If nothing else, the Seminoles have proven how quickly promise can turn into despair.
In their quest to become relevant again in college football, FSU took another face-first tumble with an ugly, seven-turnover, disastrous loss to Wake Forest. The 12-3 defeat came on a night when FSU's Doak Campbell Stadium was stoked with hope and optimism about the Seminoles' future.
What Seminoles' fans saw, however, was more of the same.
Florida State is becoming like a sequel to "Groundhog Day."
Only the years are changing. Once again, the Seminoles lost a defining game due to an inept offense, a mountain of penalties and the inability to outwit the opponent.
"The biggest thing was dumb mistakes," said quarterback Christian Ponder said. "We didn't play like Florida State should play, and that really showed."
Maybe the first dumb mistake was Ponder's bravado before the game, almost guaranteeing the Seminoles would win. Instead, he threw an interception on the Seminoles' first offensive play of the game. It came right after FSU's defense forced a quick stop on the opening series and the crowd was revved at a fever pitch.
That became an omen.
Ponder was benched after the first half, but his replacement, D'Vontrey Richardson, fared no better.
Despite a terrific effort by their defense, the Seminoles found an assortment of ways to beat themselves. They had 12 penalties for 139 yards. After averaging more than 500 yards of offense in the first two games against lightweight Division 1-AA opponents, they managed only 220 yards against Wake and failed to effectively run the football. They lost two fumbles and tossed five interceptions.
"We're not where I hoped we (would be)," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "Defensively, we played about as good as their defense. We self destructed (on offense). Would not give yourself a chance to win.
"If our defense had not been playing good tonight it, that score would have been awful."
How bad was this effort? It was the second-fewest points the Seminoles have scored at home under Bobby Bowden. The worst? Two years ago, when they were shutout at home by Wake Forest (30-0) in a game that triggered the massive overhaul of Bowden's coaching staff.
Now, the questions resurface. The Seminoles will prepare for a non-conference, neutral-site test on Saturday against improving Colorado. The game will be played in Jacksonville. The atmosphere, given FSU's loss, will be much less than it could have been if this team were 3-0. After that game, the Seminoles hit the meat of the schedule, beginning with a road trip to Miami.
All of sudden, it appears the Seminoles may need to improve fast, or risk having another season like the previous two. Right now, they have to be uncertain on who should play quarterback, or running back, or who is the go-to receiver. No one stepped forward to give faith.
Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, the head coach-in-waiting, tried to strike an optimistic tone. Fisher said he believes many of the problems can be attributed to youth and learning how to play against a quality opponent.
"We were one play away from winning the game as poorly as we played, and we played very poorly," Fisher said. "Turnovers. Missed assignments. Penalties. We got behind the eight ball, and you can't do that against a good football team."
Bowden said he does not regret playing two Division 1-AA teams to start the season.
"I feel like the first two games we got what we needed, and that was a chance to execute and see who can do this," Bowden said. "It showed our potential. But it's not potential, it's performance. Yeah, we might have done better (against Wake Forest). But we might have lost one, too, the way we played last night."
The Seminoles will get all their suspended players back, most of whom play on defense, for the Colorado game. That was about the only positive element.
The last time FSU had more turnovers in a game came against N.C. State in 1998, when future Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke threw six interceptions. The Seminoles went on to play for the national title that year.
But somehow, this season doesn't look the same.
Florida State 69, Western Carolina 0: Despite the weak opponent, the Seminoles opened up the season exactly the way they hoped, complete with an explosive offense and dominant defense. In his first start, QB Christian Ponder throws for 196 yards, three TDs, and no interceptions.
Florida State 46, Tennessee-Chattanooga 7: Only a long touchdown pass kept this from being another shutout and complete feel-good reaction. But the Seminoles offense started fast and the game evolved as well as the Seminoles could have expected.
Wake Forest 12, Florida State 3: The Deacons get their third straight win against the Seminoles in a game marred by penalties, turnovers and breakdowns. Florida State commits seven turnovers, struggles to run the ball and never really threatens to score a touchdown after rolling to big wins the previous two weeks.
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