Enjoying The Moment

The Florida State Seminoles wanted to savor the moment Sunday. They won another Atlantic Coast Conference title, this time in a double-overtime shootout against North Carolina State a night earlier, and will play in a BCS game. They have the opportunity to reach double-digit wins for the first time in three seasons against arch-rival Florida. More importantly, they have remained committed to each other and their program.

That obviously wasn't the case during the past two seasons of struggles.

"They stayed together the entire time," FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said Sunday.

"When we were facing some tough times there, you could see people encouraging each other on both sides of the ball. I think it goes back to leadership as much as anything. This group has done a great job of leadership, our seniors and our juniors, in keeping our ship steered in the right direction."

Of course, that ship is now being turned towards Hogtown.

Full steam ahead.

The Seminoles (9-2, 7-1 ACC) are off this weekend before wrapping up the regular season Nov. 29 at Florida. They will return to practice Tuesday.

While many fans believe a victory over the hot Gators will help validate FSU's return to prominence, the Seminoles simply wanted to take a deep breath and enjoy what coach Bobby Bowden called the program's most important conference victory.

"I think we're back on that pace," Bowden said Sunday when asked if this team has re-established the foundation of past years. " I do feel like we're back on that pace, you know? We do need to win another game or two to make it look like it statistically, but I think, down in their hearts, they have raised the standard back."

Leon Washington's 12-yard touchdown run in the second overtime capped a wild game Saturday. N.C. State's Philip Rivers, the nation's second-ranked passer, threw for 422 yards and four touchdowns without an interception, but his final pass went off the fingertips of Jerricho Cotchery.

While the FSU defense surrendered far too many yards for Andrews, he couldn't argue with the final result. Or how his unit responded after the devastating defeat at Clemson a week earlier.

"I guess the biggest thing is the fact they've worked so hard to put themselves in a chance to win and be successful and to be denied…the door wasn't shut, it was just cracked," Andrews said.

"And we had to beat it open. That's the attitude they took. We didn't go out and do a lot of hitting. We only had shoulder pads on one time (last week). The idea was to let our guys be fresh, ready to hit and play aggressive. The thing that happens sometimes when you do that, you don't tackle all week, it shows up on Saturday and it did. We probably missed more tackles in this game than in any game we played this year."

Senior cornerback Rufus Brown, who was inserted into the starting lineup when Bryant McFadden did not feel 100 percent during pregame warm-ups due to a hip-flexor/groin injury, also believes the win helps prove the program is headed back in the right direction.

"We are able to stay together during those difficult times," Brown said Sunday.

"I think we helped start the foundation again for the program. But we are not there yet. We still have to play Florida and we still have a bowl game. But these guys are going to be straight next year. There is so much young talent. I mean, I can't believe how quickly it has gone.

"You enjoy the times, you enjoy your teammates and you are thankful. It's a blessing."

Fellow senior cornerback Stanford Samuels agreed, saying it's difficult to keep the public happy.

"The main thing was to come out with more points (than N.C. State), " Samuels said Sunday.

"The public (perception) doesn't matter to me. To us, we have to win. You can't compare it to last year. This team is more united. We play the game better, period. We want to get to 10 wins, we are in a major bowl. It's all important. We still wanted to go undefeated and get to the national championship (game), but…. We have already two losses and we all just want to keep it at two. I don't deal with public (perception). I deal with the team."

Added McFadden Sunday as he made his way to the trainer's room for treatment: "There is no such thing as an ugly win, but there is an ugly loss. As long as we won, you have to be happy with that."

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