Noles Turning It Around

If practice attitude is anything, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher likes what he has seen.

Despite their position, which is likely out of ACC and BCS bowl contention, and facing underdog opponents, Fisher has practiced the spirit and work ethic of the team. He believes it's something will help the Seminoles (4-3, 2-2 ACC) beyond Saturday's game against another underdog opponent, N.C. State.

"We're still learning. I don't think we're gonna stop learning. It's a whole process," Fisher said. "This is till the end of the year, how you handle your business and how you overcome things. The character from it will build after the season. What you're doing now is revealing character and where you're at and I've been pleased for the most part with what we've been doing.

"We still have mistakes we need to clean up, but I love their attitude and how they're approaching things. There's gonna be times in life when everything doesn't go well. You gotta buck up, man up, and go at it."

A win Saturday inches the Seminoles closer to bowl eligibility, which has to be the immediate goal right now. They are playing an opponent that has a history of shocking them. N.C. State is tied with Clemson for the most ACC wins (6) against FSU.

But one of the reasons for the optimism is how the Seminoles are getting all the components back in the passing game. The receivers are returning and quarterback E.J. Manuel is getting in rhythm with them.

"It should be pretty exciting to see," said senior receiver Bert Reed, who had a season-high five catches for 76 yards last week against Maryland, following his month-long absence with an injury. "Just for all of us playmakers to be on the field and rotate and doing everything we can do to help this team win."

-- Another week, another apology from the ACC to FSU about officiating errors. In this case, it was a punt return that Greg Reid brought back for an apparent 76-yard touchdown in the second quarter against Maryland. But officials brought the play back, saying when Reid briefly pointed at a bouncing ball, he was calling for a fair catch.

The ACC officials said Reid was not allowed to do that. But Doug Rhoads, the ACC coordinator of officials told the Tallahassee Democrat those officials were wrong.

"It was overly technical," he said. "A pure point is legal. ... Waving is the crux of (the invalid fair-catch rule) because you try to avoid any coverage team being at a competitive disadvantage."

This rules clarification follows the Wake Forest game when video captured an official inching a ball closer to a first down in favor of a Wake Forest spot, thus receiving a verbal reprimand. It also follows the Clemson game when FSU officials sent numerous plays they believed went against them.

-- TB Devonta Freeman became just the fifth freshman in FSU history to rush for 100 yards in consecutive games. The last freshman to do that was Chris Parker in 1988. His 41-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter vs. Maryland last week was the longest of the season for a Seminole.

--The most telling stat of the season for FSU? It might be the fact none of the Seminoles' cornerbacks have recorded an interception this season. The Seminoles have forced only six turnovers in seven games. And the four interceptions they have resulted in zero return yards.

-- The diversity in FSU's offense is illustrated by the fact 15 different players have accounted for the team's 30 touchdowns.

SERIES HISTORY: Florida State leads 21-10

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: With the receiver corps returning to health, a running game discovered and quarterback E.J. Manuel returning to form after his injury, this group looks better than the pre-Oklahoma offense. Remember, the first two games against patsy opponents, the Seminoles still struggled to run the ball. Now, they know about their young receivers stepping forward and the steady mesh together of their patchwork offensive line. They seek a third straight game of having more than 200 yards rushing, more than 200 yards passing. Based on how porous N.C. State's defense has looked, it seems a probability.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Even with the disastrous performances against Clemson and Wake Forest in successive weeks, this defense has risen back into the top 15 in five defensive categories. The Seminoles rank sixth nationally in run defense, yielding just 82.86 yards per game. The categories are passing defense, rushing defense, total defense, sacks and tackles for loss. All this after giving up a combined 70 points in those two ACC losses.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Those three losses happened, and you can't erase it. If I could, I would. But injuries happen and things happen like that. I don't look into the past. We just have to focus on who we have to play next week" -- Florida State QB E.J. Manuel on the team's improved outlook after two consecutive wins.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: North Carolina State at Florida State, Saturday Oct. 29 --
Despite being nearly a three-touchdown favorite, the Seminoles shouldn't need much incentive. All they have to do is look at last year's game film. Or the previous nine games before that. The teams have split the past 10 meetings with eight of the last 10 decided by fewer than 10 points. FSU's 28-24 loss to the Wolfpack last year was the Seminoles' worst loss of the season, considering the situation. They have been in this scenario so many times with N.C. State, heavily favored and yet ripe for upset. It's another test to see if FSU can win handily as expected.

KEYS TO THE GAME: It all depends on how well FSU's defense can contain the one play on the field, quarterback Mike Glennon, who could give the Seminoles' fits. He is second in the ACC in TD passes (19) and is only pace to surpass Philip Rivers' school record of 34. Glennon is not a scrambler, but he gets the ball out quickly and has proven very accurate. The Seminoles figure to be able to score points against the Wolfpack's porous defense. At issue, is whether the past two easy wins for the Seminoles will climb into their heads and cause a loss of focus.

RB Devonta Freeman --
The true freshman was named the ACC rookie of the week, following his second consecutive 100-yard plus rushing performance. Freeman now has 288 yards on 51 carries and three touchdowns during his first season.

QB E.J. Manuel -- He has completed 66.02 of his career passes, which ranks 10th nationally among Division 1-A active quarterbacks.

LB Nigel Bradham -- He was assailed for his penalties and other miscues in the losses to Clemson and Wake Forest. But now, it's time to praise Bradham, who has led FSU in tackles the last two weeks against both Duke (8 tackles, 6 solo, and a sack) and Maryland (7 tackles, 6 solo). Bradham has a team-high 41 tackles, two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss so far this season.

CB Mike Harris -- He has supplanted Greg Reid at starting cornerback, a move the Seminoles' coaches hopes lights a fire under the underachieving Reid. While his kick-return skills have been solid, he has disappointed as a cover corner.

-- The Seminoles enter the N.C. State game in their best shape since early in the season. They did not suffer any serious injury coming out of the Maryland game. That has not happened in any previous game.

-- WR Rashad Greene (ankle) has practiced this week and FSU is hopeful he can play. Head coach Jimbo Fisher said he could have played last week, but was held out to enable the injury to recover even better.

-- OG David Spurlock (knee) is one starter who won't play. He has missed two consecutive weeks.

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