While Bowden and the Seminoles say otherwise, FSU (5-3) appears to be in a state of flux following its 34-24 defeat to the Irish at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Seminoles are 13-8 in their last 21 games and fell from 11th to 18th in Sunday's Associated Press Poll and to No. 20 in the coaches poll.
All of a sudden, a trip Saturday to surprising Wake Forest (5-4), which blanked North Carolina 31-0 over the weekend, could prove difficult. Especially when nothing went right when it counted most against the Irish. A game FSU looked at as redemption instead spelled disaster.
The game was close until a four-minute span in the third quarter, when Notre Dame capitalized on three consecutive turnovers by FSU and turned a 10-10 tie into a 27-10 lead. Another score made it 34-10 and sent FSU's fans to the exits. The real imposter had been exposed, as the Irish received their first No. 1 vote Sunday in the AP Top 25 since 1997.
After not falling farther than 12th in the AP Top 25 from 1987 to 2000, FSU finds itself teetering on mediocrity. The biggest question is quarterback after Chris Rix threw an interception and lost a fumble on consecutive possessions in the third quarter. Adrian McPherson, meanwhile, directed two late touchdown drives that prevented FSU from suffering its most lopsided home loss in 21 years.
"I've got to look at it objectively, try to work them both (in practice) and just stay on top of the situation," Bowden said Sunday.
Irish linebacker Courtney Watson, who made one of the Irish's two interceptions off Rix, said the Seminoles' quarterback has a bad habit of staying too long with his primary receiver.
"All day he was staring down his recivers," Watson said following the game. "I almost had one (interception) earlier in the game, it went off of my fingertips. I dont know if it was a good throw or not but it was basically to me. He has a tendency to stay back there for two, three counts and if is guy wasn't there he would take off and run and he would stare the guy down on the 2-3 counts so it was easy to get a jump on the ball."
While the frustration of losing boiled over in the locker room following the game, the Seminoles attempted to put a positive spin on their feelings Sunday. Wake Forest is the first of three Atlantic Coast Conference games. FSU can still win the league title and the automatic Bowl Championship Series berth it carries as well as finish with double-digit victories.
However, FSU can't afford to get ahead of itself.
"We definitely have the ACC to worry about," linebacker Michael Boulware said. "A lot of people were upset. I was upset. I don't like pointing fingers but it goes on. It's what family is about."
Even so, issues remain. As expected, the seniors scheduled a team meeting Sunday, marking at least their third such meeting of the season. Senior offensive lineman Montrae Holland said Sunday the frustration runs deeper than a year ago, when FSU stumbled to its first four-loss campaign since 1986. Even Bowden said he believes this year's team has made improvements over last season.
"We got three of them (losses) and it's real frustrating," Holland said. "It's worse this year because we know we can do it. We can win. Last year there were a lot of questions. Like this year a lot of people came into the season with high confidence and it seems like it's a replica of last year. It's not a good feeling at all."
Added Bowden: "We're better than we were a year ago. I said we're going to be better than we were a year ago. That's where we are now. If we could just get that other little part -- whatever it is. We'll keep searching for it. Maybe it'll jump out there."
Holland also says he believes the team remains behind the embattled Rix, though that discussion remains hotly-contested behind the scenes.
"He's our quarterback. You can't lose confidence because someone went out and had a couple of mistakes. I haven't lost confidence," Holland said. "You look at what's happening and you have your own opinion. It's up to you whether or not to voice it. If you voice you opinion is it going to help the team? Is it going to destroy the team? You have to look what's best for the team."
Cornerback Stanford Samuels, who was admittedly out-played by Irish receivers, believes FSU can salvage its season and finish strongly.
"The team is in trouble when everybody quits. There's nobody quiting," Samuels said. "As frustrating as it for us, I know it's frustrating for the coaches. It's like it's been all year. You play solid defense and then you let one slip. If they were driving the ball down our throat the whole time, then you worry about our defense."
While frowns abound at FSU -- and Irish eyes are dancing -- Bowden says the Seminoles can still prove their worth.
"These kids want to win. They wanted to win this game bad," Bowden said. "I think the good thing about it -- they played hard. Our kids played hard. I was worried about execution. I was worried about turnovers. They're (Irish) very good at that (taking advantage)."