After the Seminoles (5-1, 3-1 ACC) squeaked by the Hurricanes on opening night and ended their six-game skid, the season was a whirlwind of good times and impressive play from veterans and (specifically) freshmen alike. The same team that was predicted by some "experts" to drop as many as four to five games this season all of a sudden was in a National Championship race and considered a guaranteed lock to face the Virginia Tech Hokies December 3 in Jacksonville.
Now, after a hard-fought loss to a determined Virginia squad that had dropped its two prior games before hosting FSU, the Seminoles seem to be in a world of trouble – in the eyes of many fans, that is.
But despite the recent suspension of two players and the dismissal of another, all is well on Florida State University's practice fields. In fact, the lessons learned from last Saturday have been embraced while the losing sentiment has been liberated.
"You have to really think like, ‘Did we really lose last week?'" tailback Lorenzo Booker said. "That's how it is with this team because everybody has done a good job of taking the loss and putting it behind us."
And so now - after the Tribe had shown the prowess to make big plays through the five-game win streak - the squad has shown the aptitude to stay upbeat and positive after a devastating loss.
It's a trait that has been missing from Seminole teams of recent years. This newly found mannerism is a characteristic that translates directly to the group's leaders.
"It's got to be leadership," quarterback Drew Weatherford said of the encouraging reaction to the defeat. "Guys like Willie Reid and (David) Castillo and then there's guys on defense like A.J. (Nicholson) and Pat Watkins and (Brodrick) Bunkley. Those guys are really the core of our offense and defense and if they had nothing bad to say than nobody else really can either. So I think that's where it comes from."
And, in addition to leadership, the team's strong character has reared its head as a by-product of the upset.
"A lot of it is leadership but at the same time, it's all about the type of kids that are on this team," coach Bobby Bowden said. "They respond to things real well, thank goodness."
But if the presence of impressive character and leadership is not enough to squash some fans' worries about the state of the Seminoles, perhaps two other words will: team unity.
"I can really say we just lost as a team," Weatherford said. "I didn't hear anything negative towards me or the offense or vice versa. There was no pointing fingers at all, which I have seen in the past - just last year. I was actually up here as a recruit and saw (the finger pointing).
"So I have seen it and that was one of the first times that we really did lose as a team and it's really promising, to be honest."
"This group of kids seems to be a lot closer and more mature about things like (losing and adversity) than some of the teams we've had in the past," Bowden added. "I have seen no griping among players about that now."
The views on the team unity expressed by the starting signal caller and head coach are an opinion shared by Booker as well.
"That's gonna be one of the things that makes us go," Booker said. "We are a team this year and that hasn't really been the case the last three years that I've been here. So as long as people keep that mentality we are going to be fine."
With lessons learned and hopes not diminished, the Florida State Seminoles appear to be poised to move on with the rest of their season. With the psychological hat-trick in place (leadership, character and unity), the 'Noles rebounding process is underway and on the right path.
Leave it to FSU's do-it-all player to sum up the state of the squad in three simple sentences:
"When guys make plays they get congratulated on the sidelines and when they make bad plays everybody is lifting them up," Booker said. "It's not like there is an offense and a defense. It's FLORIDA STATE against everybody else."
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