October 04, 2009
Boston College 28, Florida State 21. I can't think of very many good reasons that FSU shouldn't have been the better team in this game -- not experience, certainly not talent, and not even traveling to B.C.'s field, where the 'Noles won in 2005 and 2007 -- but dropping a competitive road date to the two-time defending division champion on its collective feel-good day is a blip in the bigger picture. No, it's this disappointment's place alongside so many others within the bigger picture that's the problem, because there's definitely no excuse for the Seminoles to be nursing a losing record in October after back-to-back losses to unranked underdogs, with only a last-second comeback against a I-AA team standing between them and 1-4 as they approach midseason.
There's never been a really convincing answer for FSU's failure to reassume its iron grip on the ACC, and despite the preseason optimism, this team obviously isn't going to be the one that provides any answers or solutions in place of the now-familiar inconsistency. The offense showed up against Miami, but not the defense; the defense showed up (for the most part) against South Florida, but not the offense. Saturday it was the defense's day off, apparently, judging from four B.C. touchdown drives of 65 yards or longer and a career-high rushing day for sophomore back Montel Harris. The same offense that bottomed-out with 49 total yards two weeks ago at Clemson was back to life for the second week in a row, for its second straight late, dramatic win in a row. The Eagles, against every odd, are 4-1, and sitting in good shape at 2-1 in the ACC. This team knows how to rally when it's been counted out.
Same old Eagles, then, over the same old Seminoles. The question coming in -- Bobby Bowden asked it personally Saturday morning on GameDay -- was "Which 'Noles are the 'Real' Noles'?" The "good" version that shockingly routed BYU on the road or the "bad" version that struggled against Jacksonville State and sleepwalked through the loss to USF? The product in Boston was classic "bad" 'Noles, saddled by an anemic running game, multiple missed opportunities to score in B.C. territory, and ultimately the scoreboard.
And that's the "real" Florida State, in a nutshell. Occasionally, it might resurrect visions of the intimidating, overwhelming, stone-cold killers that ran roughshod over the rest of the league for a decade, and because we're nostalgic people, reminders like the blowout at BYU give us some fleeting notion that they still exist -- that the "real" team is still in there, somewhere, struggling to break out and assume its rightful place in the BCS. They still look like the old 'Noles, physically; they're more or less still recruiting like the old 'Noles. But the real FSU is now 12-14 in ACC games since 2006, and 0-2 in the league for the first time ever. It's not trying to overcome the malaise so much as it's been completely consumed by it, to the point that the old model no longer exists, not even the flashes. And Bowden, bless him, is not going to get it back.