Florida State, ranked third in the nation and seemingly with almost a tailor-made path to a national championship game, led N.C. State 16-0 well into the third quarter last Saturday night but managed to lose to the unheralded Wolfpack.
Yet, Jimbo Fisher feels fine.
The FSU coach said at his weekly press conference Monday that after watching the film of his team's 17-16 defeat that basically knocked them off the national radar he feels "more encouraged than discouraged."
This, despite the fact that his team was well under its per-game averages in points, total yards, first downs, big plays, key plays, and big stops. N.C. State converted three fourth downs in its game-winning drive. Exclamation mark.
The Wolfpack turned over the ball a combined 10 times in losses to Tennessee and Miami, yet the Seminoles' vaunted defense forced just one give-away. FSU entered the game leading the ACC in sacks while NCSU was last in sacks allowed, yet Fisher's team managed to drag Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon to the ground just once. And consider that the Wolfpack was missing three key offensive linemen and pretty much had a makeshift unit on the field, that speaks to the Noles' underwhelming performance.
But Fisher feels fine.
"Hindsight's all 20-20," he said. "I don't regret any of the calls. I regret we didn't execute some of the things we did. We have to play better
"It was not any one guy, just two or three, four, five guys here and there in different places having their own one or two little mistakes and it magnified on us and hurt us."
Fisher admitted he questioned himself and the staff initially following the defeat. But after watching the game film he felt the staff prepared the team well, had a sound game plan, and handled in-game situations properly. No regrets.
He also wasn't interested in dwelling on what couldn't be changed, and instead wants t focus on what's left to achieve.
FSU now stands at 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the ACC's Atlantic Division. Clemson, which the Seminoles defeated last month in a matchup of top-10 teams at the time, also has a single loss, as does N.C. State. FSU also finds itself ranked No. 12 and behind two other one loss clubs: No. 9 LSU and No. 11 Southern Cal.
The Tigers and Trojans could still make a push for a spot in the nation title game if enough teams ahead of them lose in part because they play more respected conferences. Beating league foes in the SEC and Pac-12 will resonate more in the BCS standings than defeating ACC clubs. FSU isn't completely out of the picture, but the odds of the Seminoles sneaking into a title game are slim.
But that doesn't mean the season is over. Given that FSU has won more than nine games in a season just twice since 2000 and once since 2003 and no more than 10 in the last 11 years, reaching 11 or 12 or even 13 victories remains possible, and would be quite an accomplishment. It likely would also hush Fisher's growing number of critics in the Sunshine State.
Along the way, FSU has a chance to claim its first ACC championship since 2005. Even the Seminoles' basketball program has a more recent ACC title, cutting down the nets last spring.
But Florida State can't do anything until it fully brushes off the debacle in Raleigh and focuses on Boston College, which heads to Tallahassee this weekend, and the remaining five contests. Among those opponents is No. 4 Florida in the season finale.
"There's nothing you can do, it's over with," said FSU senior quarterback E.J. Manuel, whose Heisman Trophy campaign essentially came to a screeching halt last Saturday. "You have to really focus yourself on moving on to the next week, and it's extremely hard to do. You get so close, we had control of the game and we let it go."
Seminole Nation may be a bit down right now, but there's plenty the team can still achieve. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are sustainable college football powers.