One defining game has led into another.
FSU knew playing at Clemson on Saturday, following an emotional showdown with Oklahoma, was going to be a tall order under any circumstances.
These are not normal circumstances. The Seminoles could be without their starting quarterback, E.J. Manuel, and four receivers they were counting on this season. It has formed an ominous backdrop heading into Death Valley on Saturday.
"Coach Fisher said we can't let one loss turn to two," said FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins, "and I feel like mentally we're there. Win or loss [against Oklahoma], we were going to come out strong next week."
That's what this team must hope.
But the Oklahoma game took an emotional and physical toll on this team, and now the Seminoles have to prove they can win on the road in a hostile setting. They last won at Clemson in 2001.
If they are to win Saturday, one element must change, no matter who lines up at quarterback.
"We've got to block better, we've got to find some holes and we've got to block better and be consistent," Fisher said of the running game. "There were some good things, but we've got to get better in the running game. We've got to be able to line up and run the football. There's no doubt. We're not playing like we're capable of, and they know it. We just have to get it done."
It's uncertain whether Manuel's shoulder injury will heal in time to permit him to play. If not, then it's redshirt freshman Clint Trickett, the son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, who must take over and do enough to avoid the calamity of a second consecutive loss. The Seminoles have an open date on Oct. 1, and that can't come soon enough.
NOTES AND QUOTES
The Seminoles will play a ranked opponent for the fifth time in their past seven games. ... WR Rashad Greene, a true freshman, is tied for the national lead in receiving TDs by a freshman with four. Greene has six career catches, four of which have been touchdowns of 28 or more yards. ... Hopkins' 53-yard field goal in the first quarter against Oklahoma was his fourth career 50-yard field goal. It's the fourth most in school history. He is 4 of 7 from 52 yards or more. ... The TV audience for the Oklahoma-FSU game was the largest of the season for any college football game.
SERIES HISTORY: Florida State leads 17-7.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Florida State is tied with Duke, next to last, for rushing offense in the ACC. In three games, two against far lesser opponents than Oklahoma, the Seminoles are averaging just 96.3 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. This was not expected with a veteran group on the offensive line. But the unit did not practice together in the spring because so many were rehabbing injuries, and the same problems reoccurred during preseason camp. The Seminoles don't have the kind of depth along the line where other players have stepped forward. The backups are newcomers. But the Seminoles are going to have to find a way to run the ball or generate runs with short passes this week at Clemson, especially with the uncertainty facing Manuel.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Seminoles have given up just 33 points in three games, second fewest in the ACC, and they rank No. 5 in total defense. But there have been some flaws. CB Greg Reid returned to one of his bad habits in biting on a deep route that led to Oklahoma's game-winning touchdown last week. LB Nigel Bradham was twice flagged for personal-foul penalties. Late in the game, the Seminoles showed some vulnerability with runs up the middle. But overall, this group has played well and gives FSU hope that trend continues at Clemson. The defense will need to keep this game low-scoring given the depleted receiver corps and the uncertainty at QB.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You want to win games like this. But with the potential that we showed, we're fired up going up to Clemson and playing another great team. Clemson is a good team, and they had a good win [against Auburn]. We're just excited. We look forward to playing those guys." -- Florida State S Lamarcus Joyner, looking ahead to Saturday's game at Clemson.