and go out there -- ballplayers make plays and we have to make plays."
FSU will need to make those same plays against the struggling Irish.
The Seminoles head to Notre Dame, commemorating the 10-year anniversary of FSU's dramatic game -- a November 1993 matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2. The circumstances are far different. The Irish (2-5) lost to Boston College on Saturday.
Of course, Notre Dame upset the Seminoles last season at Doak Campbell Stadium, leading to the benching of quarterback Chris Rix.
"We know it's going to be a tough game up there," Rix said "Everybody remembers what they did to us here last year."