Little gains mean a lot right now for the Seminoles.
For the second week in a row, Florida State (4-3, 2-2) started fast and blew out an overmatched opponent. Playing in their first home game in more than a month, the Seminoles' 41-16 win against Maryland continued the optimism about this team being on an upward track.
The Seminoles get another prime chance Saturday when hosting N.C. State in a lunchtime (12:00 p.m.) kickoff at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"It great, and you've got to continue it," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher in reference to back-to-back wins. "To have balance, we're getting better in the running game and the things we're doing. We've got a long way to go. We're nowhere close to where we need to be. But it does feel good to put two good running performances with you and also be solid in the passing game."
FSU has been a different team, both on offense and defense, with E.J. Manuel at quarterback. Although he struggled at times against Maryland, his running ability has opening up the running game for tailbacks, and his ability to see the field has provided big plays for the receivers. All of it has naturally spurred the what-if debate on where FSU would be with Manuel starting every game.
He missed the Clemson game and was forced into action near halftime of the Wake Forest loss. That one, in particular, will haunt this team the rest of the season.
"I don't look into the past. I just focus on who we play next week," Manuel said. "Those three losses happened. I can't erase it. I would if I could, but things happen like that."
Given the struggles in the ACC, the Seminoles will be a heavy favorite in their next three ACC games (vs. N.C. State, at Boston College, vs. Virginia) and could be in position to climb back into the national rankings by mid-November if all goes well.
"As a player, we know what we can do and we know how to do it," corner Greg Reid
said. "It was kind of frustrating at first, but we're feeling a little bit more comfortable in the second half of the season."
NOTES AND QUOTES
Welcome back, Jermaine Thomas. The oft-troubled Thomas, who has battled injuries and disfavor with the coaching staff, had his best game in more than a year, rushing for 86 yards against Maryland on nine carries and one touchdown. Prior to the kickoff, Thomas was informed by Fisher that he would be one of the game captains.
"I've never been a captain before," Thomas said. "It did feel good, and it kind of got me even more excited for kickoff."
Thomas missed three games last season with a knee injury and played sparingly this season. Prior to the Maryland game, Thomas had gained only 70 yards without a touchdown. In fact, it was his first rushing touchdown in more than a year.
But following the game, Fisher revealed Thomas sustained a concussion in preseason that was not disclosed to the media. It caused Thomas to miss a sizeable portion of preseason practices, which are closed to the media, and limited his availability early in the season.
"I felt that he was improving] the last week or two, with his attitude and body language and reads," Fisher said. "[He is] really starting to feel himself, and he's fast and really starting to feel like his old self. Wouldn't be bad to have him fresh down the stretch." ...
Call this one of the quirky stats for the Seminoles: Research by the ACC revealed they are the first team in college football history to record consecutive wins by a score of 41-16. Last week's win over Duke was the first 41-16 final score in ACC history. ...
The Seminoles honored basketball player Bernard James before the game, making him an honorary captain to participate in the coin toss as part of FSU's "Military Appreciation Day." James began playing basketball at FSU last season after serving as an Air Force staff sergeant in the Afghanistan war.
With 220 yards on the ground, the Seminoles produced their third consecutive game of rushing for more than 100 yards. ...
FSU's defense recorded a season-high six sacks.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Kenny Shaw -- Remember, this was the player who was taken off the field in an ambulance vs. Oklahoma with a head injury on Sept. 17. Against Maryland, he looked like his old self. He caught a team-high six passes for 65 yards, highlighted by a 26-yard score in the first quarter. With Shaw and Bert Reed back in the lineup, it eases the absence of Rashad Greene, who missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.
LOOKING GOOD: Overall, the Seminoles defense played a solid game. They had six sacks, limited Maryland to 59 yards net rushing and kept the game out of reach in the second and third quarters when FSU's offense hit a lull. Since the back-to-back debacles at Clemson and Wake Forest, this defense has played well in the past two weeks. Granted, Maryland isn't Clemson or Oklahoma, but the Terps did throw up 45 points against Clemson the previous week. Had the defense stumbled earlier in the game, the score would have been a lot closer and the game would have been a lot more uncertain for the Seminoles.
STILL NEEDS WORK: This team still lacks big plays from its secondary. It was another game without an interception for the Seminoles, and Maryland generated 272 yards passing on a whopping 38 attempts. Reid continues his struggles in solo coverage. The Seminoles lack that shutdown cornerback that they used to develop each year in their heyday. Hard to believe that seven games into the season, FSU has just four interceptions and no return yardage off the picks.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got a lot of momentum, but we can't really be cocky about it. We've still got to take every week like the last. Monday starts film study, practicing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then trying to polish and playing. So we definitely have a lot of momentum but don't want to get a big head." -- Florida State left tackle Zebrie Sanders on the effect of two consecutive blowout wins against ACC foes.