Being a Seminole fan in recent years, you almost forgot what losing felt like. But that feeling returned with a vengeance in the Rose Bowl, and Monday’s National Championship between Oregon and Ohio State game only served as another sharp reminder that FSU had finally lost.
With every turnover against Oregon the collective heart of the FSU faithful broke just a little bit more. Even down by 25 points, there was still a faint glimmer of hope that another magical comeback might be in the works, that if you held on just a little bit longer, things would turn around. But this time it wasn’t meant to be.
After a game like that, it’s difficult to find any kind of solace. The Seminoles had been living in a dream where it seemed nothing could bring them down. It didn’t matter the criticisms or near disasters, they just kept winning. That Oregon absolutely crushed them in the first ever college playoff game made the end of that dream sting even worse. For a team that owned the second half all season long, FSU wilted after halftime and then was buried in the most embarrassing fashion a fan could think of.
There aren’t any excuses to be made for the performance; there isn’t an explanation for why things went so wrong for the Seminoles. One or two bad plays can be pointed to as the reason a game slipped away from a team, but when the number of turnovers reaches five, there’s really nothing to be said. Florida State beat itself as much as Oregon did.
But that’s not to take away from the force that Oregon is. Defense was going to be the difference in the game, and Oregon’s was the one that stepped up. FSU had no answer for the high-tempo Ducks offense, struggling to hang on even before halftime. Oregon’s defense, on the other hand, held Jameis Winston and his teammates in check, recording an early goal line stand that resulted in an ensuing Ducks touchdown. FSU would never close the gap from there.
The worst part about it is that there’s virtually nothing to be proud of – no moral victory, no one moment to salvage in the game. The only thing FSU can do is walk away knowing they made history with a 29 game winning streak, and a national championship smack dab in the middle.
And you know what? To hell with the streak. FSU doesn’t need it anymore. It was a chapter in the program’s story that, although incredible, seemed to be writing its end the entire season. It became more of a burden than an accolade, something to be upheld rather than celebrated. Unfortunately, its end also marked the end of the season.
It is time to move on, for both the Seminoles and their fans. Oregon was simply a better team; they were the ones to defy this year’s unwritten mantra of “I’d rather be lucky than good.” So, goodbye to undefeated, goodbye to a repeat title, goodbye to a team that gave its fans everything it could ask for over the course of two years.
There’s a lot to look forward to in the near future. Though they each had a game to forget, Dalvin Cook, Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph are all very talented young players that will continue to get better every time they step onto the field. And Jimbo Fisher is a heck of a coach that knows how to shape a strong team.
FSU is on track to land yet another stellar recruiting class in the coming offseasons, already boasting commitments from the number one rated quarterback and defensive end in the country in their respective classes. Coach Fisher hasn’t just been busy winning; he’s making sure FSU remains a top team in the country for years to come.
If nothing else is a testament to that, just look at what Jameis Winston had to say after his first career loss as a college football player: “Everything I’ve been through, everything I’ve experienced has just made me a better person. And that’s why I’m so happy I came to Florida State. I got a coach that loves me. I got teammates that love me. There’s no way else to go but up when you got great people surrounding you, when you got a great family.”
Recently, Winston announced he’ll be declaring for the draft instead of returning for another season with FSU. It’ll be difficult to fill his shoes after he’s gone; there’s not much debate about the type of talent he has and what he did for the Seminoles during his two years here. However, perhaps his departure is exactly the change FSU needs. A clean slate and a fresh start. The team will return next year without ‘undefeated’ hanging over its head, and a lot less pressure to be perfect. It will return with something to prove – that FSU football is about much more than just Jameis Winston. That it can come back from defeat and be even better than before. The Seminoles thrive on that kind of challenge.
That’s what Florida State fans must do as well. Look ahead to the challenge of next year, knowing their team will be back with a clean slate and a fire in its chest. There may finally be a one in the loss column, but Seminole nation remains a group unconquered.
by MATT SIMONS / Sports Editor